The culinary arts present exciting opportunities to pursue creative work while also building a prestigious career. Top chefs gain notoriety for their signature style in some of the most exclusive restaurants around the world. Some have even become celebrities through their own television shows, cookbooks, and line of gourmet products. However, the rise to top chef is not a direct line, and there are many steps up the ladder of success. A typical path to success after culinary school looks something like this:


Commis Chef

Everyone has to start at the bottom. The commis chef is like an apprentice who works in the kitchen while learning some of the tricks of the trade. You won’t be whipping up gourmet souffles in this position, but will instead be doing a lot of grunt work, er prep work, like chopping vegetables, sharpening knives, fetching measuring cups, and cleaning up the mess. You will work closely with other chefs in the kitchen to learn the basics of food preparation, including different techniques and methods. Depending on where you work, this position could also be called an internship or apprenticeship.

Job Description and possible Responsibilities: (though not limited to only those listed here)

Reports to Sous and/or Head Chef;

  • Assisting and in food preparation, ensuring orders are completed efficiently
  • May be required to assist with other duties within the kitchen – maintaining a clean, hygienic work area, providing assistance to other staff members.
  • Creating innovative, quality-driven menu ideas


Chef de Partie

This position — otherwise known as a line cook — oversees one section of the kitchen and preparation of one particular type of food. For example, these cooks may be responsible for cooking the fish, or they could oversee preparation of the pastries. The chef de partie becomes a specialist in this section, then moves on to another. Eventually, training is received in all parts of the kitchen.

Job Description and possible Responsibilities: (though not limited to only those listed here)

Reports to Head Chef;

  • Responsible for the preparation and cooking of good quality food
  • Trains develops new trainee chefs
  • Maintains overall order and cleanliness in the kitchen
  • Able to converse with the clients / guests


Sous Chef

The sous chef is the assistant to the head chef and is the second in charge in the kitchen. The sous chef helps to run the kitchen, creating schedules, managing customer relations, plans menus, and oversees ordering for the kitchen. Skilled in all aspects of food preparation, the sous chef can alternately plan special menus, fill in for the executive chef, or take over for a chef de partie.

 Job Description and possible Responsibilities: (though not limited to only those listed here)

  • As the Soup Chef you will be required to make a variety of soups on a large scale from scratch using various ingredients
  • Administrative work including scheduling and training other chefs, inventory check etc.


Executive Chef

The last step in your ascension up the ladder. The executive chef is in charge of the whole kitchen, planning and executing menus, hiring and supervising staff, sets the budget, and more. The head chef sets the tone for the restaurant, stamping his or her signature style on the menu. This is the person whose vision leads the success of the restaurant.

The path to becoming a head chef is all about gaining experience and honing skills. These are the traditional steps toward becoming a head chef, but there are many alternate routes that can be taken. Many head chefs started work in a kitchen as a dishwasher and moved their way up from there. Some worked as caterers, and some started in their own business as a personal chef. Restaurants, country clubs, cruise ships, and even small diners provided the setting for their on-the-job training. Every journey is as individual as the chef, and every step influences his or her personal style and ultimate success.

Job Description and possible Responsibilities: (though not limited to only those listed here)

Reports to a food service director;

  • Supervise, train and manage kitchen personnel
  • Oversees quality and effectiveness of the menu
  • Planning expenses, operating costs and other best practices guidelines for food storage and preparation
  • Good managerial and marketing skills and can communicate effectively with clients / customers

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About the Guest Author:
Bridget Sandorford is a grant researcher and writer for Along with her passion for whipping up recipes that incorporate “superfoods”, she recently finished research on culinary school and culinary schools in West Virginia.