A Word About Sous Chefs

“Sous Chef: A cook with considerable experience on the line who now has a supervisory role in the kitchen, overseeing line cooks.” On The Line, Eric Ripert

Don’t argue! The sous chef is Always Right! Foolish cooks, cling to the notion, the kitchen is a democracy. On the hot line, there’s no time for personal feelings, around you line cooks are busy busting their ass to get the food in the pass; so what if the sous chef shouts at you “move faster.” Eight entrée are in the pass and dying fast because you forgot the “fried calamari” add on. Feeling grumpy? Wish someone would take an interest and massage your ego? Not tonight buddy ain’t gonna happen. The sous chef is doing their job; do yours. It’s a brigade system, a hierarchy set down by the great man himself, Auguste Escoffier. Never get it twisted, in a properly run kitchen the executive chef sits at the pinnacle. Directly underneath are the sous chefs, who started out where you are, to get where they are.

In the cramped environs of the kitchen, do what you’re told, do it quickly and move on to the next task. You’re a line cook, every day in the kitchen, is a new learning experience for you. If there’s no more challenge at work – leave! Find a better kitchen. Find one that forces you to push yourself. Find one where you are constantly challenged to set the bar higher and higher. Dig in, put some band-aids in your tool box, carry a note book in your back pocket and most important of all, keep opinions to yourself.

Sous chefs are responsible for the daily operations of the kitchen. They do inventory, order produce and meat, check all incoming orders, do the schedule and payroll. Sous chefs expedite the line during service. They deal with and resolve queries and issues with servers. They answer to the chef for every and anything that goes wrong.

When your sous chef speaks to you; only two refrains need be said, “Yes Chef” or “No Chef”. A sous chef is the executive chefs’ eyes and ears in the kitchen. They work the longest hours. They are constantly in the line of fire, if you fuck up, it means they have fucked up.  Expectations are high, they have to train, instruct and mentor.  Give them respect, give them credit, theirs is a thankless job. If you call off from work, a sous chef will have to work your station. They do what must be done, no line cook likes them. They know all the tricks – well done steak in the microwave, cream to thicken the béarnaise sauce. You got in trouble because of your sous chef. Chances are, they were the one that told the chef. Didn’t dump the water out of the lexans before icing down the fish, you’re gonna hear about it the next day.

It’s their responsibility to make the tough calls in clutch situations and whether you agree or disagree, shut up and do it. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but they were line cooks once, just like you. Only the most dedicated and driven stay in the business long enough to reach that position.

Emulate, act like, and learn from your sous chefs. One day, that sous chef may be you.



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