The Types of Chefs

by Ryan on June 13, 2011

Executive Chef Coats with Black PipingWhile it is true that chefs create savory, great-looking meals, wears their chef coats and run around their kitchens ensuring that customers’ orders are fulfilled, their job doesn’t end there.  There are all kinds of chefs, with out-of-the-ordinary titles, and different functions.  Their titles give you no idea what it is if you are a stranger to restaurant kitchen operations.   Hoping to solve that, here’s a list of the different types of chefs, based on their hierarchy in the kitchen- starting from the top honcho to the beginner’s position.

Chef de Cuisine [shef duh kwee-zeen] or the Executive Chief

In the hierarchy of chefs, the Chef the Cuisine is the chief– the one in charge of all things connected to the kitchen.  He envisions the dishes, instills his personality in the whole restaurant.  He makes certain that the establishment’s dishes are at par with quality standards, and he estimates proper portioning of menu items.  He seldom cooks, although if there’s a need to do so, he could.  His job includes management of the kitchen staff, including scheduling assignments and payroll. The Chef de Cuisine, before donning his top chef coat, has basically climbed the ranks and is expected to know the ins and outs of each position under him.

Sous Chef
[soo-shef]

The Sous Chef is a type of chef which is second-in-command to the Chef de Cuisine, said to be the unsung hero for doing most of the legwork.  His job is to assist the chief in supervising the kitchen staff, as well as plan menus, monitor requisitions for food and kitchen supplies.  Being the direct assistant, he assists the Chef de Cuisine in all his other functions.  In most establishments, the Sous Chef serves as the expediter (or the expediter could be a separate position in itself), the liaison between the wait staff and the kitchen, ensuring that the food is handed out to the wait staff in a coordinated and timely fashion.  He is also tasked to apply the finishing touches to the dish before it leaves the kitchen.

Pastry Chef

The Pastry Chef’s function is similar to that of the Sous Chef, except that he reigns over a smaller division which is the pastry section, while the Sous Chef functions in a bigger arena, the main kitchen. Just like the other type of chefs, the Pastry Chef is expected to have creative skills—but on top of that, he needs to have a clearer understanding of the taste and flavors of desserts.  Bigger establishments have an entirely complex hierarchy for the pastry section, which includes the Executive Pastry Chef, the Corporate Pastry Chef and Assistant Pastry Chefs.  In smaller operations, the Pastry Chef is just one of the many Chefs De Partie.

Garde Manger [gard-mahn-zhey]

The Garde Manger is responsible for the restaurant’s cold dishes, such as salads, terrines, pates, canapés and hors d’oeuvres. In larger operations, he is in-charge of ice-sculpture and other centerpieces that decorate a buffet table. In smaller operations, the Garde Manger, as a type of chef,   is part of the Chef de Partie brigade, equal in position to the other line cooks in the restaurant.

Chef de Partie [shef-duh-par-tee], or the Line Cooks

The Chefs de Partie is in charge of a certain area of production, the ones who actually cook the food.  In large kitchen operations, there could be a lot of sections.  They are the ones who immediately take action when the expediter shouts out an order. They can have a hierarchy of their own, starting with the first cook down to the last.  They also have different titles according to their expertise:

Saucier      Or the sauté chef.

Poissonnier    Or the fish chef.

Rotisseur     Or the roast chef. In charge of roasted and braised meats.

Grillardin    Or the grill chef.

Friturier    Or the fry chef.

Entremetier    Or the vegetable chef.

Tournant    The roundsman or the swing cook.  He fills-in on the different sections, as needed.

Baucher    In charge of butchering meat, poultry and sometimes fish.

Commis [kaw-mee]

The Commis is another type of chef which is an entry-level position in the cooking business.  Sometimes referred to as an apprentice or a trainee, he works under the Chef de Partie, eager to wear his chef coat and learn everything there is to know in the kitchen. He assists and learns specific functions in a particular station, by means of gaining knife, food preparation and plating skills.

There.  Next time you encounter someone who says that he is a Chef de Partie in your favorite restaurant, you wouldn’t just blankly nod your head this time – you can ask exactly what type of Chef de Partie he is, now aware of the different types and hierarchy of chefs in a restaurant kitchen.

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