Becoming a sous chef is pretty exciting but, before you start to sharpen your knife, it’s a good idea to figure out if you have the right set of skills to cut it as an assistant chef.
Along with excellent cooking expertise, sous chefs also need to be dedicated, organized, and detail-oriented. Before we dive into the skills you need, let’s take a closer look at what a sous chef or assistant chef actually does.
What Does a Sous Chef Do?
An assistant chef is second-in-command to the executive chef. In a nutshell, the sous chef’s job is managing the kitchen in order to keep everything under control. They need to streamline tasks and processes – ensuring the kitchen and staff function as speedily and professionally as possible. Above all, a sous chef needs to instill a sense of calm in the kitchen and create a harmonious environment for everyone.
The kitchen is a very high-pressure place to work. Chefs are working around the clock to produce tasty food that needs to be delicious and beautifully presented. So, stepping into a sous chef position comes with a lot of responsibility and commitment. But, it’s also a perfect position for someone who is passionate about food service and thrives in a fast-paced industry.
So, now that you know a bit more about what a sous chef position entails, let’s take a closer look at the top five skills you need to be a successful sous chef:
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Top 10 Skills Sous Chefs Need:
1. Excellent Cooking Skills
Of course, this one is a given. Advanced cooking skills are the building blocks for a talented and skilled sous chef. Having a strong and substantial training or relevant experience in cooking is absolutely crucial when it comes to embarking on your sous chef journey.
2. Leadership and Communication Skills
On top of excellent practical skills, a sous chef needs to also have exceptional leadership and communication skills. Naturally, a sous chef needs to be able to communicate effectively and lead a team with confidence in order to cut it in the kitchen.
3. Organizational Skills
Organizational skills are a must-have as a sous chef. A highly organized sous chef will not only keep the kitchen organized but will also help organize behind the scenes when it comes to ordering supplies and produce, taking care of the admin, and creating staff rosters.
4. Attention to Detail
It’s crucial to have attention to detail as a sous chef. Not only do you need to make sure things are running smoothly, but you also need to make sure every last detail on the plate is taken care of. The sous chef should have attention to detail.
5. Ability to Work Under Pressure
As we mentioned above, sous chefs need to be able to work under extreme pressure. With boiling water, and flames, kitchens can be chaotic, to say the least. And, as the saying goes, ‘if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen!’
On top of handling the pressure, sous chefs also need to be cool, calm and collected to help head up a well-oiled kitchen machine.As you can see, a sous chef needs a variety of skills and years of experience to really master this profession.
When you question executive chefs about what they are looking for in a sous chef, the answer will be that it is someone they can count on. This is because reliability is the foundation of a good and successful working relationship between chefs. A kitchen is a busy place to work in, and many tasks will fail without trust between its leaders.
The lead cook must have confidence in their “right-hand person” to complete all the sous chef responsibilities without fail, even when there are no superiors around. They must be dedicated to their craft, arrive early to the kitchen and complete tasks ahead of schedule. When you have these traits, it will be easy for you to gain the respect and support of the executive chef and your coworkers.
This might come as unexpected, but one of the essential sous chef skills is creativity. Helping the lead chef create and improve menus are often among the sous chef’s tasks. Therefore, you must be creative and imaginative to develop delicious and exciting recipes or upgrade the restaurant’s existing ones. Aside from the recipe, the sous chef also aids in the presentation of a dish. You must figure out the best ways to decorate various recipes to make them look appealing. A creative sous chef creates the most delicious and beautiful dishes that make people keep coming back.
Working in a kitchen is hectic, and it is easy to get caught up with the whirlwind of food preparation; therefore you can forget to clean up your station. However, maintaining a clean and sanitary kitchen is one of the many sous chef responsibilities. This job is crucial since unsanitary conditions may lead to food contamination, affecting the quality of the food and even endangering the health of the people who ate at the restaurant. Moreover, as the executive chef’s right hand, it is the sous chef’s duty to ensure that everyone strictly follows the health and safety rules of the kitchen.
9. Team Player
Among the most critical sous chef skills one must possess is the ability to work well with others. As one of the leaders, the sous chef is responsible for guiding the team and effectively managing the staff if the need arises. You must be open and compassionate while displaying the willingness to collaborate at all times. In addition, a well-managed kitchen should have free and open communication between its heads and members. Therefore, you must also be willing to receive feedback to improve on shortcomings.
10. Training and Mentoring Experience
In most cases, it is the sous chef’s responsibility to train new staff and introduce them to the rules of the kitchen. Therefore, you must have the following sous chef skills to be an effective mentor to your subordinates:
- Active listening
- Conflict management
Possessing all of the traits above will help your mentees reach their full potential in the kitchen since you have equipped them with everything they need to excel at their work.
As you can see, a sous chef needs various of skills and years of experience to master this profession. Here, we’ve only touched on a few traits that will help set you apart in this highly competitive industry. If you don’t yet have one of the above skills, they can easily be learned and will also come with experience. If you dream of becoming a sous chef and eventually a head chef one day, you can get there. With proper education and training, Nothing should stand in your way.
THE CULINARY SCHOOL OF FORT WORTH
Most schools can teach you the techniques of cooking and baking but The CSFTW excels at preparing you for the real-world kitchen. With our small class sizes and chef instructors who are intentional with every student, you will receive more one-on-one instruction and insight. Our school boasts in preparing students to exemplify excellence in their culinary community. We are a small, unique school that focuses on the student’s needs and we take great joy in seeing our students succeed in the culinary industry.