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Sous Chef: A Complete Career Guide for a Sous Chef de Cuisine

Are you passionate about food, excited by new flavours, and meticulous about the presentation? Do you dream of running your own kitchen, creating new dishes, or working with some of the best chefs in the UK? The simple answer to all of your questions is to become a Sous Chef.

You can become a sous chef at any time in your life. The hospitality industry is continuously growing every year and has a high demand for skilled chefs in the UK. The requirements for you to get started or become a sous chef may not be as tough as you thought.

Becoming a chef opens up many career options for you, also make sure that you aren’t limited to one cuisine type or establishment. This means you are in control of your own career direction. This is something that appeals to many prospective chefs.

Read on! To know more about the Sous Chef career.

Table of Contents

Who is a Sous Chef?

Sous (is a French word, and it means ‘under’) chefs work directly under head chefs to help run a kitchen. You can see them at higher-end restaurants assisting the head chef. If you are working as an assistant, you will be in charge of the kitchen and staff in the head chef’s absence. You will cook, season and prepare various dishes. And you will also be responsible for the overall presentation of the food. The other duties are managing other kitchen workers, delegating tasks, keeping the kitchen stocked and estimating the amount of food required each day.

Why should you become a Sous Chef?

Professional kitchen environments are often busy and fast-paced. It provides an excellent environment for people who succeed under pressure and enjoy a great deal of variety at work. If you can cope well with job demands, there are plenty of opportunities for your career advancement.

The careers and promotional prospects of Sous chef are varied and exciting. If you want to pursue one of the many opportunities available in the dynamic world of professional catering, becoming a Sous Chef is a great career option.

As your career progresses, you will be gaining experience. There are also opportunities for you to enter national awards and prestigious culinary contests.

Take a look at the following list of reason why you should become a chef:

  • It’s an exciting career with a diverse career opportunity. 
  • A lot of opportunities in a consistently growing industry.
  • Job opportunities in all corners of the globe.
  • Fancy starting your own restaurant? 
  • Improve your creativity and imagination skills.
  • You get to make people happy through food.
  • The profession is fast-paced, intense and often exciting
  • You get to dress like a chef 
  • Flexible hours – for better or worse

Where do Sous Chefs work?

Sauce chefs can work in various properties, and you can get a job as a sauce chef almost anywhere in the UK. Typical places, where sauce chefs usually work, include a restaurant kitchen or hotel kitchen. However, there are a lot of opportunities to work in other organisations. These include specialist bakeries, school kitchens, cruise ships, large private families, event management companies and contract catering firms.

It is also common for large retail chains and food makers to hire sauce chefs. They create food ideas for a wide range of products. These products may include pre-packaged frozen food recipes and sold in supermarkets.

Many establishments, especially restaurant chains or larger hotel property, have internal recruitment managers. The manager finds candidates through various methods. Those methods generally include headhunting, LinkedIn and job advertising on the internet.

However, sometimes many establishments choose to outsource their recruitment processes to the various specialist recruitment agencies. These agencies have access to enough supply of chefs at all skill and experience levels.

What are the duties and responsibilities of a Sous Chef?

The duties and responsibilities of a sous chef can vary depending on the place he/she works. For instance, a sous chef who works in a large hotel or restaurant may have more administrative responsibilities than one who works in a small establishment.

A sous chef must get along well with people because they have to train junior chefs. Training junior chefs is an essential component of the job. A Sous chef duties and responsibilities are:

  • To plan and direct how the food is presented
  • Keeping kitchen staff in order
  • Training new or junior chefs
  • Creating the work schedule
  • Cook and present food creatively
  • Working within specified budgets
  • Managing food purchasing and storage
  • Maintaining a safe and hygienic kitchen
  • Assisting in coming up with new recipes and menus
  • Managing the kitchen when the head chef is away
  • Disciplining kitchen staff

Personalities that suit sous chef jobs

Personalities that suit sous chef jobs

Anyone working in the industry of hospitality knows that a good chef is not only about their ability to cook.

The most successful chefs have certain unique personality traits which separate them from others. These unique personalities could include creativity, courage, passion, innovation and assertiveness. Other personality characteristics of top-performing chefs have a balanced mindset, confidence, discipline, and curiosity.

