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How do I become a Sous Chef

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
My name is Craig and I've intended culinary school and I also have a degree in Business Administration. Also, I've been cooking for a few years for fine dining and high volume establishments as a line cook. And still find out that's almost impossible to land a Sous Chef position. I've been on several interviews for the position and is always offered the line position. How can I get employers to take me seriously and see that I want to be more than a line cook?:smiles:
post #2 of 17
In the restaurants I've worked in, at least 3/4's of the sous chefs had a close professional relationship with the exec chef. Most of them had been working on and off with the chef for years at different properties, and they would quit when the chef did.

Failing that, it seems like quite a few sous chefs got their promotion due to attrition. Being the last man standing can be enough to get the job. It seems like a job you get by being promoted from within.

Also keep in mind a "few years" of experience may not be enough to get the job outright, and any chef would want to see how you work the line before putting you in managment. In my experience, my culinary education doesn't mean as much as work experience for most restaurant jobs.

IMO, it's a little unreasonable to walk into a restaurant and expect a sous job without knowing the restaurants systems and personality. I think the best way to get a sous job is to stay in touch with your old chefs and when they move to a new property or open a new joint, ask if he needs a sous.
post #3 of 17
I agree with what thetincook posted.....and to add to it,it depends on what establishment you applied to and what their requirements are for the sous position.A private place may be a little less stringent than say a hotel,for example.
Have you ever done a schedule for more than 5 people? Can you motivate and effectively lead your team? do you have the ability to contribute to a menu creation? Stay in line with food costs and labor? Can you utilize the strenghts and weaknesses of each of your crew;do they see you as an authority figure or as another cook with a title? A few years on a line won't be enough to get a sous position in most places simply because you haven't learned enough on the job.
Being a sous is many things;somedays you are a babysitter,a therapist,a cop,go-between,etc.And if you don't garner the respect of your crew,then you are whistling in the wind...and sometimes that respect is hard-earned.
"Sometimes people can be oh so dense"

The Pixies
"Sometimes people can be oh so dense"

The Pixies
post #4 of 17

you have to work for it..

and mainly in big(er) hotels. you start as cook, chef de party, chef saucier, rotiseur or entremetier. than maybe even as Chef in charge of banqueting /functions. than after a few years if you are good and also deliver, if the / a positions becomes vacant (a sous chef moves on..) it will be your turn.
This is the way I got promoted. And it still works like that in most hotels.
As Souschef you are required to do lot of paperwork, duty rosters for your departement, check if orders are correct (for the store).aAnd it goes without saying that you should be able to do, at least in the hot kitchen, any job at any time, should there be a problem.(I am not talking about work in the specialty restaurants, Sushi and Peking Duck is another story).
The last position that I had before being promoted to Sous Chef was Chef in charge of Banquetting. We could do and did,Banquets for 1000 peole at a time and had 11 Banquett Rooms for another 1000 people. For that I had to organise that everything was at the right lace at the right time. Do all the orders and so forth.
When becoming than Sous Chef I started at 6 am opening the kitchens. Coffeeshop started at 7 am, stores were still closed but there were no eggs! So, call the Sous Chef....That's basically what a Sous Chef is.Has to know everything and also know where it is.. A' i don't know' is NOT a reply for a Sous Chef.
You have a food cost, the cooks are ordering to much from the stores..The Sous Chef has to check and sign off all orders and has to know do they realy need 100 kg butter to make 10 ltr Hollandaise....
Supplies are coming in and in most places it is at least the fruits and vegetables that are being also checked by a Sous Chef.
Cooking is not the MAIN thing a SousChef has to do, he becomes more and more also an Administrator....
good food, one of the few pleasures left to mankind...
good food, one of the few pleasures left to mankind...
post #5 of 17
As the others have said: a sous chef is often the one who stands in for the chef, in all ways. So you have to get some more experience in the other aspects of the chef's job before you can "become" a sous.

And as others have said: you get that experience by working closely with your current chef -- learning all the other skills you will need. Sure, you have a head start, given your educational background. But you have to actually DO it, get a feel for the similarities and differences of what you think you know and what you really need to do.

