Just as the teaching profession has a variety of subjects to cover and there are more types of lawyers than most of us can count, becoming a chef comes with different choices. You can have dreams of becoming an executive chef, the mastermind behind the kitchen, but the path to get there is filled with jobs like patissier, sous chef, and even saucier – many of which are viable, well-paying careers all on their own.
Executive Chef (Chef de Cuisine): The executive chef is the boss of the kitchen. There is usually only one per restaurant (or chain), so the competition to get to the top of the field is fierce, and it can take years of formal training at a culinary school as well as decades of experience to land the job of your dream. As executive chef, you rarely worry about the details of food preparation, instead acting as the overseer, keeping the kitchen running smoothly and planning the menu with new dishes that you devise.
Sous Chef: The sous chef is the right hand of the executive chef, and there can be more than one. These professionals do a lot more of the micromanaging in the kitchen, seeing to the details of each dish and working in the trenches to make sure everything is properly prepared.
Pastry Chef (Patissier): In most cases, becoming a patissier requires a different type of culinary training, usually at a baking school or in a baking program rather than a straightforward culinary school. The bulk of this work is centered around pastries, breads, and desserts, and depending on where you work, you could become the equivalent of an executive chef.
Station Chef (Chef de Partie): The station chef is usually in charge of just one part of the kitchen: for example, the soups, the salads, or the grill. They work under the sous chef or executive chef to make sure all food prepared and put out of their station is of the highest level for quality and appearance.
Saucier: The saucier’s sole responsibility is to prepare the sauces. Although it might not sound like much, certain types of cuisine (particularly French) are all about the sauce.
Fish Cook (Poissonier): The poissonier works with seafood, both in preparation and in cooking.
Vegetable Cook (Entremetier): The entremetier can take on a variety of roles, depending on the type of cuisine. For the most part, he or she deals in soups, vegetables, potatoes and rice, and egg dishes
Meat Cook (Rotisseur): The rotisseur is the mastermind of meat. From roasting and braising to broiling and grilling, the rotisseur does it all. In many cases, the tasks will overlap with those of the saucier, especially when it comes to gravies.
Fry Cook: When a restaurant has a heavy dependency on a frier (for french fries and many Southern delicacies), a fry cook may be employed to cover the station.
Pantry Chef (Gard Manger): The pantry chef is in charge of all cold items, from salad and hors d’oevres to cold sauces and dressings. One big aspect of this job is making the food appear presentable.
Line Cook (Commis): The line cook is typically an entry-level position in which you work alongside the rest of the kitchen doing what needs to be done. You may cut vegetables one day and plate dishes on another. It is a fast-paced position with plenty of room for upward mobility.
Expediter: The expediter is the bridge between the kitchen and the waitstaff. These individuals are the last line of food preparation before the plate reaches the table, and are responsible for delivering the plate either via their own hands or that of the waiter. This position is often taken over by the executive chef him or herself, especially when it’s vital to ensure that the dish is perfect before it goes out.
No matter where you start out and what your specialty, there is a place for you in the culinary world. And with the right training and dedication, you could be just a few years away from an upper-level position where respect and better pay await your command.