How to Be a GREAT Sous Chef
For newer culinarians, reaching the level of sous chef is a highly rewarding achievement. As a sous chef, you are second in command in the kitchen. And with that title, great responsibility follows.
But this is not a title or honor handed out to anyone who enters the kitchen. It takes time, effort, skill, and determination to attain this coveted position.
If you’re fresh out of culinary school or working your first job, there are certain skills you must acquire before you should even think about the sous chef position. Kitchen life requires long hours, attention to detail, following directions, as well as an above average understanding of cooking fundamentals.
Prepping meats, produce, stocks, and herbs well in advance is the quintessential element for any successful kitchen. Without hours of prep, every order would take three times as long to produce. If you aspire to become a sous chef understanding the value of this process is essential.
One of the most exciting times in the kitchen is when dinner service begins. As hungry dinner guests place their orders, your calm collected space quickly becomes overrun with sounds and smells. If you spend too much time wondering what item to start first or what dish to plate next, you will quickly find yourself backed up. Even the smallest item can throw off an entire service.
A great sous chef has the experience of knowing what to do and when to do it.
Quick thinking is a quality to master, but proper communication should follow. The kitchen staff should always communicate with each other for various reasons. Timing a dish properly takes great communication between stations. Inventory levels requires great communication between stations. Communication is also used when walking through the kitchen with hot or heavy items. If you want to be a great sous chef, having a confident voice is a must.
A kitchen staff relies on each other every day. This includes showing up to work on time, performing your tasks, and helping out at other stations when needed. A great sous chef understands this relationship. They understand the team element and work to keep the team together.
Anyone in the kitchen should be able to organize their station. Keeping your space clean is vital to running a smooth and safe service. But a clean station is only part of the job in the kitchen.
A great sous chef is able to keep ingredients and recipes in his or her mind and call upon them quickly. This requires mind organizational skills. This is also a process that takes a bit of practice. However, having a mental system for recalling recipes and ingredients quickly will vastly improve your culinary skills.
Leadership takes place inside and outside the kitchen.
A good leader not knows how to do their own job as well as the jobs of everyone else. This quality allows him or her to have a clear understanding of what it takes to perform tasks and handle the pressure that comes with it.
A leader outside of work is one who is dedicated to knowing more about his or her coworkers. Having a good idea of what drives each person to work hard every day. A leader who sees the value in each member of his or her staff, is a leader who has a loyal staff.
You will be a great sous chef
Kitchen work is hard. Chefs work long hours every day only to turn around and do it all again. And for most kitchen noobies, it’s a hard life to adjust to. Especially since you are considered the bottom of the food chain.
But starting at the bottom of the food chain has many benefits. It allows you to see how every position is managed. You can learn kitchen timing and lingo without the pressure of rushing. Working your way up the chain of command gives you a higher appreciation for every position.
When you do earn your spot as sous chef, you’ll be a well-respected leader in the kitchen.
Do you have what it takes to be a great sous chef?