You’re probably familiar with the title chef, but what about a sous chef?
A sous chef is the head chef’s right-hand-man (or woman) and reports directly to the head of the restaurant.
A sous chef is a master of the trade and an extremely important position in any kitchen or high-end restaurant.
Sous chefs provide the support and backup that the head chef needs to succeed.
Plus, working as a sous chef is one of the best ways to become a head chef yourself.
Table Of Contents
What Is A Sous Chef?
A sous chef is the chef who works directly under the head chef, commonly thought of as ‘second-in-command’ in the kitchen.
They typically know every menu item by heart and feel confident in the kitchen.
They should also possess stellar teaching skills as they will be responsible for instructing many other chefs.
A lot of the time, sous chefs achieve their position at a restaurant that they’ve worked at for years.
What Is A Sous Chef Called?
Sous chef is French for under-chef, which makes sense because the sous chef works directly under the head chef.
They are also referred to as second-chef or under-chef.
What Does A Sous Chef Do?
Sous chefs are the key contact for keeping the kitchen functions running smoothly.
Some of their responsibilities may include:
- Instructing and leading the other chefs
- Maintaining standards for kitchen cleanliness
- Teaching the staff about new menu items
- Ordering ingredients for the kitchen and working with vendors
As a sous chef, you can expect to make around $50,000 per year.
This salary can fluctuate depending on where you live, as highly populated areas tend to pay more.
You can also expect a high-paced, demanding job that is ultimately rewarding.
If cooking is your passion, working as a sous chef will be an enriching, thrilling experience.
Work Opportunities in the Sous Chef Industry
Being a sous chef gives you a lot of opportunities, but it’s vital to understand the responsibilities as well.
Sous Chef Job Description
Sous chefs are tasked with many duties on a daily basis to keep kitchen operations running smoothly.
- Managing food preparation and production
- Kitchen budgeting and financial planning
- Ordering ingredients and surveying the shipping process
- Stocking and food rotation
- Substituting for the Head Chef as needed
- Maintain responsibility for food quality
- Teaching and instructing the staff about new recipes and ingredients
- Supervising the plating process
- Training staff in cleanliness and sanitation
Top Sous Chef Jobs and Careers
Depending on your experience and interests, you could become a sous chef at a wide variety of restaurants, including:
- Fusion (merging two or more cultures)
- Steak house
Where Can a Sous Chef Work?
Most likely, your goal is to work your way to a fine dining establishment…and maybe even become the head chef!
Once you have experience as a sous chef, you can work in many restaurants across the country.
You can also work positions in catering or in higher-end residential kitchens.
You can even transition from restaurant life and work as a private chef.
What it’s Like to be a Sous Chef
Being a sous chef is hard work, but its a rewarding career for any culinary enthusiasts, extroverts, and leaders.
It is not a typical 9-5 job, but the work is often exciting.
Let’s take a closer look at the life of a sous chef to decide if it is the right fit.
Is Being a Sous Chef Hard?
Being a sous chef is a challenging career in many ways.
Sous chefs often have to work long hours in hot kitchens filled with other chefs.
In order to succeed, you need strong skills in leadership and must be comfortable telling others what to do.
Your skills in management and working with others are just as important as your culinary abilities.
If you do not work well with people, you will probably find it hard to be a sous chef.
Alternatively, if you enjoy leading others, you will probably excel.
Is a Sous Chef’s Job Stressful?
Like more kitchen and restaurant jobs, there will be stressful days.
A big part of your job as a sous chef is problem-solving, so you may spend a lot of your days stressed about fixing something that went wrong.
However, seeing your hard work pay off in the form of delicious dishes for your customers to enjoy makes the stress worth it.
Common Sous Chef Work Day
Here’s what you can expect on a daily basis as a sous chef:
Sous Chef Tasks and Duties
As a sous chef, you can expect to complete the following tasks on a daily or weekly basis:
- Working one-on-one with the head chef
- Developing new menu items
- Supervising and leading kitchen staff
- Hiring and training new chefs
- Managing health and safety regulations
- Managing the kitchen during service hours
- Keeping track of inventory
Sous Chef Work Hours and Schedule
If you want to be a sous chef, you must accept that you will likely work 12-hour days and have an uncommon schedule, often working late into the night.
You may have to work six days a week and should expect to work most weekends because that’s when most restaurants are busiest.
Sous Chef Dress Code
Every restaurant is different, but you can expect to wear a chef’s jacket and pants, hat, hairnet, apron, and non-slip shoes.
Does this Career Field Embrace Work/Life Balance
You should not expect great work/life balance from a career as a sous chef.
You will likely have to work long hours nearly every day a week.
If you love what you do, it will be worth it.
Sous Chef Salary and Income
Find out the ins and outs of sous chef salaries in the United States.
Do Sous Chefs Make Good Money?
Sous Chefs make an average amount of money.
While you aren’t making six figures, you’re gaining experience and knowledge to eventually pursue a role as head chef.
