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Difference Between Sous Chef & Line Cook

Sous chefs and line cooks both work in a kitchen to prepare food for patrons. Here you can learn about how these two professionals compare along with information on education, salary, and job growth.

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Comparing Sous Chefs to Line Cooks

Sous chefs and line cooks are important professionals within a kitchen who work together to prepare meals for guests at a restaurant. Sous chefs lead and supervise other cooks, while line cooks work at an assigned station within the kitchen. Below you can learn more about what each of these food preparers do and how they compare.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Sous Chef High School Diploma or equivalent $43,180 (for all chefs and head cooks) 9% (for all chefs and head cooks)
Line Cook No Formal Education Required $24,140 (for all restaurant cooks) 14% (for all restaurant cooks)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Sous Chefs vs. Line Cooks

Sous chefs and line cooks take part in preparing meals for guests at a restaurant. Sous chefs are in charge of line cooks and other cooks within the kitchen. Typically sous chefs start out as line cooks before beginning their career as a sous chef. Both professionals are responsible for ensuring food and other ingredients used are fresh before using them. While sous chefs take on a leadership role, line cooks are typically responsible for one area of the kitchen, which may be to grill, fry, or handle vegetables.

Sous Chef

Sous chefs are second in charge, after the head chef, in a kitchen. They are responsible for making sure the cooks in the kitchen are doing their jobs and serving fresh food. Sous chefs must possess excellent communication skills in order to effectively lead the team of cooks. They must have experience and a good sense of taste and smell to ensure meals are prepared correctly and that guests will enjoy them. Sous chefs must be detail oriented and have good creativity to create original and interesting recipes.

Job responsibilities of a sous chef include:

  • Planning menus
  • Taking on position of head cook when head cook is absent
  • Reporting to head chef
  • Taking care of supplies and equipment
  • Hiring and training cooks
  • Managing inventory

Line Cook

The responsibilities of line cooks vary depending on where they are working in the kitchen. Most line cooks must be able to grill, bake, and fry a variety of meats and vegetables. They must be able to work with a variety of equipment including grills, stoves, broilers, grinders, and various pans. Working in a kitchen means working in a fast-paced environment so line cooks must be prepared to be on their feet for long periods of time. Line cooks need to have good hand-eye coordination as they are responsible for cutting and chopping many different ingredients.

Job responsibilities of a line cook include:

  • Weighing and measuring food and ingredients
  • Arranging and garnishing food
  • Cleaning work areas and equipment
  • Storing food at correct temperature

Related Careers

Individuals interested in becoming a sous chef may also be interested in working as a food service manager, who is in charge of the operation of the restaurant instead of leading the kitchen. Those wanting to be line cooks may also find a career as a baker interesting. Bakers work specifically with baked goods such as breads and pastries rather than frying and grilling as most line cooks would be doing.

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