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Sous Chef Tips and Advice

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

So I got my first Sous Chef job and I leave my old job as a lead line cook in about a week. Any tips or advice for making the transition? I was lead line cook at my last job and I put in my two weeks for the sous chef position at another place. I was there for 3 years and I learned so much. I've become the best in the kitchen at every station but there's no room for advancement so I searched for places with better opportunities.


I'm not worried about the cooking aspect of the new job at all but I'd like to know how to impress the chef and earn the respect of the new team so that I can move up quickly. Thanks!

post #2 of 21
Don't make waves, but don't get walked on by the existing line cooks. You're new there but you are in charge of CDP's. Teach the new crew what they need to know but don't be overbearing. Ease into it. Be confident and everything will work out.
post #3 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thank you for the response. What are CDP's?
post #4 of 21
CDP'S are line cooks
post #5 of 21
Extra money or Title/Higher Position...which is more important
post #6 of 21
Jaspernowhere sums it up; if you haven't been doing regular ordering, keep a close eye on what comes in and goes out. Know all the different places people put things & how much they keep on their station- and how much they need on their station. When I do ordering, I like to write in on hand quantities so I have an easy reference for how much we are using. Don't burn out your good employees, don't play favorites either
post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 
The most important part to me is the title but a title means nothing to me without respect. It's just that at my last job I thought that earning respect meant being the best at everything which I accomplished but instead of respect I just earned more responsibility.

I want to delegate without being questioned. I want to teach and not have to teach the same person the same thing the next time the task is done. I want things to be done without having to constantly remind people to do their jobs.

I've respected the chefs that I was trained by and I learned everything I could from them. I think my only concern is how to deal with the line cooks that aren't the way that I am. Is it something that comes with time or am I going into this with the wrong attitude? Or am I just over thinking the whole thing?

I start tomorrow, I'll let everyone know how things go. Thanks again for the responses!
post #8 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks Grande, I'll make sure to do that.
post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
First day went pretty good. I spent a lot of the day cleaning and reorganizing stuff and I spent some of service on the line learning the stations.

At the end of the night I helped the dish guy while the rest of the crew did floors. After the guys left I checked their stations to see how they've been closing and it was pretty bad. There were things unwrapped and the things that were wrapped were done half assed. There was a full trashcan left in the back of the kitchen without being dumped.

This being my first management position I don't know if I should lay into then so soon. Like you said, don't make waves but ease into it. I see so many things that I want to change but I don't want to be overbearing.

Thanks again for the advice
post #10 of 21
Originally Posted by SCincuboy View Post

 I spent a lot of the day cleaning and reorganizing stuff ...

At the end of the night I helped the dish guy while the rest of the crew did floors... Like you said, don't make waves but ease into it. I see so many things that I want to change but I don't want to be overbearing.


All good stuff. Showing by example and letting the crew know without words what your standards are. Much more effective IMO. Goodatcha! I know it is difficult but you are right to curb the urge to change too much too fast. Keep up the good work.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #11 of 21
Good work! Sounds like you had a great first day.
Going forward, I would advise ( take this with heavy dose of salt I cant see in to your kitchen) a few things;
Work with the cooks on closing next time stating what you observed, be very specific.

If the pit gets overwhelmed send a cook in to help, you've shown and proved you would if you could.

Deep cleaning can be put on them as well, if you can, ask the Chef if this is what they are looking for. Look, then ask (Chef) then delegate, then check.

Be organized and methodical and it will not surprise anyone when they are called out for whatever you found on their shelf that particular shift. Make sure you do it again, and with different stations and cooks, even stewards/ dishwashers.

Don't think it will actually change ( at least not quickly), just do your job. Get a hard copy if your job description if you can. Things will fall in place with a lot of luck and hard
Don't pick fights you cant win, have the Chef in your corner, be in theirs.

Re organizing first day may throw people off a bit... It would/ does to me.

From the OP" I'd like to know how to impress the chef and earn the respect of the new team so that I can move up quickly. "

Where do you plan to move up to? Head Chef? Exec sous? Is there more than one sous in your kitchen or multiple outlets?

Trying to impress people, especially in a kitchen, is usually transparent or looks in bad taste. Do your best but try not to step on toes to impress. Throw your best at it when asked! Respect is earned, and can not really be sought.
Good luck and have fun with it.

Learn. Teach. Learn. Always learning before and after.
post #12 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the wisdom guys! Things really improved today!


When the lead line cook got there today I told him that I checked stations last night after everyone left (his station was wrapped properly) and I needed him to help keep an eye on the other cooks stations with me at the end of the night. He said that he didn't mind at all. I closed my station and walked around at the end of the night during close and pointed out the things that needed to be wrapped or wrapped again and everything that wasn't done correctly last night was done correctly tonight. 


The lead line cook is the guy that I could see being sous chef next and he is very eager to learn the things that I have taught him while also catching me up on the sauté station. The chef has mentioned me being executive sous chef after I learn to do the paperwork, inventory etc. and I'm the only sous chef right now. I figure the sooner I start training someone else to take my position, the sooner I'll be able to advance.


