What is a Sous Chef?

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: October 18, 2021  •  6 min read  •  Hospitality
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Merriam-Webster defines a Sous Chef as, “the top assistant in a professional kitchen.” This is a good start to answering the question, what is a Sous Chef, but it’s not a complete answer.

There are many things to look at if you want to understand what a Sous Chef is, exactly. Typically, when the head chef isn’t in the kitchen, the Sous Chef is in charge of the kitchen. However, they have many duties and things to do.

If you’re considering a career as a Sous Chef, it’s important to understand what this position will include. Let’s look at what a Sous Chef does, how much they make, and how to become a Sous Chef.

What is a Sous Chef?

What does a Sous Chef do?

A Sous Chef is the second in command in the kitchen and will assist the head chef. They will organize the line, plate food, and help with the preparation of dishes. It’s common for this position to take on many other responsibilities in the kitchen.

Some of the common duties of a Sous Chef include:

There are many duties a Sous Chef performs in the kitchen to assist the head chef.

The Average Salary of a Sous Chef

There are many different sources you can look at when it comes to the average salary of a Sous Chef. According to indeed.com, the average salary is about $47K. This salary can vary from one area of the country to another, as well.

Another source, Salary.com, puts the average salary of a Sous Chef at nearly $48K. They show the highest 10% of workers in this position make around $70K per year.

One final source, Payscale.com, puts the average Sous Chef salary at about $45K per year. They put the top 10% of workers in this position at closer to $59K as the average salary.

The salary you can earn as a Sous Chef will vary. It will depend on your location and the type of restaurant you work for. Some larger, more popular resort restaurants pay better than smaller restaurants in smaller markets. Of course, the amount of experience you have will also play a factor.

Commonly, new Sous Chefs will earn between $30K and $40K per year. As you gain work experience, it’s easier to earn closer to the average salary or more. Working your way up to becoming a Sous Chef in a four or five-star resort or restaurant will likely provide a higher salary, too.

Necessary Qualifications to Become a Sous Chef

Working as a Sous Chef isn’t an entry-level position. You cannot become second in command in a professional kitchen without experience and the right qualifications. Some of the most common qualifications include:

The culinary school you choose can make a pretty big difference. Some offer placement for students and can help you get on the right path to become a Sous Chef. If you can get into a top-notch program, it can catapult you to a higher position in the kitchen much faster.

What do the actual words “Sous Chef” mean?

The words Sous Chef is French and means under-chef of the kitchen. This makes sense since this position is the second in command in a professional kitchen.

What is a Junior Sous Chef and what do they do?

With similar responsibilities to a Sous Chef, a Junior Sous Chef will handle food preparation, inventory, kitchen operation, and staff management. They usually work in a position just below the Sous Chef and maybe on the fast track to becoming a Sous Chef.

Is becoming a Sous Chef a step towards becoming a head chef?

Usually, becoming a Sous Chef is the final step before becoming a head chef. You will gain first-hand knowledge and experience in the kitchen. This type of position helps to prepare you to run a kitchen. It’s not uncommon for Sous Chefs to be promoted to head chef in the same restaurant if the head chef leaves. It’s more common to leave this position and take over a kitchen in another restaurant, however.

Are Sous Chefs and line cooks different?

Yes. Typically, you will become a line cook first and work your way up to the position of Sous Chef. A Sous Chef has more seniority and experience compared to a line cook.

Line cooks don’t need the same training, and this can be an entry-level position. The responsibilities are different, as well. Line cooks may have previous kitchen experience, but they won’t have the same responsibilities as a Sous Chef.

What qualities do good Sous Chefs possess?

It’s common for a Sous Chef to start their work before service starts. You will need excellent communication skills and the ability to multitask. Sous Chefs should be creative. They need to help create new recipes.

If you want to be a good Sous Chef, you should have a commanding voice. It’s also good to continually work on your cooking skills. A strong commitment to quality is also a good quality for a Sous Chef to possess.

There are many reasons to put yourself on a career path to become a Sous Chef. If you want to run a kitchen as a head chef, this is an important step to take. Those with a love for cooking and natural leadership qualities will fit right in as a Sous Chef in a professional kitchen.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.