Kitchen Hierarchy – Which one would you like to become?
Here in the States we understand the word chef to be a person who cooks propessionally most often regardless of the rank. The term cook describes usually the common cook in a restaurant.
My kitchen history reflects the brigade system where you start out as the young inexperienced commis de cuisine. Although kitchen life back in the day was often difficult and tough like being in the army, this appealed to my natural untiring fighting instinct and drove me to the next step on the career ladder. Being in a solid kitchen crew with a hierarchy was a great place to make buddies and learn tons of cool stuff while having your mentor in the same place.
The Brigade system was documented by the great writer and restaurateur Escoffier (1846-1935), he cooked in his early days in the French army.
This is quiet a title since only the biggest chefs will title themselves with executive chef. He/she is the “spokes person” to the outside world. This guy might run the show of several restaurants.
When I was younger and envies I referred to executive chefs as pencil pushers since they were not making their hands dirty anymore in the kitchen versus spending many hours glued to a desk infront of a computer. Now I see what it entitles to “run” the numbers and to be soleily responsible for just about anything what is going on in the kitchen and restaurant.
Chef de Cuisine
Some sort a jack-of-all-trades. Responsible for hiring and firing, determines cost, revamps the various menus. The chef-de-cuisine interact with the dining room manager manager talks about the daily specials to the servers.
This person reports directly to the chef-de-cuisine or executive chef depending on the size of the restaurant. He/she is a good part of creating and executing daily specials besides the overall kitchen coordination. Many sous-chefs dream to become eventualy the chef-de-cuisine of a/their restaurant.
Chef de Partie
Aka line cook or first cook. These are the people who actually cook your food.
They are divided up in:
Chef garde manger
The person also known as the cold/salad station
He/she prepares fish dishes.
This cook prepares, soups, pastas, vegetable and starches
This station chef cooks grilled, roasted, braised meat and usually does the sauces for these dishes too.
Commis de cuisine
Aka apprentice or kitchen helper, in my old days the go-for guy suporting the chef de partie. He/she chops, peels, and keeps the work station tidy.
He/she is almost like a sous chef, but reigns predominatly of the pastry section of the kitchen.
Other kitchen staff:
Generally this position is held most of the time by the Chef de Cuisine or sous chefs. He/she is the liasion between the front of the house (FOH) and kitchen (back of the house /BOH). An expediter SHOUTS out orders most commonly and the rest of the kitchen answeres with “YES CHEF” – “OUI CHEF” This person coordinates that the food gets to the customer in a timely manner simultaneously. This job is all about coordination and timing.
This person butchers and portions meat or fillets fish and cuts them in the desired pieces.