The Definitive Guide: How To Become A Sous Chef

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Are you ready to turn up the heat and start your career in the kitchen?

If you have a passion for cooking and are prepared to step up to the plate and work directly under the head chef then read on to find out how you can land your dream job.

What is a Sous Chef?

  • Job Description

    What exactly is a Sous Chef?

    The term ‘Sous chef’ directly translates from French to “Under-chef”. The sous chef is the second in command in a kitchen, working under the head chef and has a great deal of responsibility in the kitchen.

    As a sous chef, you will have a lot on your plate. Although you will be working ‘under’ the head chef, you will be very hands on and responsible for a variety of tasks. Much like a CEO of a company, a head chef will leave the everyday running of the kitchen to the sous chef.

    You will be working very closely with the head chef, so it is important not to butt heads, as this will create a tense working environment.

    The remainder of the kitchen staff will be coming to you for help, tips and advice so you will need to be clued up.

  • Hours of Work

    Restaurants are open for business all hours of the day. Some open early mornings for breakfast, some in the afternoon and some stay open late at night, not to mention weekends and public holidays - there’s no rest for the catering industry. This means that you will have to be flexible and sacrifice your social life to become a sous chef. You may have to work split shifts, which includes two shifts in one day.

    Depending on the restaurant, you will most likely be required to work a minimum of 40 hours per week.

    Although this sounds like an awful lot of work, chefs choose this career because they have a passion for food and love getting stuck in in the kitchen, so if it’s what you have a hunger for, you won’t be scared off by the long working hours.

  • Main Responsibilities

    There’s more to a sous chef than meets the eye. Essentially, you will need to assist the head chef in every way. Aside from the obvious - cooking, this includes:

    • Planning and directing how the food is presented
    • Keeping kitchen staff in order
    • Training new chefs
    • Creating the work schedule
    • Managing food purchasing and storage
    • Maintaining a safe and hygienic kitchen
    • Assisting in coming up with new recipes and menus
    • Managing the kitchen when the head chef is away
    • Disciplining kitchen staff

Key Sous Chef Qualifications

There are many qualifications that you can work towards if you are looking to become a sous chef, however don’t fear if you don’t have any formal qualifications.

Many chefs work their way up and learn everything they need to know by getting hands on and training on the job. Experience is often worth more than a qualification – but this takes time, patience and sometimes grueling hard work.

If you are interested in gaining a qualification, here are a few courses that may be of interest:

  • Foundation degree in Culinary Arts - A foundation degree is good place to start if you have some previous qualifications such as a BTEC or A Levels. After completing a foundation degree, you can go on to complete a top up, which enables you to graduate with a full degree. This will look impressive on your CV but will take 3 years to complete.

  • Apprenticeship - An apprenticeship gives you both experience and a qualification at the same time. In a hands on job role like this one, it is essential to have some experience in the industry and there’s no better place to learn than in the kitchen.

Vital Sous Chef Skills

So now you know what the job entails, what key skills do you need?

You’ll need a passion for food, a positive attitude and willingness to learn, as well as the drive and energy to keep going throughout the day (or night). Among this, you will need:

  • Ability to remain calm under pressure
  • Ability to work well within a team
  • Strong leadership skills
  • Creativity
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These are personal skills that make you the perfect candidate for this job role. Do you have what it takes?

What is a Sous Chef’s Salary?

So how much can you earn to do the job you love?

The average UK salary for a sous chef is between £19,000 and £25,000, although it depends on the company you work for, the location and your experience. Typically, larger companies such as casinos and fine dining restaurants pay more. You can earn around £32,000 – which really isn’t bad!

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How to Become a Sous Chef

As a prospective sous chef, it is a good idea to begin your career in any food service job role such as a kitchen porter.

This will help you to learn the basic skills and gauge whether or not working in a kitchen environment is right for you. It is beneficial to build relationships with those in the field such as chefs and managers.

Whilst working in the industry, you could get yourself a qualification that will enhance your chances of getting a job. Most culinary courses are very hands on and offer practical experience in on-site kitchens, allowing you to practice cooking in a real kitchen environment and even serving your food to customers.

How to Develop a Sous Chef Career

Next stop – head chef

There are so many opportunities, whether it’s moving to a larger restaurant, broadening your skillset by working in a restaurant with different types of cuisines, working abroad or on a cruise ship – these are just a few ideas you could think of when considering how you can progress.

Logically, the next major step in your career will be head chef. This is an exciting prospect and takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get there – but when you reach that place, it will all be worth it.

So there you have it; everything you need to set out on the road to a new Sous Chef career!

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