Sous Chef skills

Sous Chef skills

A sous chef has a range of skills that allow him to adapt to this position’s different requirements. Because a sous chef often has to manage the staff and help the organisation grow. There are some skills and qualifications you can’t learn from books. Being a chef in a professional environment is often physically and emotionally demanding. This profession is not for faint-hearted people. Following are the skills of a sous chef. A sous chef needs to:

  1. Have a passion for food. To become a chef, you need to have a passion for the culinary arts. For instance, you have to love working with food, delighting people with heavenly food, and being creative when preparing the food.
  2. Be a good time manager. To become a successful chef, you have to be the masters of managing time. Working with food is a complicated juggle of timing. It includes everything from when you buy supplies, storage, cooking times to finishing times. Lousy timing means failure when it comes to food.
  3. Be a good leader when needed. A sous chef is the highest-level employee in the kitchen and second in command. You need to be able to lead a team in the absence of the head chef. You will also need to instruct and train other employees. A sous chef follows necessary kitchen procedures and often create or assists in developing specific menu items. You should also create and maintain a supportive environment for all kitchen staff.
  4. Be able to manage or work with other people. If you are managing others or not depends on the type of chef, you will be. As a sous chef, you often had to manage the general staff of chefs or those who work under you. You might have to recruit and fire staff on behalf of the organisation.
  5. Excel at organising. The workload of a sous chef varies throughout the day. If the chef de cuisine is not present, he/she must be ready and prepared for everything that requires organisation. Managing workload, and learning what does and doesn’t work, is crucial. A chef has to have a kind of triage mentality, able to see what needs to be done and what can wait.
  6. Be calm when things get stressful. The work of a sous chef is considered a high-pressure job. There will be deadlines to meet, problems to solve on the go, and always other staff needing something from you. Be calm and lead the teams.
  7. Be creative. The sous chefs are sometimes responsible for preparing the menus, recipes and creating the flavours that they or their establishment are known for. There’s a reason it’s called the “culinary arts” because it is, indeed, an art. Creativity is a must, from tastes to the presentation of foods.
  8. Physically strong. To work as a chef, you need to be physically strong. Every day on the job, you have to stand, lift, cut, stir the foods— all of that and more, for hours.
  9. Have good communication skills. You need to work together closely with the staff to prepare and deliver food as soon as possible. Sous chefs must help the executive chef to create good communication among all team members.
  10. Good at budgeting. The sous chef often creates and maintains their kitchens’ budgets or helps the executive chef create the budget, including equipment, storage, and foodstuffs.

What to expect?

  • The traditional uniform of a chef is white. You will be expected to wear a hat and an apron because hygiene and health, and safety are very important.
  • From the research (Office for National Statistics, 2018), it is estimated that women represent less than one in five (17%) chefs working in the UK. So, it is essential to recruit, retain and develop female chefs for the growth of the industry.
  • You may have to work long hours. And you would be on your feet for long periods and find yourself working in a hot, fast-paced environment.
  • In this line of work, achieving a work-life balance can be very difficult. However, being part of a successful team that produces ambrosial food can be very rewarding and satisfying.
  • You may have the opportunity to travel to various places and learn about different cuisines. Working as a sous chef provides variety and the opportunity to learn and progress your career.
  • In both the UK and worldwide, French cuisine still has a significant influence on the industry, especially in haute cuisine.

What are the types of Sous Chef jobs?

The types of job vacancies available to Sous Chefs are as diverse as the establishments they work for. When working in a kitchen or with the head chef, they will expect something different from the sous chef. Therefore, you need to be versatile and someone who can meet the challenges of the role. If you are thinking about a career as a chef, below are the most common types of sous chef job.

  1. Junior sous chef
  2. Pastry sous chef
  3. Assistant sous chef

Junior sous chef

A junior sous chef is the lowest and entry position of the sous chef job. The junior sous chef’s role is tricky because a junior sous chef is expected to run many sections in the kitchen.

Junior sous chefs usually work under an experienced sous chef or a head sous chef. As a junior sous chef, you will often have to get involved in:

  • Health and safety, and food hygiene responsibilities.
  • Running the kitchen, in the sous chef and the head chef absence.
  • Meeting with suppliers.
  • Helping to train more junior staff members.
  • Assuming responsibility for stock takes.
  • Learning the ordering systems.

Pastry sous chef

The role of pastry sous chef is different from the other Sous Chef. Working as a pastry chef requires a specific skill, more precision and a lot more science. You need to have a great deal of artistry and creative ability to make pastry goods, bread and desserts.

To work as a pastry sous chef, you should be able to:

  • Support their sous chef counterparts with the management of the wider kitchen.
  • Act as a mentor to the kitchen team responsible for pastries and desserts.
  • Plan out the week: handle rotas, staff absences and assign duties to the team.
  • Run the pastry section of a kitchen.
  • Develop ideas for new dishes.
  • Support the pastry chef with menu design.
  • Bring inspiration to the kitchen.

