Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Dec 19, 2006 07:10 PM

Chef-ly terms -- Can you help define them for me?

Could someone explain to me the difference between a sous chef; a chef de cuisine and an executive chef? And are there other deliniations to know about? Clearly, a pastry chef is an obvious one. Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Executive Chef is the head chef in the kitchen and sous chef is the chef that works for the Executive Chef--sort of the Executive Chef's personal assistant. Chef de Cuisine is a type of Executive Chef, like a department manager. It all depends on the kitchen, but sous chef is definitely someone who is the "worker bee", but not the lowest rank in the kitchen.

    1 Reply
    1. re: foodie_girl

      Sous chef is second in command and is usually running the kitchen but is not on the management team. Sometimes a chef will let a Sous Chef create a dish. It depends on the Chef and the kitchen. Often the Chef (de Cuisine) will only expedite in a busy kitchen when the kitchen is serving. However, the buck stops with the chef and he's the one that trains everyone. So, depending on the chef, the Sous (under) Chef can have lots of responsibility or just some. But he's the second in command.

      In the European model, the Chef also controls the dining room through his captain, waiters, etc. In the American model, one has a manager and/or a captain. Just thought I'd throw that in. Now-a-days, I think most restaurants have managers and the Chef stays out of the front of the house.

    2. Here's a breakdown of the traditional stations in the brigade kitchen, created by Escoffier (many of these stations are combined in modern kitchens, with one person wearing more than one hat):

      Chef de Cuisine -
      Manager of the kitchen and kitchen staff.

      Executive chef - Highest level possible. Usually with diploma or certificate, often more time spent doing organization and paperwork than actually cooking. Coordinates all kitchen functions

      Head chef - The person in authority in the kitchen. Title refers to those who have professional cooks working for them.

      Working chef - In charge of the kitchen in smaller establishments. Does the duties of a chef as well as being responsible for part or all of a station.

      Sous Chef - Second in Command. Responsible for the physical operation of the kitchen, including supervision as well as preparation.

      Chefs de Parti:

      Saucier: fish, sautéed dishes, stews, hot hors d'ouevers, hot entrees and sauces. Commands after the sous chef.
      Rotissieur: Prepares items roasted in the oven and on the spit. Works under the Saucier.
      Friturier: fry cook - responsible for deep fried foods. Works under the Saucier.
      Grillardin: responsible for grilled foods. Works under the Saucier.
      Garde Manger: Processes raw meat, cold dishes, forcemeat, pies, galantines and cold hors d'ouevres. Next in line after the saucier for command.
      Charcutier, and Butcher: work under the Garde Manger
      Entremetre: Vegetable cook, responsible for soups (sometimes saucier does this), vegetables, pasta, and foods made of flour, eggs and cheese..
      Potager: soup cook, originally was under the supervision of the Entremetier
      Patissier: Pastry chef: all basic desserts, hot desserts, cold desserts, frozen desserts and hot and cold pastries.
      Boulanger and Glacier: work under the Patissier
      Other cooking stations are Tournant (swing cook), de Garde (duty chef), de Nuit (night chef), Banquet chef, etc.
      Commis: assistants to the chefs de partie. Usually journeyman cooks.
      Apprentices: training in each of the parties in turn to learn the entire kitchen.

      8 Replies
        1. re: pescatarian

          I'd just like to chime in here and say that Executive Chef is not a traditional title. It's new and was created for larger kitchens and multiple restaurants. For example, Wolf Gang puck is the executive chef for all his restaurants but each restaurant has a chef de cuisine to do the cooking, managing etc. Usually, a chef does the expediting in a restaurant and may reserve some cooking for himself. It depends on the personality.

          Chef means chief in French. That is Chief of the Kitchen or Head of the Kitchen. Most chefs (de cuisine), unless they trained before schools were readily available, have diplomas of one type or another. But diplomas or certificates do not a chef make. Experience does.