I guess "impress" was the wrong choice of word but I am doing my best at whatever is asked of me. Thanks again for all of the advice guys. I don't know why I didn't come to you guys sooner. 



post #13 of 21
Thread Starter 
Ok, I need more advice. I've been at my new place for a little over and month now and we're super busy and don't seem to be slowing down. I'm working a lot, teaching a lot and learning a lot. I don't feel like I could have made a better decision honestly.

My problem comes when dealing with the change in volume. I feel like I quickly caught up with the change in cooking due to the increased volume but I can't seem to keep up with the organization and cleaning of it. I try to keep the guys working clean but it was a lot easier at the other place when busy nights were 80 covers only on the weekends and with a huge walk-in. At my new place I have to battle this new walk-in that is 1/3 the size of my old one with 200 covers nightly. Some days I feel like more of a maid than a Sous Chef because I have to reorganize every day to fit the new trucks into the walk-in that is already stacked and bursting a the seams. Then to make matters worse I have to keep the guys focused that come in at 3 and barely have time to prep for a 220 cover service on their stations at 5.

I usually come in at 12 put up orders, make and pass out prep sheets, get started on sauces soups etc, get the guys caught up to speed on what needs to be done and how many covers, and then prep for the saute station that I usually work, clean up, do orders/counts and go home around 12. The chef usually comes in around 9 and handles paperwork/bills, helps with prep, runs inside expo during service and goes home after the rush around 9. Somewhere in there I find time to organize something but it's so hard to keep things organized with so much product and so little space.

Any tips or advice would be appreciated! crazy.gif
post #14 of 21
1. Delegate.

2. Hire someone.

3. See #1.
post #15 of 21

I know that this will sound funny but when I was an executive sous chef working hard to get my executive chef position the one thing that set me apart and above the others when they chose me for the position of executive chef was my organizational skills and cleaning regimen. When in a smaller environment that is bursting at its seams and busy as all hell you have to be extremely organized and clean. So, I took a tip from good ol' Martha Stewart and with my labeller I labelled where everything should go in the fridges, freezer, shelves, containers.....everywhere. My ordering inventory sheets were co-ordinated to the labels to make it easy for anyone to learn to order for the kitchen. When it was delivery day, I had the schedule done so that an extra person was on to help clean and organize before delivery that way deep cleaning and organization were not overwhelming the kitchen. I trained everyone in the kitchen on the cleaning and organizing protocols and when to do them so that it turned a well oiled machine. Took a while but with sheer perseverance it worked and knowing every inch of your place, what comes and goes, when it is coming and going, when it is being cleaned, etc. keeps a good handle on the $$$.


I did have to put in a few extra long days here and there to organize and get the ball rolling and such but worth it in the end. I also proposed this to my executive chef before starting to get approval for the hours. :)

post #16 of 21
Develop systems to help your staff stay organized. Alot of what you describe as the beginning of your day could be turned into an opening list or sop for your staff coming in prior to three. And yes two hours is not nearly enough to prep for 220. Budget permitting i'd bring some strong staff in earlier. Do you have any space available for an extra refridgeration unit?
post #17 of 21
Delegate! You can't literally do everything yourself. At some point you're gonna have to!
post #18 of 21
Thread Starter 

Today went a lot better. I didn't realize how much I wasn't delegating until I wrote it down on here. You guys realized it immediately and pointed it out, thank you. I still have to get into that mindset and sometimes I need a reminder. I guess I'm just worried about coming off as lazy. I'm the farthest thing from that.

post #19 of 21
Being a great sous chef is not about impressing..... It's about being loyal all the way to hell and always knowing your love for food and being a good lieutenant is all that matters... And if you can't wake up everyday knowing that.. you gotta work at a bank... To be honest completely, its so ugly in this industry that if your not doing it for you, your dunzo... My opinion.
post #20 of 21
Thread Starter 
So I took all of the advice that was given to me. I learned everything about the restaurant that I could from the recipes and cost to how to pay bills and order everything.

Once I got comfortable doing all of these things the chef tells me that he's leaving but I have all the tools needed to be executive sous chef and get on the bonus structure.

A week after he leaves I'm promoted to exec sous which I am really excited about. They make sure to tell me that I'm not executive chef but that they're not looking for one so that I have the opportunity to earn the position in 60-90 days. I've been working hard and baking great food, I have earned the respect of my team and they're willing to do everything needed. My food cost has been almost 3% lower than his average for the last 4 weeks and customers are happy.

Honestly, the reason I'm posting is because I don't want to wait 60-90 days. It's been a month and I feel like I've proven that I can do the job better than the last chef. Am I being impatient? Should I wait or approach the owner?
post #21 of 21

After reading this thread, I'd say wait. It's been a month. So now you're waiting 30-60 days. That time should pass pretty quickly. Are you really going anywhere in that time? Use the time to keep fine tuning what you're doing. When the deadline arrives soon enough, you will have been focused on doing the job well. That's what got you here and what will keep you moving forward. 

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