This role demands a specific skill set; you need previous experience in pastry to acquire a job. You can explore jobs for pastry sous chefs online.

Assistant Sous Chef

The role of an assistant chef and a Junior Sous chef are very similar. Paul Mallan, a regional recruitment manager, said, “The assistant sous chef role would be the same as a junior sous chef. You’d normally only find junior sous chefs in a big restaurant or large hotel with extensive food and beverage facilities.”

An assistant sous chef will work under a head chef. As an assistant Sous Chef, you will often have to:

  • Help running the kitchen in the absence of the sous chef and the head chef.
  • Help to train more junior staff members.
  • Assuming responsibility for stock takes.
  • Learn the ordering systems.
  • Give a hand in health and safety and food hygiene responsibilities.
  • Meeting with suppliers.

Sous chef salary

So, as of now, you might be wondering, how much does a sous chef earn in a year?

The average yearly salary of a sous chef is £25,000 in the UK. However, a sous chef’s salaries can range from around £15,000 to more than £40,000 in a year. The full detailed salary of a sous chef are:

Position

Annual Salary

Junior Sous Chef

£18,000 to £27,000

Pastry Sous Chef

£28,000 to £40,000

Assistant Sous Chef

£18,000 to £35,000

Generally, the salary depends on the area you work, the type of establishment, and the professional kitchen experience level.

Some employers provide various facilities such as free food, drink and sometimes live-in opportunities for their employees. The live-in opportunities are often common if you are working in a private household or a large hotel.

Craig Atchinson, an executive chef, advises that “the salary is very dependent on the area of work and the experience you have. In York, an experienced Sous Chef could earn around £30,000 a year when he/she works at a credible property.”

Jason Benn works as a manager at City & Guilds industries. He quotes that “Four and five-star hotels pay much higher salaries than lower-rated restaurants and hotels”.

Working hours

Well, as a Sous Chef, you will be working in shifts. It is not the ideal job for you if you do not like to juggle a hectic social life. Most chefs do the job because they are passionate about the foods. So, they don’t mind if a few things come in the way of achieving their dream.

Generally, your working week as a sous chef may involve early morning and late-night shifts. Sometimes, you will have to work on the weekends, too. For instance, the regular holidays, such as bank holidays, will no longer be a chill time for you.

In this industry, the standard working hour of a sous chef is 40 hours a week. It is common for a chef to work 48-60 hours a week.

In addition to working in the kitchen, you will be pre-preparing foods and delegating various tasks. You will also find that you need to work at a desk from time to time. You will be assisting the head chef in planning the menus and also with the restaurant budget. The rest of the time, you’ll work in a high-pressure environment, under hot and bright kitchen lights.

How long does it take to be a Sous Chef?

The time required for becoming a chef varies; your training can be anywhere from a few months to many years. It depends on your educational path and what you want to do as a chef.

The online cooking training course generally takes 24-26 weeks. The course’s primary focus is to provide you with a solid foundation that you work at in your own home.

Well, every cooking school or university training has a fixed start and finish date. It is not guaranteed that you will get a top chef position when you finish your cooking school study.

Learning as an apprentice or on the job might go on for years. In an apprenticeship, you may start as a commis chef and continue to work. Over the years, you can progress your career and see yourself as a sous chef or head chef.

So, the better question to ask is what kind of chef you want to be? And in what establishment you want to work?

How to become a Sous Chef?

The restaurant sector in the UK is growing fast. The work of a sous chef is exciting, creative and very rewarding. To become a chef, you need to be passionate about food, excited by new flavours, and meticulous about presentation.

There is no doubt that it is hard work, but the best chefs thrive on the buzz. Training is part of the fun, and there are lots of opportunities for carving your own career path.

Step 1: Answer the big question. Is becoming a Sous Chef right for me?

It’s not easy to become a Sous Chef, and indeed it isn’t for everyone. In order to make the quality grade cousin, it takes an incredible amount of dedication and practical experience. You will also need excellent culinary knowledge in almost all areas of the kitchen. If using a can opener is still a daily struggle for you, it may not be the right profession you want to seek.

But, it’s the perfect role for these people who are incredibly passionate about food, especially if you are a natural leader. If you can keep your head clear under pressure and always deliver high standard dishes. You might have the required recipe to become successful as a Sous Chef and other food-based puns. Other vital skills for a Sous Chef include:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Attention to detail
  • A calm head under pressure
  • Good organisational and time management skills
  • Creativity and flair
  • Extremely high standards

So, get a job as a Kitchen Porter or volunteer in a kitchen to check out if you are up to it.

