Career Development

Sous Chef Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

From humble beginnings sous chefs have risen to the top of the restaurant food chain. They are the backbone of restaurants, providing leadership in the kitchen when the head chef is not present.

From humble beginnings sous chefs have risen to the top of the restaurant food chain. They are the backbone of restaurants, providing leadership in the kitchen when the head chef is not present. 

Sous chefs are responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of the restaurant’s kitchen team. They’re also in charge of organizing and overseeing menu creation, ordering supplies, keeping inventory, and other tasks that help a kitchen run smoothly.

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a sous chef and what it takes to become one yourself.

Sous Chef Job Duties

The duties of a sous chef include the following:

  • Working with the executive chef to create new dishes and recipes
  • Performing food preparation tasks such as chopping ingredients and preparing ingredients for cooking
  • Training new chefs on the restaurant’s menu and recipes
  • Conducting regular taste tests to ensure that each dish is prepared to specification
  • Maintaining inventory of food items in order to know what is needed when restocking is required
  • Making sure that all food is stored in an orderly fashion in refrigerators or pantries, to prevent spoilage or contamination from occurring
  • Recruiting, hiring, training, scheduling, and coaching the other chefs in the kitchen

Sous Chef Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for sous chefs is $47,923. The highest earners in the profession make over $72,000 per year.

The employment of sous chefs is projected to grow faster than average over the next decade. This is due to the increasing number of high-end restaurants that require this position and the growing dining-out culture in the United States.

Sous Chef Job Requirements

To become a sous chef, you need the following experience, training, and education.

Education: While an Associate’s degree is not usually required to become a sous chef, it is beneficial for those who want to advance in the culinary field. An Associate’s degree in culinary arts, foodservice management or culinary arts management can help an aspiring chef gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

Training: The position of sous chef requires extensive on-the-job training and experience. Sous chefs generally learn their skills through an apprenticeship with a recognized culinary professional. Many employers prefer candidates who have worked as a line cook or in another supervisory role.

Certifications: While certifications are not required for this position, those who pursue them can find job opportunities more easily. Some of the most common certifications for sous chefs include Certified Master Chef, Certified Executive Chef, and Certified Master Pastry Chef.

Sous Chef Skills

A sous chef must have the following skills:

Communication skills: The sous chef is responsible for communicating with kitchen staff, management, and customers.

Time management skills: A sous chef must be able to prioritize tasks and organize his or her time effectively.

Leadership skills: A sous chef has many responsibilities that require leadership skills. These include delegating tasks to other kitchen staff, keeping the head chef informed about current projects, and managing employee performance.

Decision-making skills: The sous chef must be able to make decisions quickly in stressful situations.

Knowledge of different cooking techniques: Sous chefs should know how to prepare various types of foods, such as meats, vegetables, soups, sauces, and desserts. They should also know how to properly use various cooking equipment and utensils.

Flexibility: A sous chef’s schedule is not fixed, as he or she may need to work at any time of day or night, including weekends and holidays. Flexibility is crucial because of the constant demand for restaurant service during peak hours. 

Sous Chef Work Environment

A chef works in a busy restaurant kitchen. They may spend most of the day standing and moving around, although some chefs work sitting down at a desk or table. Because they’re frequently exposed to intense heat and cold as well as sharp objects like knives and cooking equipment, chefs need to take good care of bodily safety as well as their eyesight, hearing, and sense of taste and smell. The job can be physically demanding, especially for those who have to lift heavy pots and pans.

Sous chefs typically work evenings and weekends, and often work long hours during peak periods such as holidays and special events.

Sous Chef Career Advancement

The sous chef has many opportunities to advance, especially if the restaurant’s menu is constantly changing. Your advancement opportunities will depend on what you want to do and how far you want to advance.

If you’d like to stay in the kitchen, you can become a head chef or executive chef. These positions involve managing a kitchen staff and taking the lead on high-profile projects.

If you’d like to move out of the kitchen into upper management, you could become a restaurant manager or even a general manager. These positions require advanced leadership skills and the ability to manage the entire restaurant. Some executive chefs even open their own restaurants.

Sous Chef Trends

Here are three trends influencing how sous chefs work. Sous chefs will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Increased Importance of Nutritional Knowledge

The increasing emphasis on healthy eating has led to an increased interest in nutrition, which is especially important for chefs who will be designing recipes and creating menus for their restaurants.

Although most restaurants offer menu items that are healthy options, some sous chefs are beginning to focus more attention on designing dishes that incorporate nutritious ingredients into every meal they serve. 

The Rise of the Food Truck

The food truck craze has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry with a reputation for attracting young, creative minds looking to develop new culinary skills.

Food trucks are also much less expensive than brick and mortar restaurants, making them an attractive option for aspiring chefs who may not have access to the capital needed to open their own establishment.

The Rise of Food TV

Food TV shows are increasing in popularity, both for the entertainment value they provide and the way they can inspire people to try new recipes.

Food TV is increasingly used as a marketing tool for chefs looking to grow their brand and increase sales by creating food-based content that is appealing to customers, whether it’s through shows on networks like TLC or BBC America or by offering virtual cooking classes that encourage people to try new foods at home. 

How to Become a Sous Chef

1. Planning Your Career Path

If you want to become a sous chef, it’s important to have an interest in food preparation and presentation. Sous chefs often manage the day-to-day operations of their kitchens, so it’s important to have strong organizational skills.

For those who enjoy cooking and working in a fast-paced environment, this position may be a good fit. While the culinary arts are highly competitive fields, they are also some of the most rewarding jobs out there. For those who have a passion for cooking, pursuing a career as a sous chef is sure to be enjoyable. 

Many sous chefs work their way up from more junior positions, so getting hands-on experience in the industry is key.

2. Writing a Resume

The best resumes for sous chefs should highlight their creativity, ability to work under pressure, and leadership skills.

It is useful to list any relevant qualifications or certifications you have achieved. This can include professional culinary licenses, food safety certifications, any awards you may have won in competitions, and any special training programs you may have attended.

When listing your work history it is important to emphasize how each position has contributed to your overall experience as a sous chef. Focus on the duties that are most relevant–such as coordinating schedules for other cooks or kitchen staff, or managing inventory of food items–and how these were instrumental in helping you develop your managerial skills. List the kinds of meals that you prepared if this is something that will help with this specific position.

3. Applying for Jobs

To be considered, you’ll need to get in touch with the right people in your field—find out who is in charge of hiring in your local restaurants and find their contact information. Additionally, network with other chefs and professionals in the industry. You can find these people at events like the Food and Wine Festival, World Food Championships, and culinary competitions. Connect with them on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. You could also try reaching out to them through email and make a connection with them that way.

4. Ace the Interview

To prepare for an interview as a sous chef, you will want to do some research about the restaurant where you are interviewing. Gather information about what dishes they serve and any specialties or interesting menu items they offer. You can also learn about where their ingredients are sourced from. 

Practice answering hypothetical questions with a friend or family member. You can also take online quizzes about sous chef skills and responsibilities to help you hone your interview skills. When answering questions about your experience, be sure to focus on your supervisory capabilities and demonstrate that you understand how to motivate and delegate tasks appropriately.

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