or Connect
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Professional Food Service › Professional Chefs › Sous Chefs: What are their Roles in your Kitchen?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Sous Chefs: What are their Roles in your Kitchen?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

I am on my second sous position and 3rd kitchen management position in my young cooking career. I am not a softie or afraid to work, I was trained under basically the "F*ck you, get to work" mentality for ridiculously cheap pay and grueling work. I am not classically trained but spend a lot of my free time reading textbooks and taught myself proper technique, I am not bragging but everyone around me at my other jobs were trained with 60k educations but do not know as much as I do. I feel like my work ethic, smarts, and skill are what keep getting me promoted and advancing with only 3 and a half years cooking experience starting as a dishwasher at turn and burns to working my way up to very accomplished regional and national level chefs at a line cook level.

 

However, my current position has caused me more frustration and lack of drive than I've ever experienced. I am 3rd down on the kitchen management totem pole on the kitchen (I am the sous under the executive chef and chef de cuisine) and I feel like "sh*t sliding down hill" is an understatement. I make by far the lowest salary but put in the most hours, I work every crap shift that the other two managers do not want to work (slow holidays like 4th of July, every Sunday, early mornings etc.). I am glued to the line, I work 2 hot line stations almost every night but on weekends and busy days I only work one (the hardest one of course but it's still no problem for me) yet still have management responsibilities simultaneously which is very difficult a few days a week when I am the only manager on shift. For example, two days ago I was working lunch and dinner hot line by myself (on a slow day) and within 20 minutes I had two speak to two vendors to place an order, the dishwasher called in sick, servers are popping in tickets, the prep cook needs to be babysat, the owner is calling me on the phone, a produce vendor shows up unexpectedly so I need to talk to him and servers are pissed because they need their burgers right now. I need to be in 8 different places at once even when there are not too many tickets coming in. I know this feeling of needing to be in 4 different places at once in a huge part of upper management but it's only happening to me. The head chef and chef de cuisne never work by themselves and if they ever need to work on the line they make sure they have a full kitchen staff to make their lives easy. They are making the schedule extremely cushy for themselves but totally disregard me, it doesn't help that they are close friends either. They save all their labor for days that I am off (2 days a week for now which I am very happy with) but when they take their days off I am screwed labor wise because I need to be 100% responsible for all food going out of the kitchen because I am the only one cooking it plus being 100% responsible for management of the kitchen because I am the only manager on shift. I know when sh*t is sliding down hill but it's blatantly clear they just want to make their lives easier at my expense. The head chef literally makes the schedule around her personal life so she always has time for her family and whatever she wants to do. I have quite a bit more talented than both of them and they get uber defensive and self conscious so I am not even included in the menu or creative aspects, when I made a special and he owner loved it he said he wanted me to be more part of the menu changes, the head chef said "sure" but never included me.

 

So after my long rant my question is is this typical for a sous position? Is the sous really just there to make the head chef look good on their own backs? I am starting to feel like this job will be coming to an end soon.

post #2 of 24
A sous is there to do whatever the exec asks without question or negotiation. Typically an exec focuses on administration while keeping tabs on his cooks techniques and production. You don't get a vote in menu options, who works when (especially your superiors) or who does what. You are a producing machine and that is all. Your way to exercise pleasure or displeasure in the situation is to stay or leave. The ship is his, you are a passenger.
post #3 of 24

Every place I have been the sous is "bad cop." The exec is caring, warm and friendly, "skinnin and grinnin" as my grandfather would say. Behind the scenes he gets the brunt of the execs complaints and criticisms. Be it hours, food quality, people standing around, "**** work," cleanliness, etc. NOT a job you want to have for too long. 

post #4 of 24

I started out with a very long and well thought out post but realized it was a simple reply that was needed. And yes, 3 paragraphs is my version of a simple reply.:rolleyes:  This can give the appearance I a real arse but those that know me here I hope, would say differen....or agree but have more to add.:blush: As a side note, what I am saying comes from experience and also something similar to what I was once told by a very good friend and mentor.

