The Kitchen Hierarchy: Career Options in a Restaurant Kitchen

The Kitchen Hierarchy | Norwalk Community College
Selecting A Career in A Restaurant Kitchen

Hospitality is a growing industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people each year and is expected to continue expanding. The culinary arts are also flourishing as more people are opting to eat out. Working in restaurants or the foodservice industry requires a lot of hands-on experience, but obtaining a Culinary Arts certificate or degree can expand your career choices. Either way, working in a kitchen is the goal. In every kitchen there are a number of different job roles that keep a kitchen running smoothly in order to deliver orders in a timely manner. In this blog, we review the potential career options available in a restaurant kitchen.

Executive Chef

Not every restaurant has an executive chef; that title normally applies only to large chains or restaurants. Generally, an executive chef does very little cooking. Their primary role is managing the kitchen and its staff. This includes overseeing and training personnel, planning menus, managing the culinary budget and sometimes purchasing. To be an executive chef, you need prior experience cooking as well as good management skills to ensure that the kitchen is run efficiently.

Head Chef (Chef de Cuisine)

The head chef remains at the top of the hierarchy in restaurant kitchens without an executive chef. Like an executive chef, this person controls all aspects of the kitchen. They are responsible for creating menus, controlling kitchen costs, and managing the kitchen staff. Some head chefs leave the cooking to the sous chef and the rest of the team, while others are more hands-on and prefer to be involved in the day-to-day cooking activities.

Deputy Chef (Sous Chef)

The deputy chef, otherwise known as the sous chef, remains second-in-command in the kitchen. Depending on the restaurant and its management, it is possible to have more than one sous chef. The sous chef’s role may overlap with the head chef, however the sous chef generally remains hands-on. The sous chef  is in charge of the kitchen and oversees the day-to-day activities.

Station Chef (Chef de Partie)

The station chefs arguably have the critical roles in the kitchen. These chefs  cook the food that is being served to customers. However, there are multiple positions that fall under the station chef title. Each chef is responsible for a different “station,” with different chefs for each food category. For example, there is a chef in charge of cooking the fish and one that cooks the meats. There can also be sauce, vegetable, sauté, and pastry chefs. All of these different roles fall under the category of the station chef, also known as the chef de partie.

New Call-to-action

Junior Chef (Commis Chef)

A junior chef, also called the commis chef, works with station chefs  to learn about the kitchen environment. This person has recently completed some schooling or training and is beginning to work in the culinary field. The junior chef’s job is to assist the more experienced chefs and to absorb their knowledge and techniques.

Kitchen Porter

The kitchen porter usually does not have the same training and experience as the chefs. This person is in charge of simple but important tasks involved in the basic preparations of the food. This can include anything from cutting vegetables to peeling apples or grating cheese.

Purchasing Manager

The purchasing manager is in charge of buying all of the food for the kitchen. This person keeps track of the food available in the kitchen and the food that needs to be ordered. They identify and interact with vendors with the goal of getting the best quality food for the most competitive price. The purchasing manager interacts daily with multiple vendors and members of the staff. Not only does this position require a personable character but also someone who is organized and can keep track of both the kitchen and a budget.

About Norwalk Community College

At NCC, our students can earn a culinary arts certificate or an associate degree in restaurant/food service management. Our courses are designed to give students hands-on experience learning skills that they can put to use immediately upon graduation, such as menu writing, recipe creation, food preparation, inventory control, kitchen organization, as well as problem solving and teamwork. Learn more about how you can begin your degree today for a career in Culinary Arts at NCC.