How Much Do Sous Chefs Make?
According to Payscale, the average salary for a sous chef in the United States is $46,117.
Sous Chef Field: Career Progression
The journey of a sous chef is a long and rewarding one.
Sous Chefs typically start their career journeys in culinary school, which typically lasts about 6 months to two years.
Upon graduation from culinary school, graduates can begin applying for positions in high-end restaurants, catering companies, or even open their own business.
Some of these restaurant positions could include:
- Sauce chef
- Butcher chef
- Fish chef
- Roast chef
- Fry chef
- Grill chef
- Pastry chef
If you excel in a lower-ranking role as a chef, you could find yourself promoted to a sous chef after working for a while.
Is a Sous Chef a Good Career?
Overall, working as a sous chef is a challenging, but good career that could eventually lead to amazing opportunities in the culinary world.
Sous Chef Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for sous chefs will grow 25% by 2030, so it is a promising career path.
Demand for Sous Chefs
Restaurants will continue opening and the need for talent in the culinary industry will never decrease.
However, sous chef is a competitive position, so it can be harder to land than a regular chef position.
Sous Chef Facts
Mashed lists the following as some of the most interesting facts about sous chefs:
- Sous Chef translates from French to “under the chef”.
- Renowned late chef Anthony Bourdain noted in his memoir that sous chefs should have “rockin’ kitchen prowess”.
- Sous chefs are often considered the heart of the restaurant and are responsible for keeping everyone afloat during rush hours.
Jobs Related to Sous Chefs
- Chef De Partie – These are also known as line chefs. They are senior members of the kitchen staff and oversee specific stations as well as the chefs working in those stations.
- Commis Chef – These are assistant or apprentice chefs who are training to be head chefs. They often change positions and stations throughout the day to perfect their craft in multiple avenues.
- Armed Forces Chef – These chefs plan and prepare all three meals for their squadrons. They must have a strong understanding of nutrition and can prepare food for hundreds of soldiers a day.
Requirements, Skills, and Education Required for Sous Chefs
Being a sous chef isn’t for everyone.
Read on below for all the requirements needed for this position.
Who Should Consider a Sous Chef Career Path?
First and foremost, those considering a career path as a sous chef should absolutely love cooking and have skills in the kitchen.
You should also be confident, possess strong leadership traits, and have a strong work ethic and determination.
Who Should NOT Consider a Sous Chef Career Path?
Obviously, if you do not enjoy cooking and being in the kitchen, a career as a sous chef is not for you.
We would also not recommend the sous chef career path for people who enjoy working alone or who do not have strong leadership and people skills.
Is it Hard to Become a Sous Chef?
It can be a challenging career path because it requires schooling, hard work, long hours, and a lot of determination.
What Do I Need to Become a Sous Chef?
Requirements for Becoming a Sous Chef
- A degree from culinary school
- Years of experience working as a chef
- Built rapport with the head chef
What Skills Does a Sous Chef Need?
- Culinary skills
What Education Does a Sous Chef Need?
Generally, a sous chef should have a degree from a culinary school.
Can You Become a Sous Chef Without a Degree?
It is possible to become a sous chef without a degree, but it can be a difficult position to land without any formal training.
What Experience Does a Sous Chef Need?
Most sous chefs will need to work in a kitchen for several years before being promoted to sous chef so that they can learn the menu inside out and understand how the restaurant functions.
Sous Chef Education and Schooling
Find out the best institutions for becoming a sous chef.
What is Taught in a Sous Chef Course?
The Institute of Culinary Institute lists the following as skills taught in culinary school:
- Foundational cooking skills
- Knife safety
- Product recognition
- Food safety
- Soups and sauces
- Cooking methods
- Flavor-based techniques
- Dicing vegetables
How Long Does a Sous Chef Course Take?
Culinary school can last anywhere between six months and four years.
Sous Chef Education Options and Degree Programs
You do not need a bachelor’s or master’s degree to become a sous chef.
Most culinary schools offer an associate degree or technical diploma that will get you far as a chef.
However, you can choose to earn a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts or management if you so choose.
Schools for Sous Chefs
World Scholar Hub lists the following culinary schools as the best in the world:
- The Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, NY
- Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts Austin
- Le Cordon Bleu, Paris
- Kendell College of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management
- Institute of Culinary Education New York
Become a Sous Chef
Take these steps to work your way up to this coveted position.
- Attend culinary school
- Get a job working as a cook or chef in a restaurant
- Build rapport with the head chef and upper management
- Continue learning and growing as a chef
- Express interest in the sous chef position when it becomes available
- Interview for the job…then get to work!
Current Career Job Openings
There are many open sous chef positions around the United States.
Here are a few that stand out as great opportunities to advance your career.
If you have determination, a love of cooking, and excellent organizational skills, you might have what it takes to be a sous chef.
If you’re interested in becoming a sous chef and have no experience, research some culinary schools in your area to get started.
If you are already working as a chef and want to elevate your career, consider applying to some of the opportunities listed above.