 

You can either suck it up and make yourself better for the experience, finding what you are truly good at and focusing on that, gather and pass on knowledge with the goal of working towards your own kitchen and running things the way you see fit...... or........ you can get into a pattern of being the victim only to become a casualty of the pitfalls of this business. There is a great deal that can be accomplished if you set your mind to it and allow yourself time to grow into the position. It's your job and what needs to be done. Your there so just look at it as ....well, if I'm gonna be here I might as well..........Also, stop measuring yourself against others and start measuring yourself against.....yourself. Their situation is not yours although you are working toward the same goal.

 

Often times, we picture ourselves more capable and being treated worse than we are in reality. Take a step back, look at the situation and assess things.....objectively. Just remember you are 3rd in line and that's what being there involves. If you find you really are at the level you believe you're at and the situation is as bad as you perceive, look for another opportunity. It's all in your control. Just be prepared that the grass may not be greener.

post #5 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldschool1982 View Post
 

I started out with a very long and well thought out post but realized it was a simple reply that was needed. And yes, 3 paragraphs is my version of a simple reply.:rolleyes:  This can give the appearance I a real arse but those that know me here I hope, would say differen....or agree but have more to add.:blush: As a side note, what I am saying comes from experience and also something similar to what I was once told by a very good friend and mentor.

 

You can either suck it up and make yourself better for the experience, finding what you are truly good at and focusing on that, gather and pass on knowledge with the goal of working towards your own kitchen and running things the way you see fit...... or........ you can get into a pattern of being the victim only to become a casualty of the pitfalls of this business. There is a great deal that can be accomplished if you set your mind to it and allow yourself time to grow into the position. It's your job and what needs to be done. Your there so just look at it as ....well, if I'm gonna be here I might as well..........Also, stop measuring yourself against others and start measuring yourself against.....yourself. Their situation is not yours although you are working toward the same goal.

 

Often times, we picture ourselves more capable and being treated worse than we are in reality. Take a step back, look at the situation and assess things.....objectively. Just remember you are 3rd in line and that's what being there involves. If you find you really are at the level you believe you're at and the situation is as bad as you perceive, look for another opportunity. It's all in your control. Just be prepared that the grass may not be greener.


Very astute and wise words.

Words that can only have come through experiences and life lessons.

True that!

 

One more thought here.

 

I have read similar stories of Sous Chef's who work hard to hold up their Chef and make them look good while tackling the everyday issues of a restaurant. While some Chefs DO work on the line and manage, many do not.

But what I wanted to point out is that although they are the boss of the kitchen, they are still human beings with needs and wants, trying to balance some resemblance of a life while managing a kitchen.

They need people they can count on to carry out their orders while they are not there. You are doing just that for them, Be proud, not angry.

post #6 of 24

These are some pretty wise posts!!

I would just like to add that in this economy the Exec. or Chef sometimes gets tied to the bean counters. This sometimes takes him or her out of the kitchen and tends to make them less conscious of the customer. I really feel a good Sous is someone who can make the Chefs job in the kitchen easier. It also give you the right to keep your customers in mind. I've always told my Sous to keep your eye on the prize and take my job as soon as possible, so I can move on.

 

edit, Chefross, is right on the money.

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
Reply
FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
Reply
post #7 of 24

My experience is similar to Dobre's experience (good cop/bad cop), but each kitchen is different.

post #8 of 24
Linecook854, I think you pretty fairly summarized the position of just about every good sous I've worked with over the years. 12-14 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, they're generally the most underpaid employee in every kitchen through salary :/ you carry the kitchen. Like most mgmt it's a glorified title that's necessary on your way up the ladder. I agree with chefed in saying this IS standard for a sous and you should embrace it fully just looking at it as an accelerated course in mgmt and technique training. Otherwise get out and find a linecook position elsewhere. Good luck smile.gif
post #9 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by linecook854 View Post

I...advancing with only 3 and a half years cooking experience ...they need their burgers right now. I need to be in 8 different places at once...I need to be 100% responsible for all food going out of the kitchen because I am the only one cooking it plus being 100% responsible for management of the kitchen because I am the only manager on shift. ...I have quite a bit more talented than both of them

Ok I apologize for my comments they may not be what you are looking for.

