Difference Between Sous Chef & Executive Chef

Executive chefs and sous chefs may have overlapping responsibilities, but the day-to-day tasks differ. Executive chefs handle the administrative work, while sous chefs primarily focus on food prep. Learn more about these two roles ahead.

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Comparing Sous Chefs to Executive Chefs

Restaurants that use a classic French brigade kitchen model employ executive chefs and sous chefs. Executive chefs oversee the operations of a kitchen. Sous chefs are second-in-command under the executive chef and typically spend more time preparing food than executive chefs. Find out more about their education, salary and job outlook below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2014-2024)**
Sous Chef High school diploma; many attend culinary school $41,640 9% (for all chefs and head cooks)
Executive Chef High school diploma; many attend culinary school $57,704 9% (for all chefs and head cooks)

Sources: *PayScale.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Sous Chefs vs. Executive Chefs

Executive chefs spend time coordinating the work of other chefs and operating the kitchen. The sous chef supervises the other chefs and cooks; they also reports the results of the kitchen production to the executive chef. Sous chefs sometimes perform some of the responsibilities of the executive chef if he or she is absent. Both roles require excellent communication, problem-solving and time management skills.

Sous Chef

The sous chef is usually second in rank to the executive chef. The responsibilities of a sous chef can vary in kitchens based upon the amount of time the executive chef spends in the kitchen. If the executive chef spends a lot of time outside of the kitchen, the sous chef will be more involved in menu planning and supervising staff. If the executive chef is often in the kitchen, the sous chef may actively prepare meals with the rest of the staff. Sous chefs often teach cooking techniques and equipment use to other staff in the kitchen.

Job responsibilities of a sous chef include:

  • Overseeing food preparation
  • Delegating tasks for cooks and other chefs
  • Assisting with food ordering
  • Reporting to the executive chef

Executive Chef

The executive chef is the head chef in a kitchen, and they are in charge of the administration of the kitchen. If it is busy in the kitchen or the restaurant has a small cooking staff, the executive chef may directly prepare meals; some executive chefs may also prepare meals for special functions. The designing of the restaurant menu is the responsibility of the executive chef as well as deciding what dishes that will be prepared in the kitchen. They also train the staff on how to cook and present the dishes.

Job responsibilities of an executive chef include:

  • Overseeing the operations of a kitchen
  • Setting menu prices and inputting the establishment's daily sales
  • Reviewing food, beverage, and equipment purchases
  • Interviewing chefs and cooks for positions in the kitchen

Related Careers

If you are interested in the job of a sous chef, you might want to find out about becoming a private chef that cooks outside of restaurants. Those who like the management and administrative duties of an executive chef could also be interested in owning their own restaurant.

Become a Private Chef: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Be a Restaurant Owner: Education Requirements and Career Info

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