The kitchen is often described as “the heart” of the restaurant. This is because, intuitively speaking, a person comes to a restaurant to eat. No matter how good the atmosphere or the service, if the food is subpar, the restaurant is typically dubbed mediocre. So it’s important to keep a kitchen running smoothly, and one way to do this is by being aware of the handful of roles that need to be filled and the unique duties and responsibilities that come with each.
Back of the House Management Roles
The Executive Chef or the Chef Du Cuisine is the leading chef of the restaurant, responsible for all of the other chefs working in the kitchen. They typically work exclusively in corporate restaurant environments, collaborating with front-of-house restaurant executives including the maitre d’hotel and restaurant owner to ensure operations are running smoothly between the kitchen and front end. The Executive Chefs role is broad, covering not only the management aspects but a majority of the kitchen related activities as well, including menu design, plating, inventory management, and hiring kitchen staff.
Some restaurants have a head chef in place of the executive chef, while they share many of the same duties, head chefs generally report to someone higher up. This is often the case when a series of restaurants are run by a single executive chef, in these situations significant decisions, including menu planning, are left to the executive.
The Sous Chef Du Cuisine or the Executive Sous Chef is the second in command of the kitchen, directly after the executive chef. In the absence of the Executive Chef, they plan the menus and manage the staff working under them in the kitchen.
Since the Executive Chef is responsible for so many things outside of the kitchen, the Executive Sous Chef must take on many of the back-of-house responsibilities, including planning the schedules, overseeing the training of new employees, and ensuring quality control and the presentation of outgoing food.
An Executive Sous Chef must have an eye for detail and high standards to keep a kitchen running smoothly and safely. They are responsible for the discipline of staff who are operating outside restaurant policy or who are working in an unsafe manner, as well as being in charge of the maintenance and repairs of kitchen equipment which requires a keen understanding of their regular function as well as the ability to perform basic troubleshooting and maintenance.
The Executive Sous Chef must also oversee the downtime activities including meal service preparation, back of house cleaning, and inventory management, notifying the Executive Chef when supplies are running low.
Entry Level Kitchen Positions
The Head Cook or Lead Preparation Chef is in charge of food preparations, often working in coordination with the Head Station Chef and alongside the other chefs on the line to ensure the readiness of everything before service begins. This work often includes starting slow-cooked meats, chopping vegetables, and making sauces or soups for the evening, the rest of the food preparation is complete when the customer places an order.
The Head Station Chef or Lead Line Cook supervises the line cooks, working together with them to coordinate meal preparation and ensure that each table is served as a group, without compromising the freshness or quality of the food.
Education and Training Requirements
Education and training requirements vary by job position and location, though most entry-level culinary positions can be achieved through an apprenticeship or the completion of an accredited training program. Higher level positions are almost exclusively earned through promotion from within the kitchen or industry, though additionally training may also be required.
In Canada, higher level positions can be earned through a specialized program and series of exams, resulting in a Red Seal Certification. This is not a fast-track option, requiring up to seven years of both education and work experience to qualify for application to the Canadian Culinary Foundations Certified Chef de Cuisine program.