You hardly have the experience to be expected to manage. When you are the only one cooking congratulations you manage yourself!

They call you sous because they want you to work hard for them.

Your problem example :

Let the produce guy wait. The dishes can pile up. Tell the prep cook to call in a dishwasher and then teach the prep cook ASAP how to cook on the line! Get the damned burgers out fast and tell the wait staff to tell the owner to call back your busy flipping burgs. delegate. Vendors aren't really there to see you.

Your going to get fired being that cocky if you let it into the kitchen. Have some respect for your chefs or move on, no ones making you hold that job besides maybe your mom/ landlord.

Don't delude yourself and put sous on your resume if you dont act like one. You're there to hold them ( chefs) up, right hand so to speak. You should be the best cook there. Your supposed to be.

Who said the grass is greener hit the button go take a chef job somewhere see how it feels with an undermining sous/ cooks.

LoL.
Good luck.

Oh an desperate some of those paragraphs please.
post #10 of 24

Sounds like you need to step up your game.

post #11 of 24
Just tell them you need more labor on the days they don't work. If there is a full line when you are not there, you should be able to have one cook shift when they are not.
But if you're not happy find something else. Probably its not going to change.
post #12 of 24

Grande boiled it down pretty nicely, my take is this.... 

sounds like  you feel you're being over worked and under appreciated 

for the amount of pay/perks, and added responsibility, that your talent is being taken

for granted and you're apprehensive as to whether it's ever going to change. 

 

And that's the trick, isn't it--to determine whether its going to change. Only way 

you'll figure that out is by communication....or just plain waiting.

post #13 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the input everyone.

 

chefboyOG you sound like you don't quite have a clear eprsepective on what you're talking about, do you work in the same kitchen as me? I didn't think so.

post #14 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by linecook854 View Post

Thanks for the input everyone.

chefboyOG you sound like you don't quite have a clear eprsepective on what you're talking about, do you work in the same kitchen as me? I didn't think so.

Told you you it might not be what your looking for.
Leave it or take it it's free advice, worth nothing.
Obviously I am using my experiences to judge your rant with. How am I supposed to have a clear perspective on that rant? Clarify a bit for me?

I think I was quite clear on the path I feel you could use to solve your 8 places at once problem; prioritize! It's the job it won't change.

To answer your OP question. Yes. And get a new job; especially if you really are better and ready and have the desire! I am not claiming you to be lesser of a cook! Good luck.
post #15 of 24

Being is Sous is like climbing Everest.  You plow your way through each zone steadily until you reach the dead zone (Sous).  It's harder, less rewarding on a day to day basis, it tests your skill, body, soul, mind and breaks you down.  But you trudge through with a smile and do what's necessary, work work work, struggle struggle struggle, ask yourself if this was a good idea and keep going regardless of exhaustion and fatigue.  Until the clouds break, the light shines and you've reached the top.  You've hit the peak.  You're an Executive Chef.  You've just climbed Everest.

 

Your position is to support your Chef in every way shape and form.  And while you may not realize it, all this hard work is honing in on your skill set.  By this point you should be the best butcher, baker, line cook, prep cook, etc. in the kitchen (except for chef).  As you perform your day to day tasks and duties, you should look to see what your Chef is trying to teach you - how to organize the line better, how to connect to your team (cooks), how to address staff issues and reward a great service.

 

As a sous, you SHOULD be responsible for ALL the food that leaves the kitchen.  You SHOULD be the one dealing with purveyor relations - it'll come in handy when you move up.  A great sales rep is hard to find.

