Commis Chef

The Commis chef position is regarded as the entry-level position that is designed to teach up and coming chefs about life in a kitchen. For those who have ambitions of working in creating Michelin-style dishes, these dreams will need to be placed on hold as the job first entails conducting preparation work for the senior chefs. However, this is the ideal opportunity for new chefs to learn about this art of cooking.

The Details

To begin with, the entry level chef will be rotated through the different parts of a kitchen. This can include sauces, pastries, fish, meat and vegetables.  The Commis chef will typically participate in the following:

•Ensuring safety, health and hygiene all the time

•Preparing specified ingredients for the team members in a kitchen

•Measuring out portion sizes and dish ingredients

•Assisting with deliveries related to stock

This entry-level position means that the chef starts out right at the bottom but will be able to progress onto better positions as time goes by.

The Money

To begin with most Commis chefs will find it hard to earn over 18k in the top rated restaurants based in London. Typically the majority of Commis chefs earn around 12k.

The Advantages

Kitchens can be viewed as an exceptional example of excellent teamwork. This related to that the entire group will need to work alongside and together to make sure food is of the best quality, gets delivered promptly and that it arrives at a table hot. Commis chefs can expect friendship and banter but must also be prepared to be shouted at every day as most head chefs are stressed and get hot and bothered.

The Disadvantages

One of the worst parts relating to the Commis chef will have to be the long hours. This job consists of very early starts in order to ensure the prep work is completed before a restaurant opens as well as very late finishes to make sure the kitchen is clean and tidy at the end of a shift. Commis chefs soon realize that they can forget about bank holidays and weekends. This career is based on passion and one will really need to work incredibly hard in order to go anywhere.

The Study Involved

There are no qualifications required for becoming a Commis chef as one can easily do what is known as an on-the-job apprenticeship. For those interested there are specific NVQs, diplomas and degrees which are an advantage to gain. Other benefits can include obtaining certificates in food hygiene, health and safety.

Chef De Partie

Chef de partie is also be known as a station chef or line cook. The chef de partie is responsible for running a specific section of the kitchen. The overall excellence of every dish produced by that section is the responsibility of the station chef.

A chef de partie is a very important role in any kitchen and can only be achieved after a chef has gained experience working in the kitchen.  Most chef de parties will have spent around four years as a commis chef.

While in smaller kitchens, the chef de partie may work alone, it’s more common for a CdP role  to be part of a larger, fine dining style restaurant. Here they will usually manage a small team which may include demi-chef de partie, commis or trainee chefs.  A CdP must be able to organise and delegate to his team effectively as well as take orders from the higher ranking Sous Chef or Head Chef

Key responsibilities:
Preparing, cooking and presenting dishes within the specialist section.
Supervising and training any demi-chef de parties or commis to make sure they fully understand and can execute their duties.
Helping the sous chef and head chef to develop new dishes and menus
Ensuring the whole team have high standards of food hygiene and follow the rules of health and safety.
Stock control and rotation within the section, monitoring portions and waste control to maintain profit margins

The best bit about being a chef de partie?

“This is a chance to work more closely with – and be inspired by – your head chef, You can learn so much in this role and the inspiration you get is brilliant, especially in a really good kitchen.” – Tim Luff

And the worst?

“I’d have to say all the prep you still have to do, like peeling spuds.”

What skills do I need?
Great cooking skills
A cool head
An ability to delegate appropriately
Organisational flair
A grasp of profit margins

Who would it suit?

Someone who’s got bags of stamina and enjoys the fast pace of working in a kitchen. You also need to be able to stay calm and work as part of a team during a frenetic service. As head of your section you need to be confident enough to manage the commis chefs working with you – and to give them clear instructions.

What’s The Next Step?

The next step up is sous chef.

Sous Chef

Anthony Bourdain says that being a Sous Chef is possibly one of the most stressful jobs in the entire world – and reading ‘Kitchen Confidential’ the story of how he became one of the world’s most respected chefs would tend to reinforce that view.

Being a Sous Chef is a job that only the most dedicated lover of food preparation could ever aspire to – it’s a job that requires immense patience, leadership ability and an iron will. A Sous Chef is very rarely in the limelight and will always be asked to do the heavy lifting as far as kitchen duty is concerned.

