A sous chef is second-in-command in the kitchen, working alongside the head chef and leading the rest of the staff. Most have completed an associate or bachelor's degree program in culinary arts. They also have job experience, acquired through internships, apprenticeships, or working as a cook.
A sous chef, or sub chef, functions in a major role in a commercial kitchen. In addition to professional cooking techniques, the sous chef must possess good organizational, leadership and communication skills. Many sous chefs have formal culinary training, backed up by career experience, although formal education isn't strictly required in all cases. Those with a minimum of education and work experience can earn voluntary professional certification.
|Required Education||Postsecondary training or degree program is common|
|Certification||The American Culinary Federation offers the voluntary Certified Sous Chef credential|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||9% for chefs and head cooks|
|Average Annual Salary (2015)*||$45,920 for chefs and head cooks|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Description and Duties
In the kitchen hierarchy, the sous chef ranks just below the executive, or head, chef. The sous chef takes charge of the kitchen in the absence of the executive chef, making sure that all dishes are prepared correctly and that meals get to diners in a timely manner. Sous chefs help develop recipes, plan menus and prepare food in collaboration with the executive chef and other workers in the kitchen. They also use artistic skill in plating food in an appetizing manner.
Sous chefs must be familiar with food safety rules and restaurant health standards. Additionally, they must understand all aspects of the executive chef's job, which includes non-cooking tasks, such as ordering food and supplies and scheduling employees for work.
Sous chefs often work long hours, usually in overheated, crowded conditions. A sous chef must be able to handle the stress of working quickly while maintaining safety and quality. While most sous chefs work in restaurants, some cook for private clients or in institutional settings, such as senior living facilities. Other sous chefs find employment on cruise ships or with food manufacturers.
Job Outlook and Salary Information
Based on figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), head cooks and chefs, including sous chefs, earned an average salary of $45,920 in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Employment in the field is expected to increase at a faster-than-average rate of 9% from 2014-2024. Workers with a mix of experience, skill and creativity may have the best prospects in the job market.
Education and training
Most sous chefs have some professional training, but some achieve the position with only on-the-job experience. Chefs can obtain training in the culinary arts at technical colleges or through specialized culinary arts schools. Some schools offer 2-year and 4-year diplomas in culinary arts, while others offer certificates, associate's degrees or bachelor's degrees. Alternatively, some chefs get their training through military service.
Coursework at culinary schools includes a mix of academic and hands-on classes. An aspiring chef may study food safety, nutrition and mathematics for cooking, as well as take practical courses in the kitchen. Advanced training might include overviews of world cuisine, a study of human psychology and business courses. Most programs require students to work an apprenticeship in a commercial kitchen.
Sous chefs must be able to perform the typical chef duties including leadership, creating recipes, preparing and cooking food, and working under physically stressful conditions. There are several educational options to choose from that provide in-class and hands-on training.