A sous chef is the direct assistant of the executive chef and is the second-in-command. He/she is responsible for menu planning, quality control, mentoring junior chefs and stepping in when the executive chef is off duty. Smaller operations generally do not have a sous chef, but larger restaurants and hotels may have several.
What do they do?
Aditya Jaimini never imagined he would end up being a chef. He hardly cooked at home, for one. It was only once he started studying for a degree in hotel management that he realised he’d found a field that spoke to his interests.
After more than 12 years in the profession, Jaimini is executive sous chef at The Park hotel, New Delhi, a position that represents almost the pinnacle of a culinary professional’s career ladder. His job role commands great respect, involves important responsibilities and, eventually, translates into immense satisfaction.
A sous chef de cuisine (literally, under-chef of the kitchen) is a person who is second in command to the executive chef and has a vital role to play in kitchen operations. “Not even a single day is monotonous. It’s a very creative field. The responsibilities include taking care of day-to-day kitchen operations, allocation of duties to all chefs, liasoning with other departments, procurement, designing menus and interacting with guests,” says Jaimini.
His days starts at roughly 10 am, after which he conducts meetings with all the chefs, takes a round of all kitchens and sees what important events are lined up for the day. Lunch and dinner times involve supervision of various kitchen operations and ensuring hygiene and quality control. A typical day ends at 10 or 11 pm.
The most important skills required at this position are management and team leading abilities. “You must be able to handle chefs who are sometimes much older or more experienced than you and in the case of commis (cooks), maybe not as literate either,” he says, adding, “I did an MBA from IGNOU and that has helped me a lot.” And though it’s not a skill, the sous chef must have a “yes attitude” – always ready to serve guests without complaint.
“A sous chef must have the mindset of a team leader, guide and mentor,” says Alok Shivpuri, principal, Institute of Hotel Management, Catering and Nutrition, Pusa.
To get there, the “minimum qualification is a recognised Bachelor’s in hotel management, followed by experience in different positions”, says Manisha Bhasin, senior executive chef, ITC Maurya and President, Indian Culinary Forum. “To be an executive sous chef in a reputed hotel, a minimum experience of 15 years is required,” she adds.
It’s a tough job, but the rewards more than make up for all the hard work and sweat. “It can be a very physically demanding job. When others are celebrating, you are working and not with your family. But you get to be creative and experiment with dishes, and even serve dignitaries,” says Jaimini, who cherishes a pat on the back from fomer US president George Bush as his best compliment.
Appreciative guests count too. “The results of your labour are instantaneous. There have been instances when people have stood up and clapped for me. That is the biggest satisfaction,” he says.
Source: HT Horizons
. You must have good management and team skills. As a sous chef, you will be in charge of a team that may include much older, more experienced or less literate
people than you
. Ability to handle the stresses and pressures of the job and willingness to always remain cheerful and put in long hours of strenuous work
. You must have a 'yes attitude', as chef Jaimini puts it. This is a field that requires interaction with guests so always serve with a smile
How do I get there?
. You will have to earn a recognised Bachelor’s Degree in Hotel Management; this should be supplemented by a kitchen management training programme, followed by on-the-job training at various positions