          A Master Chef, on the other hand, is actually like a Master in Wine or a Master of Science or a Master of Art. Not only do you have to have a diploma, that is a BA, but then have to train further talking more courses etc.

          Executive chef is basically an inflation of titles. When you have more than one restaurants, you're a restauranteur. When you have a large catering firm, you're a busy chef. An example of this sort of inflation of titles is that now we have Executive Pastry Chefs. No matter. The title is useful.

          And mind you, I got this sentence directly off of "An executive chef works directly under the chef de cuisine and creates recipes, controls costs and performs administrative tasks, among other responsibilities." They say, as I was taught, that the chef de cuisine is the highest title possible. So, it's not as cut and dried as one would think.

          1. re: Mark LaPolla

            In practice, at least in the US, executive chef is higher than chef de cuisine. Executive chefs might oversee multiple outlets or properties, so you might have a hotel with one executive chef and five F&B outets, each with their own chef de cuisine, sous chefs, etc. Likewise, executive pastry chef jobs are generally at large hotels or multi-unit restaurants where there may be several sous and a lot more organizational issues.

            1. re: babette feasts

              Note that that's where I started with Executive Chef over CdC. However, Executive Chef, as I said, is title inflation. The head of a kitchen or set of kitchens is the chef.

              One note here, when I was in high tech, we used to say you have to -1 from all titles in marketing. So, a VP of marketing == a director in engineering.

              Thus, for Executive Chef vs Chef de Cuisine it really is the same. You have to have the skill to manage multiple kitchens but I've seen Executive Chefs who manage small operations. One kitchen etc. Same for the now complete inflated Executive Pastry Chef. As a matter of fact, many restaurants don't even bother with a Pastry Chef.

              Having said that, titles are useful because they are titles. Who are they useful to? The business owners.

              1. re: Mark LaPolla

                You are right, I was responding to your quote from Just because it is on the internet doesn't make it true.

                As a pastry chef, I am well aware that not all restaurants employ a full time pastry chef. Is that supposed to make the title meaningless? I can't tell if there was supposed to be a point there, and if so I am curious what it was.

                Have you worked in restaurants or are you just an enthusiast?

                1. re: Mark LaPolla

                  Let us also not forget the ever increasingly used term of Executive Sous Chef. I suppose they're also useful to a business owner, or a lazy paper Chef.

                  1. re: byzantinechef

                    Agreed. My title is Executive Sous Chef though I operate as Chef de Cuisine. Lazy paper chef? Not in my world but certainly in the world of corporate dining. The Exec. Sous in corporate dining is usually the one
                    that takes care of metrics and data entry (things that the Exec. Chef farms off to him). A chef with the chops but not yet with knowledge of operations. He/she usually is on a fast track toward becoming Executive Chef. I think the title is lame, created by owners that undercut salaries. Most titles are for convenience for certain businesses to create goals and to set salaries.

              2. re: Mark LaPolla

                I have only ever heard professionals use the term "Master Chef " in the context of an ACF Certified Master Chef. I believe the number of CMC's alive is under 100 - it is a pretty impressive level of accreditation. Of course there are probably many more chefs on par with the skill level that simply do not see any reason to go to the time and expense of being accredited through ACF.

              1. Chez amandine...

                Chef de cuisine: Mom
                Sous chef: moi
                Rotisseur: big brother
                "Mangeur": Dad

                6 Replies
                  1. re: Mark LaPolla

                    Don't forget the the important positon of "plunge" or dishwasher in the classic french brigade, if this guy does not show things go downhill quickly

                      1. re: PattiCakes

                        In American kitchen this person would be know as a rounds cook or roundsman
                        meaning he would cover any station or shift in the kitichen, grill, saute, fish, but not usually pastry.

                        1. re: jscott65

                          where does this fit in the kitchen hierarchy?

                          1. re: PattiCakes

                            It would be under Chef de Parti, a Tournant would eventualy aspire to move up and run a station, or be Chef de Parti

                1. The original comment has been removed