A chef is a person who cooks professionally. In a professional kitchen setting, the term is used only for the one person in charge of everyone else in the kitchen, the executive chef.

Word history

"Chef" (from Latin caput) is the abbreviated form of the French phrase chef de cuisine, the "chief" or "head" of a kitchen. The title chef in the culinary profession originates from the roots of haute cuisine in the 19th century. The English use of the word chef has become a term that is sometimes used to mean any professional cook, regardless of rank. The Chefs is also a name given to the Sheffield United supporters and players.

Various chef titles

Below are various titles given to those working in a professional kitchen and each can be considered a title for a type of chef. Many of the titles are based on the brigade system (Brigade de cuisine), documented by Georges Auguste Escoffier, while others have a more general meaning depending on the individual kitchen. Not all restaurants will use these titles as each establishment may have its own set guidelines to organization. Specialized and hierarchal chef titles are usually found only in fine-dining, upscale restaurants; kitchen staff members at casual restaurants such as diners are more often called "cook" or "short-order cook".

Chef de Cuisine

Chef de Cuisine ("Head of the Kitchen") is a synonym for the title executive chef. This is the traditional French term from which the English word chef comes, and is more common in European kitchens or those American kitchens which use the classical French brigade system. In some establishments this title is used to designate a chef who is the head chef at one location of an operation that has multiple locations where the corporate chef has the title executive chef.

Sous chef

The sous-chef de cuisine (under-chef of the kitchen) is the direct assistant of the executive chef and is second in command. They may be responsible for scheduling, and filling in when the executive chef is off-duty. The Sous Chef will also fill in for, or assist the chef de partie (line cooks) when needed. Smaller operations may not have a sous chef, while larger operations may have multiple.

Expediter (Aboyeur)

The expediter takes the orders from the dining room and relays them to the stations in the kitchen. This person also often puts the finishing touches on the dish before it goes to the dining room. In some operations this task may be done by either the executive chef or the sous chef.

Chef de Partie

A chef de partie, also known as a "station chef" or "line cook", is in charge of a particular area of production. In large kitchens, each station chef might have several cooks and/or assistants. In most kitchens however, the station chef is the only worker in that department. Line cooks are often divided into a hierarchy of their own, starting with "First Cook", then "Second Cook", and so on as needed.
Station chef titles which are part of the brigade system include-
Sauté Chef (Saucier) [] - Responsible for all sautéed items and their sauce. This is usually the highest position of all the stations.
Fish Chef (Poissonier) [pwɑ.so.ɲe] - Prepares fish dishes and often does all fish butchering as well as appropriate sauces. This station may be combined with the saucier position.
Roast Chef (Rotisseur) [ʀo.ti.sœʀ] - Prepares roasted and braised meats and their appropriate sauce.
Grill Chef (Grillardin) [gʀi.jaʀ.dɛ̃] - Prepares all grilled foods, this position may be combined with the rotisseur.
Fry Chef (Friturier) [fʀi.ty.ʀje] - Prepares all fried items, position may be combined with the rotisseur position.
Vegetable Chef (Entremetier) [ã.tʀə.me.tje] - 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 (Tournant) [tuʀ.nã] - Also referred to as a swing cook, fills in as needed on station in kitchen.
Pantry Chef (Garde Manger) They are responsible for preparing cold foods, including salads, cold appetizers, pâtés and other charcuterie items.
Butcher (Boucher) [bu.ʃe] - Butchers meats, poultry and sometimes fish. May also be responsible for breading meats and fish.
Pastry Chef (Pâtissier) [pa.ti.sje] - Prepare baked goods, pastries and desserts. In larger establishments, the pastry chef often supervises a separate team in their own kitchen or separate shop.


A commis is an apprentice in larger kitchens that works under a chef de partie in order to learn the station's responsibilities and operation. He is a chef who has recently completed formal culinary training or is still undergoing training.

European training

The training period for a chef is generally four years. consisting of 1st year commis, 2nd year commis, and so on. The rate of pay is usually in accordance with the training status. Commis chefs are usually placed in sections of the kitchen (eg. the starter/entrée section) under the guidance of a chef de partie and are given relatively basic tasks. Ideally, over time, a commis will spend a certain period in each section of the kitchen to learn the basics. Unaided, a commis may work on the vegetable station of a kitchen.

The usual formal training period for a chef is two years in catering college. They often spend the summer in work placements. In some cases this is modified to 'day-release' courses; a chef will work full-time in a kitchen as an apprentice and then would attend catering college on days off. These courses can last between one to three years. Once the chef has completed the fourth year in training, they usually graduate to demi-chef de partie or chef de partie.

Kitchen assistants

Kitchen assistants (often known as Kitchen Porters) are usually kitchen workers who assist with basic tasks, but have had no formal training in cooking. Tasks could include peeling potatoes or washing salad for example. Smaller kitchens more commonly have kitchen assistants who would be assigned a wide variety of tasks (including washing up) in order to keep costs down.

A communard would be in charge of preparing the meal for the staff during a shift. This meal is often referred to as staff or family meal.

The escuelerie or dishwasher, (from 15th century French) is the keeper of dishes, having charge of dishes and keeping the kitchen clean. A common humorous title for this role in some modern kitchens is Chef de Plúnge.


The standard uniform for a chef is as follows: hat, necktie, double-breasted jacket, apron, checked trousers and steel-toe capped shoes or clogs. A chef's hat (toque) is tall to allow for the circulation of air above the head and also provides an outlet for heat. The hat will also usually assist in the prevention of sweat dripping down the face. Skullcaps are an alternative hat worn by chefs.

Neckties were originally worn to allow for the mopping of sweat from the face, but as this is now against health and safety regulations (due to hygiene), they are largely decorative. The jacket is usually white to repel heat and double-breasted to prevent serious injuries from burns and scalds. The double breast also serves to conceal stains on the jacket as one side can be rebuttoned over the other. An apron is worn to just below knee-length also to assist in the prevention of burns due to spillage. The safety aspect of this being that if hot liquid is spilled onto the apron, it can be quickly removed to minimize burns and scalds. Shoes and clogs are hard wearing and with a steel-top cap to prevent injury from falling objects or knives. According to some hygiene regulations, jewellery is not allowed apart from wedding bands.

See also



  • Caparoso, Randal. Wine Miracles by the Bucket, retrieved from on 2007-08-20.
  • Davidson, Alan., The Oxford Companion to Food, Edited by Tom Jaine. 2nd ed. Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Dellanno, Joseph. THE "SHORT ORDER COOK" DESIGN/BUILDER retrieved from on 2007-08-20.
  • McBride, Kate, ed. The Professional Chef/ the Culinary Institute of America, 8th ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, INC, 2006.
  • Sally's Place. Stephanie Zonis, retrieved from on 2007-08-20.
  • Line Cook Jobs, Line cook employment in USA on 2008-09-01.

External links

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