However, at the same time, it can be one of the most rewarding jobs in any professional kitchen.

As second in command to the Head or Executive Chef, a Sous Chef is the commander of any kitchen. It is the responsibility of the Sous Chef to take control of not only the day to day running of the kitchen, but also the functions of what makes any retail establishment tick over.

It is also the Sous Chef’s responsibility to ensure that the providers of the raw materials for the food arrive on time every day, and that can be a huge amount of pressure to manage. Actually coordinating all the raw materials for a menu on a daily basis is not an easy task. The stepping up to the hot plate, literally to oversee the preparation of dishes is something that many people who aspire to Head Chef jobs find very challenging.

The restaurant business is one that does not tolerate any sort of weakness – and a Sous Chef will have to be at the forefront of delivery.

This means that the Sous Chef has to be a complicated mix of both manager and chef. Imagine running a kitchen where you might have to deal with hiring and firing people, as well as making sure that the food that is presented to customers is of the highest quality and reaches the table in a timely manner – while still at the same time ensuring that the front of the house (the restaurant) runs like a well-oiled machine.

This requires a person that is not only well versed in food preparation, but also an individual who can be a human resources manager, a logistics expert and also a chef who is intimately familiar with the preparation of exceptional meals.

This video gives a flavour of the role of a sous chef and the personal qualities required to be successful in a busy commercial kitchen.

The only way that a Sous Chef will be able to reach the lofty heights of their position is to be intimately familiar with how a kitchen works. They would have worked from apprentice or Commis Chef through each of the different sections of the kitchen to reach their current position. If an aspirant chef wants to achieve the heights Michelin stars or rosettes that can be displayed outside their own restaurant, they will usually have to earn their stripes by being a Sous Chef before they can reap the accolades and column inches in the newspaper.

As Anthony Bourdain says, this is not a job for people who are easily insulted and who cannot take the rough and tumble of day to day restaurant management. Being a Sous Chef is hard work in an environment which will test you every single day. It requires the utmost discipline and will test even the most resilient of human beings. It’s not fun – however, the rewards can be immense. The challenge is whether you have the absolute iron will to be the best in the business. It’s all about the love of food – the question is whether you have that absolute devotion.

Head Chef

Head Chefs have the same administrative and personnel responsibilities as as Executive Chefs, but they generally work in smaller kitchens.  It is unusual to have a head chef and an executive chef in the same establishment.

Head chefs are required for restaurants in hospitals, schools, hospitals and any organisation where there is a restaurant.

A head chef will not generally cook as much as he did in subordinate roles, but it is his role to have the culinary vision and lead his team in the right direction.

The day to day running of the restaurant is most often the responsibility of the Sous Chef.



Executive Chef

Executive Chefs are on the the top rung of the chef ladder.  And as with most top rungs, the position is often less about day to day cooking and more about administration. The only exception is if the establishment boasts a Chef De Cuisine.

The Executive Chef (sometimes known as Chef Manager) is the person in charge of the kitchen, or in large operations it could be several kitchens.

They are responsible for the safety and smooth running of the kitchen operation. They must be able to spot problems quickly and solve them efficiently maximising the productivity of the kitchen. The buck stops with them in regard to kitchen hygiene and work safety.

Executive chefs supervise other kitchen personnel, hiring, firing and promoting staff, giving performance reviews and payrises.

Gordon Ramsey - Executive chef of
Celebrity chefs with multiple restaurants are often titled “executive chef”

Executive Chefs make the final decisions on menus, they may develop recipes for the other chefs to reproduce and plan or prepare special menu items for customers with special dietary needs. They are also often responsible for pricing menu items

They often work long hours, with 12-hour days being common.

The Head Chef or Sous Chef report directly to the Chef Manager as they are directly below him in the kitchen heirarchy.

The Executive Chef is unlikely to report to anyone higher in the cheffing heirarchy, unless there is a Chef De Cuisine.

Work experience is the most important requirement for executive chef positions, though a qualifications in catering or hospitality are recommended.

However, as one of the main aspects of the job is managing and motivating a diverse groups of people operating in a highly pressurized environment, personnel management skills are key.

Additionally customer services skills are desirable as interaction with the customers at this level is quite common.