There are different types of chefs, all of whom have the common goal of keeping a restaurant kitchen running smoothly. Everyone on a chef's team, or line, needs to possess a great sense of smell and taste.
Prep cooks are not involved with the actual cooking of food. They prepare the ingredients of a particular meal on a planned menu. This can range from peeling potatoes or shrimp to mincing garlic to chopping fresh herbs. Most prep cooks hope to become chefs, and this position is a great stepping-stone because it allows them to develop important skills and techniques, and get accustomed to a professional kitchen.
Garde-mangers (pronounced “mahn-jays”) are in charge of all cold food that comes off the cooking line. This involves all kinds of dishes, including salads, hors d'oeuvres, and various parts of buffets. Some garde-mangers may need to be proficient at creating ice sculptures for a food display.
Sauciers are very specialized members of a kitchen line. Their main job is to create sauces. In traditional kitchens, sauciers are almost like chemists, using five basic sauces in various combinations to concoct hundreds of different new sauces. Every saucier has his or her own special ingredients and measurements, which make every creation of every saucier a different experience.
Pastry chefs are as specialized as sauciers, but their area of expertise lies in the making of delicious desserts. Pastry chefs are slightly different from bakers because they usually have chef's training and have to know how to create a wider variety of desserts. Most pastry chefs gain experience from cooking meals before they choose to focus on desserts.
Sous (pronounced SOO) chefs are the right-hand men and women who support the executive chef. Sous chefs may be responsible for the actual cooking of a meal while the head chef supervises other tasks going on in a kitchen. Some sous chefs perform in place of the executive chef if he or she is away, and some exist in more of an apprentice role, watching and learning on their way to becoming an executive chef.
The executive chef, or head chef, is the end of the line as far as responsibility goes. The head chef needs to be in control and aware of everything that goes in and out of his or her kitchen. Executive chefs are in the position to receive both blame and praise, but the positive aspects of the job are immensely satisfying and rewarding.
Executive chefs often oversee the purchase of the food to be cooked and the budget used to buy it. Depending on the restaurant, executive chefs may also interview and train employees, obtain cooking equipment, and plan banquets.
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