Along with head chef, sous chef is a highly sought after job. When there is so much competition, you need certain skills and experience to prove you're a worthy candidate and outshine the other candidates. This is how to become a sous chef.
1. Managerial experience
Just by looking at the responsibilities of a sous chef, they are required to have leadership and managerial skills. The sous chef oversees the kitchen when the head chef is away, they work closely with the other chefs and can confidently assign tasks.
One of the best ways to prove you've got managerial experience is by working as a senior station chef as you'll have to oversee other chefs in your station. To get a job as a sous chef you need to prove you're a reliable leader in the kitchen.
2. At least four years work experience
You can't expect to leave culinary school and expect to be a sous chef in a couple of years. Sous chefs have at least four years' work experience but usually they have worked many more years than that.
As the sous chef has lots of responsibility they need to confidently know how the kitchen works and the best way of proving that to an interviewer is having a long track record on your CV.
3. Checking food stocks and inventory
Sous chefs are responsible for checking food stocks and inventory in the kitchen. Before the restaurant opens they will need to order extra ingredients if they're running critically low.
You can gain this experience by working with a pantry chef or assisting another sous chef when they're doing their daily checks.
4. Following health and safety at work
Health and safety rules are strict in kitchens because there are many potential health hazards. Working with raw food has the risks of contamination. Sharp knives and hot liquids can cause serious injuries. Wet floor surfaces are responsible for many trips, slips and falls in restaurant kitchens.
The sous chef checks the other chefs are working safely and there are no dangerous hazards. You can prove you understand the importance of working safely by wearing chef shoes for work. Chef shoes are specially designed to combat hazards that are commonly found in a kitchen like slippery floors, sharp knives and hot liquids.
5. Writing menus
While writing menus is usually the responsibility of the head chef, the sous chef can be asked to assist in creating new menus so having previous experience is valuable.
If you haven't got any experience in this field, try asking senior chefs in your kitchen if you can assist them next time they make changes to the menu or at least workshadow them to see how the process works.
6. Confidently fix problems in the kitchen
When the head chef is away, the sous chef has to fix any problems that may arrise in the kitchen. Running out of ingredients, disagreements between chefs or issues in the kitchen will be up to the sous chef to fix.
The more work experience you have working in a kitchen, the more likely you will have dealt with problems in the kitchen. When you're interviewed for a sous chef position, make sure to talk about how you solved issues and disagreements.
7. Work under pressure
Working as a chef can be stressful anyway but as a sous chef you'll have even more responsibilities on your shoulders. You have to show you can handle the pressure and be able to deal with tasks calmly.
8. Expert understanding of how the kitchen works
What are the different responsibilities of each chef and how does each station work together?
Sous chefs understand the inner workings of kitchens and are able to navigate between the different stations. From looking at a menu, a sous chef will know which chefs have to work together to make each dish.
9. Training other chefs
Most sous chefs are responsible for training new staff and introducing them to the team. As each restaurant kitchen is different, this is an important responsibility.
You can gain this experience working in other senior positions like senior station chef as you will have trained new staff who have joined your team.
Show you're Sous Chef potential - wear the correct uniform
The sous chef has to be an example for the rest of your team. It's inappropriate if you're not wearing the correct uniform for work. Along with the outfit, it's important that the sous chef wears slip-resistant shoes in the kitchen to reduce the chance of slipping or falling at work.
At Shoes For Crews (Europe) Ltd., we specialise in slip-resistant work shoes, have a look at our styles for chefs.
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