What is a chef? Wikipedia describes a chef as “a person who is a highly skilled professional cook who is proficient in all aspects of food production.” They head a professional kitchen and their duties include kitchen management, menu planning, raw material procurement and of course the production of food along with his team.
The burgeoning hospitality industry the world over has created the need for talented, trained and professional chefs. There are a number of trade schools and culinary institutes across the globe that impart training to aspiring chefs. The duration of the courses vary as do the fees and the certification awarded.
Becoming a chef is not easy
It is a highly stressful career where one has to work while everybody else is on holiday or enjoying themselves be it weekends or Christmas. But then again for the creative person it can be a truly rewarding career option.
Basically if one is passionate about a trade and puts their heart and soul into it, they are sure to enjoy their job and can reach great creative heights. While the profession does not necessarily require formal training and one can become a chef by gaining on the job training, a professional course is always an advantage.
To begin let us discuss the hierarchy that exists in a normal kitchen and the various titles given to various types of chefs.
- The kitchen is headed by an executive chef or chef de cuisine. This person is responsible for all operations in the kitchen including kitchen management, menu creation, inventory procurement and management and plating design. The executive chef can be in charge of multiple restaurants.
- The next in line is the sous chef. He or she is the second in command and works as an assistant to the chef de cuisine as well as filling in for the chef de partie. Kitchen cleanliness, inventory management, training assistants, conducting line checks, rotation of food materials are all duties of a sous chef.
- The chef de partie is the next in a kitchen. Also known as a line cook or station chef, his or her responsibility is that of a particular type of production. Depending on the size of the establishment there may be a number of chef de parties with different job responsibilities like the sauté chef, the fish chef, the roast chef, the vegetable chef, the fry chef, the grill chef, the pastry chef and the pantry chef.
- The commis or range chef is below a chef de partie. A fresh graduate from a culinary institute normally enters the industry in this slot. He or she has to learn the operations of the particular station allotted.
To become a chef an individual has to generally undergo a training period of four years in a kitchen.
He or she enters at the lowest level, learning and working his way up. During their training period they are placed in different stations in the kitchen so that they get trained in all aspects of kitchen operations before they finally become a chef.