In the average large, commercial kitchen, each staff member is assigned a position, each of which has varying duties and responsibilities. Here are some of the most common kitchen positions and their roles.
chef: A chef is a professional cook who may work in a restaurant, hotel, institutional food service or other professional kitchen. The term (French for “chief”) originally referred to the rank of head cook but has become generalized to include many food preparation positions.
chef de cuisine: The executive chef’s right-hand person; in a larger multi-restaurant operation, such as a hotel chain, presides over a single restaurant or kitchen.
chef de garde-manger (cold station): Plates all the dishes that don’t require heat, such as salads, terrines and sometimes desserts, if there is no assigned pastry person on the line.
executive chef: In charge of everything related to the kitchen, including menu creation, staff management and business aspects, this is the person with final decision-making power as it relates to culinary operations.
He or she coordinates the work of the kitchen staff and directs the preparation of meals in all areas, including planning menus, ordering food supplies and overseeing kitchen operations to ensure uniform quality and presentation of meals.
The executive chef also hires and fires staff, prepares budgets, maintains payroll, keeps accurate records of food costs and generally oversees the well-being of the food service operation.
While the position requires extensive cooking experience and often involves actively cooking, it is not necessarily hands-on.
expediter: Generally the sous-chef, the expediter serves as the liaison between the customers in the dining room and the line cooks, making sure the food gets to the wait staff in a timely fashion so that everyone sitting at a table is served together.
line cooks: The people who actually cook your food. Most cooks work up through the line, working every position, before being promoted to sous-chef.
pastry chef: Like the sous-chef, but reigns over the pastry section, which is usually tucked far away from the heat and bustle of the main kitchen to protect delicate soufflés, fragile spun sugar and temperamental chocolates. Pastry chefs also make breads, cakes, candies and other desserts.
sous-chef: Directly in charge of whole kitchen production, this chef is always in the kitchen. He or she comes up with daily specials, takes inventory, watches over the staff, expedites and basically does all the hands-on work.
Because the executive chef’s responsibilities require spending a great deal of time in the office, the sous-chef takes command of the actual production and the minute-by-minute supervision and scheduling of the kitchen staff.
Kitchens often have more than one sous-chef, each having a particular area of responsibility, such as the banquet sous-chef, in charge of all banquets, or the executive sous-chef, in charge of all other sous-chefs.