The term ‘Chef’ is assigned to the individual who cooks food as part of his profession. He works for an establishment that caters to the food requirments of people. Although ‘chef’ is broadly used to describe any person who cooks food in order to earn his livelihood, in more exact terms it refers to an extremely skilled working professional, who is an expert in all aspects of food preparation and who can create different varieties of foods within limited time intervals. As such, he has numerous responsibilities and a head chef is the backbone of an industrial kitchen – be it a hotel, restaurant, café, deli, kitchen or any place from where food is served to the general public.
The word ‘çhef’ is a derivative of the French usage ‘chef de cuisine’, and refers to the person who shoulders the enormous responsibility of heading the kitchen. It is equivalent to the English usage of ‘chief’.
Major Responsibilities of a Chef
- To ensure the successful and smooth functioning of the kitchen he/she is responsible for,
- Efficient management of kitchen staff,
- Inventory and stock handling
- Ordering and purchasing- of food materials, equipment, accessories etc.,
- Creating new and innovative recipes- their conception, execution and production,
- Menu-planning, rotation, introducing new methods of cooking and use of new ingredients,
- Assigning critical roles to the sous chef and others in line
- Ensuring timely delivery of service to all clients
- Resourcefulness in case of emergency situations
- Constantly improving personal skills and updating those of the existing staff.
There are multiple levels at which chefs’ function in large establishments. These are -
- Head chef or chef de cuisine responsible for the working of the kitchen on the whole
- Sous-chef is assistant to head chef and may fill-in during absence of either Head chef or ‘line cook’. He is considered second-in-command.
- Chef de partie also known as station chef or line cook is entirely responsible for a given department and has several cooks/assistants working under him.The chef de partie includes a number of station specific chefs – fish chef, roast chef, sauté chef, grill chef, fry chef, vegetable chef, pantry chef, butcher and pastry chef depending upon individual roles and duties as well as departments to which they belong.
- Commis is a basic chef that functions under the chef de partie, learning the responsibilities of the station and its operations.
- Others like the Expediter who eventually lays the tray and offers the dish some final touches and the food runner who carries the food to the guest are also present.
- A roundsman is a cook, who can slip into any role as and when the need arises at different stations in the kitchen.
- Finally there are kitchen assistants and stewards who perform basic duties of food preparation, peeling, washing, cleaning etc. in keeping with the chef’s instructions.
It is the combined duties of all these grades of chefs that ensure the optimal running of the kitchen and each one plays his/her role in creating a grand meal that matches the expectations of the clients and satisfies their palate.
As a professional duty, there are strict rules that each and every chef needs to adhere to while in the work premises. They must wear a uniform consisting of a white double-breasted jacket, an apron, a chef’s hat, black trousers and shoes with protective toe-caps, each serving a specific purpose.