Being a Chef, all decked out in their fancy Chef coats and hats, has been an honored title for centuries, and a vocation that demands a lot of respect and adoration. This is because to become a professional Chef one must undergo very hard training and even after coming up to a certain professional standard, these men and women still have no rest.
The work day of a chef or cook can be anything between 12 to 16 hours a day, depending on how busy the restaurant or hotel is, and most of this time they have to spend standing on their two feet. Just imagine how busy they are during Christmas and New Year times!
While these professionals are all about creative food preparation and providing their customers with exquisite looking and delicious meals, did you know that they hardly eat anything at all during their busy work day? All they get to eat is a quick snack like a salad or sandwich, and that too in-between performing their work tasks.
What is even sadder is that these men and women hardly get any time to enjoy a social life themselves, although they ensure that our social life and our celebrations are the best with delightful meals served to us. These iconic personnel hardly have time for their families, because they are working most of the day, preparing for meal times in busy commercial kitchens.
When it comes to experience and expertise, there is a clear hierarchy in a commercial kitchen, with many titles of chefs and cooks going down the line. This distinction is even apparent in their uniforms, where the Head Chef wears his or her chef whites, with an elegant Chef coat and tall Toque, while the cooks of the kitchen and kitchen helpers tend to wear cook shirts or kitchen shirts and sometimes even t-shirts under the corporate branding.
On some occasions, restaurants even have different colored uniforms for those staff members performing different tasks in the kitchen, making it easier to identify them easily in a busy and crowded kitchen.
So, what is the hierarchy of the kitchen, and what are the different titles of Chefs?
Chef de Cuisine –
He or she is the Head of the kitchen, or Executive Chef, and is responsible for all the staff working in his or her department. They are responsible for coming up with menus as well as for creating exquisite dishes, some of which are signature to them. This role is more of a managerial position, and they are considered to be a part of the management team. The Chef de Cuisine will usually be seen in public wearing their elegant white Chef coats and tall Toque.
Sous Chef –
This is the second in command to the head of the kitchen, and is responsible for the overall smooth functioning of the department. Individual responsibilities will include ensuring that tasks are carried out in a timely manner, the food quality and hygiene and cleanliness of the kitchen are up to standard, and so much more. They take on a more supervisory role in the kitchen and report to the Head.
Chef de Partie –
These are line Chefs who are responsible for running different sections in the kitchen, such as the grill, vegetable station, fry station, sauces, butcher, fish section, pantry, roast, sauté, pastry etc. The number of line chefs in a commercial kitchen will depend on its size.
These are junior cooks and apprentice chefs, whom you will usually see wearing not the standard Chef coats and hats, but short sleeved (usually) cook shirts or kitchen shirts, and either skull hats or beanies. They report to a specific supervisor and or line cook and learn from them regarding that specific station or specialty, and are in a trainee position.
Plongeur / Marmiton –
These are generally kitchen helpers who are at the bottom of the hierarchy and aspiring to some day come to the higher ranks of the kitchen. These staff members generally help the chefs and cooks with the more menial tasks such as peeling, cutting, chopping, cleaning up, preparing plating for service etc. They will also be in uniform, although it will be kitchen shirts or t-shirts.
These are in general terms dishwashers, and are responsible for collecting the and used plates and dishes and either preparing them for the dishwasher or cleaning them manually. They also do other jobs like shining cutlery, and storing the cleaned plates and utensils in their proper places.
Although a commercial kitchen has a long hierarchy of members, from the highest to the bottom most position, it must be remembered that all these positions and specialties coming together as a team is what makes a successful commercial kitchen unit, and is able to provide a great service to their customers in terms of food service.
From the Head Chef to the dishwasher, all these positions are equally important in running a smooth operation in order to provide their customers with an unmatched experience which will keep them coming back to the restaurant again and again.