What Are the Different Types of Chefs?: From Short-Order Cook to Executive Chef

Different types of chefs

So, you dream of becoming a chef? Perhaps, you have seen chefs on television cooking up delectable goodies and wowing audiences. Or maybe you grew up experimenting in the kitchen and preparing your family’s meals. But how do you make this dream a reality? Before you embark on your culinary career, you must first consider what type of chef you want to be and determine the kind of education you need.

List of Chef Titles

Becoming a chef requires ambition, drive, creativity, patience, and stamina. Advancement opportunities for culinary students and workers depend on their training, ability to cook quickly and well, teamwork skills, and work experience. Below you will find information on the different types of chefs and the experience required at each level.

Short-Order Cooks

Short-order cooks have little to no cooking experience or education. They often work in lower level dining or fast food restaurants. No degree is required, however, climbing up to higher level cooking positions without a degree or certification is not always easy for short-order cooks.

Line Chef

The line chefs (or station chef) work under the watchful eyes of the sous chef. Each line chef is in charge of a specific part of the meal. In most kitchens, the line chef is the only cook working on that part of the meal, but in very large operations, the line chef may have assistants and lower chefs under his or her supervision.

Line cooks can be chefs working their way up from lower positions and lower-skilled jobs and do not necessarily need a culinary degree. However, if the line chef aspires to a sous or head chef position, he or she may find a culinary degree, as well as an internship or apprenticeship, beneficial.

Types of Line Chef Positions

  • Sauté Chef. Responsible for all sautéed items and their sauce. This is usually the highest position of all the stations.
  • Fish Chef. Prepares fish dishes and often does all fish butchering and fish sauce assembly. This station may be combined with the saucier position.
  • Roast Chef. Prepares roasted and braised meats and their appropriate sauce.
  • Grill Chef. Prepares all grilled foods. This position may be combined with the rotisseur.
  • Fry Chef. Prepares all fried items. This position may also be combined with the rotisseur position.
  • Vegetable Chef. Prepares hot appetizers and often prepares the soups, vegetables, pastas, and starches. In a full brigade system, a potager would prepare soups and a legumier would prepare vegetables.
  • Roundsman. Also referred to as a swing cook, this position fills in as needed on any station in the kitchen.
  • Cold-Foods Chef. Also referred to as the pantry chef, cold-food chefs are responsible for preparing cold foods, including salads, cold appetizers, pâtés, and other charcuterie items.
  • Butcher. Butchers meats, poultry, and sometimes fish. They may also be responsible for breading meats and fish.
  • Pastry Chef. Prepares baked goods, pastries, and desserts. The pastry chef often supervises a separate team in their own kitchen or separate shop in larger operations. Some kitchens may have an executive pastry chef. This station may be broken down into smaller areas of specialization such as:
    • Confiseur. Prepares candies and petit fours.
    • Boulanger. Prepares unsweetened doughs for breads and rolls.
    • Glacier. Prepares frozen and cold desserts.
    • Decorateur. Prepares show pieces and specialty cakes.

Sous Chef

The sous chef is the executive chef’s assistant. He or she is second in charge and fills in when the executive chef is off duty. The sous chef is responsible for making sure the line chefs fulfill the executive chef’s orders. In small restaurants there may not be a need for a sous chef, whereas in larger operations there may be multiple sous chefs. A sous chef is usually on his or her way to becoming a head chef, and thus, would likely benefit from a formal culinary education, as well as work experience in the form of internships or apprenticeships under an executive chef. An apprenticeship in the culinary world usually lasts three years, including both the classroom and real working experience.

Executive Chef

The executive chef is the highest position in the kitchen—or, if you will, the cream of the crop. Often found in fine dining establishments and upscale restaurants, executive chefs (or head chefs) manage and direct the kitchen staff and are usually responsible for menu creation, ordering of inventory, and plating design. In order to become an executive chef, individuals typically attend a culinary school or a vocational center and then work their way up.

Life After Becoming an Executive Chef

Executive chefs may compete for certification as a Master Chef. This could lead to further advancement in the industry and higher paying positions, though it is not required. Another popular option among chefs is to start their own business in the form of a new restaurant, catering service or as a personal chef. Some even go on to become instructors in culinary schools.

In general, students of culinary schools start higher paying and higher status jobs without spending as much time in lower-level kitchen jobs. Culinary school graduates can also achieve higher positions with more ease in the culinary world. Not everyone is cut out for the hard work that goes on in a professional kitchen, but have faith that you have what it takes! Start exploring culinary schools throughout our site.

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