If you want employers to "take [you] seriously and see that [you] want to be more than a line cook" you have to work your a** off as a line cook, and work with the current sous, and learn everything you can. Next time you apply for a new position, take a good look at the place and figure out whether you have any chance of moving up to sous. Or, wherever you are now, talk to your chef and sous and let them know what you want. No one can read minds. And no one can assume that just because you say you can do a job, you can really do it. You have to prove it.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #6 of 17
It also seems like as many sous rise up through the ranks as they are simply hired. If you can be the first cook at some of these places and perform well, the chef may take to you to perform some sous chef responsibilities.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
post #7 of 17
You try to work harder and cook better than all the other cooks. Take charge of a lot of cleaning jobs. Love your product. Try to do things to take care of your peers like covering a shift for them beacuase of their kids birthday party. Don't be scared of long hours. Most of all try to be the guy that bails the hard working illegal dishwasher out of jail, you would get mad respect for that, trust me.
post #8 of 17
By the way you never will get hired right away as the sous chef at a small fine dining place. Doing that requires knowing the right people in the right places. With your education you could very easily land a sous position at a corparate kitchen like P.F. Changs, the olive garden, or something of the like. Its really not that bad, you get paid a kush salary and get lots of benny's like paid vacation, 401k, health, dental etc. Just be prepared to be asked to travel to another city, but its really worth it from a finacial standpoint. I on the other hand want to learn as much about food as possible and ill take less pay in exchange for knowledge witch is the real currency of the kitchen.
post #9 of 17
I'm not a chef but have run crews at lots of old jobs; THAT one made me crack a smile.
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 

Good News

Hey Everybody,
I appreciate everyone's positive feedback and just wanted to say thanks. But, recently I started a job at a fine dining establishment which has giving me opportunity in a management position. Right now, I'm doing some expediting, plating and ensuring the quality is kept up to standards. Next, week I'll move into the full-time position. Where the chef will show me the ordering process, scheduling and all types of stuff. But, he eventually leaving so that would put my in as the Sous Chef.:roll:I'm so excited about the opportunity and will try not to f**k it up and take very seriously.

Thanks Again
post #11 of 17
Yeah It made Paco crack a smile from ear to ear when I was the only one to show up at the jail and empty out my wallet to get his butt outa there! I was a freakin hero the next day at work.......
post #12 of 17
Well,In my case..I finished Culinary school in 2000 and was working in a hotel WHILE going to school..Ill write in sequence how I landed the Sous position..

1.Prep Cook(Never sliced and chopped so much salad stuff in my life)
2.Line Cook for a few years
3.Chef de Tournant
4.Jr. Sous 1yr.
(steps 1-3 was in the same place)
5.Worked as a Head cook for a REHAB(My 2 bosses can't cook at all,A dietician(RD) and a ditary supervising manager(DSM)
6.Applied for the Sous position(Interview was a 3 course meal mystery box)

They liked it and here I am now...Itll take some time but when it happens you'll love the feeling esp. when you worked your butt for it...

Good Luck!:chef:
When in doubt..Throw it out!
When in doubt..Throw it out!
post #13 of 17

I started late, i didn't attend Cul. sch., but i catered for the better part of 10 yrs. I chose to work in a restaurant. Blessed that i am, i went to work for one of the hottest chef in S.Florida; then he a few months later made a call and got me a gig at one of the top 10 Steakhouse in the country here in S.Fl, i stayed there for two + yrs. Thru my first chef i met a friend of his(a chef), who i went to work for, he got a James Beard the my first yr. the restaurant was open. By the way in a kitchen i do everything. Thru my first chef i got to know one of his former sous; who is currently my Exec. Chef. I am working for him for over 2yrs, when i got hired i let it be known that i want to be come sous. The V.P. of this multi restaurant Company asked me several months ago what i wanted. I told him. He said it's his job now to make that happen; because it's chef like me, that this company is looking for. Since then i've gotten a small raise and the title of supervisor; i started 2yrs ago as 1st Cook. Dose anyone know or have an idea what my next step should be? Now let me be clear i Love my job and the people i work with; But i have a family and a house to pay for. Thanks in advance Dwizzle

post #14 of 17

Best bit of advice I was ever given:


When you work in a kitchen, or at any place really and you hope to rise to the top, work like you own it. Treat it like its yours.


Take the extra dedication. Take the extra time. Ask questions.


Thirst...LUST after the knowledge that the ones above you have and learn it. They are in charge for a reason. Study them. Pick their brains. KNOW why they do what they do.


Finally, do your job so well that you make yourself indispensable.

post #15 of 17

My advice would be to get me a job haha

post #16 of 17
Originally Posted by BSneezy View Post

My advice would be to get me a job haha

If your looking for a job...maybe try places that do externships through some of the local schools. I know Bibiana was doing it, along with 4 or 5 other TOP NOTCH kitchens in the DC area for l'academie de cuisine in DC.


You could also try the ACF website..

post #17 of 17

If your line cook skills are solid and you dont mind the hours you could go to a corporate hotel situation, marriott, radisson, ect. Often times the "food" you are doing isnt the best, but if your studious you could learn  some things and often times the organization and "managerial training" are very good. After about 1.5 yeas of that you could move to a freestanding finer dining restaurant as a sous, your time in corporate should give you the experience if you already have the line cooking background. do that for another Year and a half and your in the cut as a sous moving up. everyone has to start somewhere, its that, or wait it out for years as a line cook at one place for one chef until attrition and your work ethic qualify you to be the sous.   

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