 

If I were you, I'd stop focusing on all this negative about working the line, dealing with call outs and such and put your energy into finding solutions to the problems.  THAT'S your role as a Sous.  So your purveyors need to be talked to, if you're in the middle of service, tell them to wait.  The sales rep is supposed to work WITH and FOR you.  If not, ask for a new one.  So the FOH needs their food, do you need to organize the line or yourself better?  Is there a standard set as to approx waiting time for dishes?  30 second wait for a well done burger is obviously not a standard anywhere.

 

As the Sous, your job and focus is on how to run shit more efficiently, solve problems, learn from difficult services and juggle everything else that comes with being in a management role in the kitchen.  You are there to lead the staff below you and support the managers above.

 

If I were you, I'd focus on THAT.  Otherwise, your head's not in the right place and you're thinking with the mindset of a line cook.  A great Sous is better than that.

 

Climb for Everest

post #16 of 24

It sounds tough in your skin mate.... 3.5 years is barely the length of a real apprenticeship where I come from.  I hear your frustration. Its really really tough to be a chef.  if you can refocus the energy at being better in everyway, for yourself.  Cooking excellent food and running the smoothest operation while having a really good time are the objectives.  To be a culinary god, an organisational master and the baddest ass comedian on the line are my own selfish goals.  No one f*cks with me.  The only job I want is Sous chef.  We own the kitchen and control the head chef, always.  They are only as good as we make them.

 Figure out your desired outcome, for example: where is this role gonna take me, what sort of time frame, what sort of money, what new skills, what type of cooking, what type of management.

If you cannot match the job you're in to your career path then find one that does match. 

Realise that after 3 1/2 years you are lacking in experience and it shows.  If you worked for me I'd say,'F*ck you, get back to work or f*ck off', 

 

Read books about chefs written by chefs, watch you tubes of Gordon Ramsay in action, read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, come work in a kitchen in Europe, get some education(management, personnel relations, tai-chi)

Good Luck 

regards

Andopolos 

post #17 of 24
Good man andopolos
post #18 of 24

Greetings,

 

You are blessed to hold a position as sous chef with only three and a half years experience. Please see the definition of sous chef.

 

Friend, you are there for your chef. What you need to do is learn from this experience and persevere. Your downfall is the mind set that you have, with just three and a half years experience and in a sous chef position you have much to learn.  Do not allow your ego to get in the way, work hard, research, read, work hard. Do your job. You may be talented in some areas but your attitude will always reflect your actions. Do not think that it will go un-noticed. There is no room for bitching in a kitchen, you can either work well under pressure or fall apart.

 

 

You are blessed

post #19 of 24
I joined this forum just for posts like this.

Feels nice to know that i certainly am not the only sous having those same thoughts..

Its a real struggle to please the ones above you plus work the everyday line. In my case though i got me the salary i wanted and im fine with that.

The #1 thing im struggling with is my chefs cooking skills, he is not on the level he suppost to be and even our linecooks now often more about basic cooking than him. Its hard for me to try to tell him how to do his job because i still have lot to learn from him besides cooking.. he takes all the credit from menus that ive been planning..

You guys ever been in this type of situation?

Of course i wanna make my chef look good but sometimes its frustrating to know your behind the food product but the chef takes all the credit..
post #20 of 24
"F*ck you, get back to work or f*ck off"

I'm gonna use this one, ASAP!
post #21 of 24

The definition of Sous Chef remains the same, no matter where, or what or when.

 

The Sous needs to be as capable as the Exec in his absence.

Titles are just that.

They are used to make the employee feel good about their role, they are thrown around haphazardly and  many times the reality is the person IN the job has no clue what they are doing.

Some Sous allow there title Carte Blanche to do whatever, whenever.

post #22 of 24


Old school, YOU SAID IT ALL

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #23 of 24

I have never seen a happy sous chef

post #24 of 24
Thats not true, they're happy when they get to go home!
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Professional Chefs
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Professional Food Service › Professional Chefs › Sous Chefs: What are their Roles in your Kitchen?