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Types of Chefs and Kitchen Hierarchy

Kitchen staff preparing food

Commercial kitchens are complex workspaces. They consist of many types of Chefs who work together to create delicious meals that attract and retain customers. Chefs operate following a hierarchy called “Brigade de Cuisine“, which basically translates to “Kitchen Brigade”.

In this article, we talk about the different types of Chefs and their position in the hierarchy.

But before we get into that, let’s briefly discuss what the Chef role entails and why becoming a kitchen professional can be a great career option.

What’s a Chef?

Chefs are professional cooks working in restaurants, hotels, pubs and catering services.

“Chef” is a broader term used to describe a wide range of kitchen workers.

Depending on their role in the kitchen, these workers are responsible for preparing or making different parts of a menu or meal.

That being said, here are the types of Chefs you’ll find in most professional commercial kitchens.

Types of Chefs and Their Place in the Kitchen Hierarchy

To help you distinguish between each type of Chef and their duties, we created this easy-to-understand infographic.

Not only does this infographic represent the hierarchy in a commercial kitchen, but it also showcases the career progression of Chefs.

Commercial Kitchen Hierarchy

Prep Cook

As the name implies, the Prep Cook is in charge of food preparation. Prep Cooks are also typically known as kitchen assistants or kitchen porters. Their main responsibilities revolve around preparing ingredients, such as chopping vegetables and making sure the kitchen is organized and well stocked.

Although their work may have little to do with actual cooking, they’re extremely important for ensuring dishes are prepared timely and they satisfy establishment standards.

Fry Chef

Fry chefs are also known as frituriers. They’re in charge of frying food using fryers. Although it may sound like an easy thing to do, frying foods like french fries, onion rings and chicken is quite delicate. It needs to be done at the right temperature and for the right amount of time.

Fry Chefs often fry multiple foods at a time using multiple fryers. That’s why they need to be excellent at multitasking and paying attention to multiple things at once.

Pastry Chef

Pastry chefs specialize in making pastries, baked goods and desserts. Pastry chefs generally work in bakeries, hotels, cafes and restaurants where they create tasty and visually appealing sweets and deserts. Pastry chefs usually have experience in French or English pastries.

Grill Chef

Grill Chefs, as their name implies, specialize in grilling food. Their work includes managing grills by making sure they’re at the right temperature for every type of food being grilled. Some of the foods they need to grill include seafood, meat and vegetables.

Grill chefs work at steakhouses, barbeque joints and restaurants. They need to know how to make rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well and well-done steaks. While it sounds easy, it takes time to master the art of cooking steaks.

Pantry Chef

Pantry Chefs are responsible for preparing appetizers, cold dishes, salads and charcuteries. While all of these dishes are relatively easy to prepare, it takes a lot of creativity to make them visually appealing. To accomplish that, Pantry Chefs use a wide range of intricate decorations and garnishes.

Moreover, they need to make sure the ingredients used to prepare these dishes are always fresh and not stale.

Sauce Chef

Also known as Sauté Chefs or sauciers, these are Chefs who specialize in making sauces and accompanying dishes. As such, they need to be experts in flavors, textures and consistencies to improve the taste of every dish that’s accompanied by a sauce.

Sauce Chefs use a saute pan to cook meats and vegetables over high heat. That requires a lot of speed and precision to deliver the desirable result.

In some restaurants, Sauce Chefs are also in charge of preparing stews and soups.

Station Chef

Also known as Senior Chef or Chef de Partie, this type of Chef is responsible for specific sections or stations of the kitchen. They can be responsible for overseeing some or all of the aforementioned chefs.

Station Chefs are knowledgeable and experienced. Not only do they oversee other Chefs, but they also train and lead junior Chefs. They also prepare dishes and check for quality and consistency.

Sous Chef

Sous Chefs are known as second Chefs or under Chefs. They’re second in command after the Head Chef.

Similar to Station Chefs, they supervise staff and coordinate all kitchen employees to ensure the dishes are prepared up to standard.

They’re also responsible for food safety practices and quality control.

Head Chef

Head Chefs are the highest-ranking Chefs who are hands-on with kitchen operations. They’re responsible for controlling inventory, making orders, training and managing other kitchen staff.

Additionally, Head Chefs are responsible for nurturing the working relationships with waitstaff, vendors and management to ensure the kitchen thrives.

A good Head Chef will step in when the kitchen needs them to, but most of the day-to-day operations are handled by someone below them in the hierarchy, such as the Sous Chef.

Executive Chef

Also called Chef de Cuisine, an Executive Chef oversees all kitchen operations. Executive Chefs often oversee multiple kitchens and manage multiple Head Chefs.

In most restaurants, they’re the ones creating and planning the menus, developing new recipes and managing staff. The biggest distinction between Executive Chefs and Head Chefs is that Executive Chefs are more focused on the administrative side of running a kitchen.

To be a Chef de Cuisine, you need many years of experience, training, and in most cases, a degree in culinary arts.

A Chef de Cuisine also needs to have leadership and organizational skills to ensure food quality, consistency and innovation in the restaurant.

Chef Owner

Also known as a Group Chef, this is a Chef who has been in the business long enough to also grasp the business side of running a restaurant. The Chef Owner is responsible not only for kitchen operations, but hiring and finances as well.

To be a successful Chef Owner, you need to have a lot of experience managing a kitchen, you need to make your menu stand out, and you need to have the business acumen to make the right decisions not just for the kitchen, but for the entire business as well.

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