In a professional kitchen, a hierarchy known as the French Brigade, or brigade de cuisine, exists to help organize the staff in the most productive way. The brigade system assigns each worker a position with specific duties, and a sous chef plays an essential part in managing the kitchen efficiently. The word “sous” is French for “under.” A sous chef is second-in-command to the executive chef and is one of the most vital positions in a professional kitchen. A sous chef is the link between the executive chef and the rest of the team. There can be a lot of competition for a sous chef position, so to help outshine other candidates, a chef needs certain skills and experience to prove they are capable of being in such a demanding role.
A sous chef plays an essential role in ensuring that the executive chef’s commands are obeyed throughout the kitchen and plays the most active role in the running of the kitchen day to day. On a daily basis, a sous chef keeps the kitchen running smoothly. The sous chef is tasked with realizing the executive chef’s vision for the presentation of dishes, maintaining efficiency among the kitchen team, training and supervising kitchen staff, and ensuring all food served to members meets the quality standards of the club. As it is not an entry-level position, a sous chef must prove themselves by mastering each “station” in the kitchen.
It might seem obvious that top-notch culinary skills are a priority for a sous chef of any club kitchen, but these skills are just a fraction of the qualities needed to have a successful career as sous chef. While the executive chef is technically in charge of the kitchen, it is the sous chef who performs much of the hands-on management or oversees the kitchen when the executive chef is out of the kitchen. A sous chef must project confidence and have the authority required to manage staff in an often busy, loud and stressful environment. Keeping the entire team working as a team toward a common goal is a big undertaking that requires clear communication skills and an ability to motivate and guide everyone.
A sous chef must be quick-thinking, adaptable and calm under pressure. They are often responsible for making changes on the fly when certain supplies or even staff don’t arrive in time for service. When the head chef is away, the sous chef has to fix any problems that may arise in the kitchen. Running out of ingredients, disagreements between chefs or issues in the kitchen will be up to the sous chef to fix. Reliability is the foundation of a successful working relationship between the executive chef and the sous chef. For any kitchen to succeed, the executive chef must trust that their second-in-command is competent, trustworthy and loyal. A good sous chef has the ability to earn and maintain this trust.
A successful sous chef needs to be an executive chef’s right hand and juggle all of the demands of the kitchen, even when the team is feeling overworked and stressed. The role of a sous chef is not an easy one, with long hours in an environment that can be fast-paced and stressful at times. But with these crucial skills, along with the dedication and drive to succeed, a sous chef can play a vital role in making a club’s kitchen successful.