Step 2: Get some professional training or a degree.

To become a sous chef or a chef, you don’t need a university/college degree. However, a Higher National Diploma, foundation degree or degree in professional cooking or culinary arts would help you gain knowledge and essential skills. You can become a sous chef through:

  • A university course.
  • A college course.
  • An apprenticeship programme.

Through University

You could study for a foundation degree, HND or diploma degree in:

  • professional cookery
  • culinary arts

University Entry requirements

You will usually need:

  • 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent degree, for a foundation degree or HND.
  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent degree

Through College

Another way to get into the job is to take a college course, for instance, a Level-3 Diploma in Professional Cookery or Level-4 Diploma in Professional Culinary Arts.

College Entry requirements

You will usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent degree, for a level 3 course.
  • 1 or 2 A levels, a level-3 diploma or relevant experience for a level-4 or level-5 course.

Through Apprenticeship

You can become a sous chef while you learn and work by doing an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship as a chef. To advance your career, you can take a job in any establishment, such as restaurants or catering companies. Internships often lead to a permanent position.

Entry requirements

You will usually need:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship.
  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or similar, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship.

Step 3: Get the necessary experience or complete an Apprenticeship.

You can enter an apprenticeship program in addition to, or instead of, other formal training programs. To become a successful Sous Chef, you need a lot of experience. As a chef, you can get the necessary experience through an apprenticeship and also earn money.

This is something you will continue to build on throughout your career. In this career, learning never ends. You could work as a chef throughout your whole life and still not have mastered every single cookery technique.

Experience is extremely important because kitchen experience plays a critical factor when applying for a Sous Chef position. Recruiters often look for a chef with at least three years of previous experience as a Chef de Partie or prior Sous Chef experience.

From the start, you should think about how to build your experience. Whether you are working as a Kitchen Porter, studying for an NVQ or starting your first job as a Kitchen Assistant or Commis Chef. You should work as many hours as you can in the kitchen, and fill the gaps by practising at home.

Step 4: Obtain food and health and hygiene certification

While college or university certification is not required, you must need to have food safety and health and hygiene certification to apply for a job or advance your career. This health and safety certificate shows that you have a higher level of professionalism.

The following are the most popular food safety and health and hygiene certification you can take:

These above courses comply with the Food Safety Act 1990 and help you ensure a high standard of food safety and hygiene in the workplace. Take a course from the above and get the certificate to work in the food industry and help you advance your career as a chef.

Step 5: Apply for a Sous Chef Job

The job description of a chef is entirely different from other jobs. Often you have to work long hours and unusual shifts like evenings and weekends. The job can be intense during peak serving hours. Still, the competition to get a job in top restaurants can be fierce.

Local job fairs can be an excellent place to start meeting potential employers and making contacts. You can look for job vacancies at:

Employers of Sous Chef

Jobs in the chef industry are in high demand, especially as a sous chef. There are a lot of public and private organisations in the UK that employ a sous chef. You can find job opportunities for a sous chef in:

  • The NHS
  • The armed forces
  • Contract catering
  • Cruise ships
  • Chain restaurants
  • Michelin-starred and aa Rosette-awarded restaurants
  • Pubs and gastropubs
  • Educational settings (schools, colleges, universities)
  • Hotel or bar restaurants.

How to develop your Sous Chef career?

There are a lot of career opportunities in the food industry, whether it’s moving to a larger restaurant or other organisation. You can broaden your skill set by working in a restaurant with different cuisines, working abroad or on a cruise ship, or in a pub.

The significant next step in your career will be the head chef position. Becoming a head chef is an exciting prospect, and to get there, you need a lot of hard work and dedication. But when you reach that place, become a chef de cuisine, everything will be worth it.

The other career advancement opportunities may include opening a restaurant or becoming a personal chef, caterer or instructor.

Closing note

Be a sous chef and diversify your career. A sous chef works directly underneath the head chef, acting as their second-in-command and running the kitchen when required.

There are many opportunities for you with or without an educational degree in the chef industry. So, you don’t have to worry about a job like other professional careers. The salary is much higher than the other professions.

Food Hygiene and Safety Level 3
This Level 3 Food Hygiene and Safety course is designed to provide catering and hospitality sector professionals in senior-level roles with the skills, credentials and practical knowledge to ensure a high standard of food safety.
Food Hygiene and Safety Level 3
This Level 3 Food Hygiene and Safety course is designed to provide catering and hospitality sector professionals in senior-level roles with the skills, credentials and practical knowledge to ensure a high standard of food safety.
April 28, 2021

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