There are many ways to learn the skills needed to become a chef. Well, there are two ways if you really narrow it down: culinary school and learning on the job. In a previous post, we discussed the pros and cons of both paths, and you can check that out when you get a chance if you haven’t done so already. Here, we’re breaking down the different roles that might be filled in most restaurant kitchens. Knowing these roles will help you set goals for yourself as you train in the restaurants in which you work.
-The executive chef is the man in any kitchen (yes, I said “the man” and that’s probably a passed-on trend, but oh well). This guy plans menus, orders supplies, hires and trains the staff, as well as assigning tasks in the kitchen. These guys (and women) often have formal schooling, so that’s just something to think about as you try to work up the ladder.
-The sous chef is the number two guy in the kitchen. He assists the executive chef, oversees the staff, creates dishes, makes purchases, and so on.
-A specialty chef is in charge of a specific section of a large kitchen. This could be a fry chef, a fish chef, a grill chef, and so on. They often get extra training for their specialty, which once again is worth noting.
-The pastry chef makes pastries. I guess that’s kind of obvious, but basically they’re in charge of making desserts. A pastry chef could work for a restaurant or work for a side business that sells to restaurants. Again, special training may be in order.
-A line cook works under a certain chef on the line. He could be the guy who puts the rice on the plate next to the steak, or pours gravy over the mashed potatoes. The nice thing about being a line chef is one often does not need formal training to start here and it’s a great place to learn if you don’t have time to go to culinary school.
These positions are also kind of ranked in order of who does what and who tells whom what to do. So you’ll start at the bottom, as most people do, and with hard work and gaining more experience, you could be the one bossing everyone else around one day. One can only hope…
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-A prep cook comes in before the line cooks to prepare all of the food before it gets sent to the various stations. This means they make broths and soups, they chop vegetables, and other prep stuff. Again, there is no need for a formal education and you can start learning here and work your way up.
-A roundsman (or swing cook as it’s sometimes called) is trained to do a little bit of everything and will often assist in different areas when needed. No one can really just show up on Day 1 of ever being in a restaurant to become a roundsman. You’ll have to work for a few years to get to that.