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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.

The chef is responsible for everything about the food in a restaurant. He is responsible for buying the food, hiring and supervising the kitchen workers, creating the menus for the customers, and deciding the recipes (the details of how the cooking is done).

Word history

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Chefs in training at chef school in Oxford, England

"Chef" (from Latin caput) is the abbreviated form of the French phrase chef de cuisine, the "chief" or "head" of a kitchen, but in English usage has come to mean any professional cook, regardless of rank. The title chef in the culinary profession originates from the roots of haute cuisine in the 19th century and it is in the English language translation that the term chef has become a term that describes function or skill over that of rank. Thus every cook is potentially referred to as a chef from the short-order chef as well as the chef in fine-dining.


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Ugandan chef at a large hotel.
Chef preparing naan to be baked in a tandoori
Chef preparing naan to be cooked in a tandoor.

Various titles, detailed below, are 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 de cuisine (or brigade system) documented by Auguste Escoffier, while others have a more general meaning depending on the individual kitchen.

Chef de cuisine

Other names include executive chef, chef manager, head chef, and master chef. This person is in charge of all activities related to the kitchen, which usually includes menu creation, management of kitchen staff, ordering and purchasing of inventory, controlling raw material costs and plating design. Chef de cuisine is the traditional French term from which the English word chef is derived.

Head chef is often used to designate someone with the same duties as an executive chef, but there is usually someone in charge of a head chef, possibly making the larger executive decisions such as direction of menu, final authority in staff management decisions, and so on. This is often the case for executive chefs with multiple restaurants. Involved in checking the sensory evaluation of dishes after preparation and they are well aware of each sensory property of those specific dishes.

In the UK, the title executive chef normally applies to hotels with multi outlets in the same hotel. Other establishments in the UK tend to use the title head chef.


The Sous-Chef de Cuisine (under-chef of the kitchen) is the second-in-command and direct assistant of the Chef de Cuisine. Sous chef works under executive chef or head chef. This person may be responsible for scheduling the kitchen staff, or substituting when the head chef is off-duty. This person is accountable for the kitchen's inventory, cleanliness, organization, and the continuing training of its entire staff. A sous-chef's duties can also include carrying out the head chef's directives, conducting line checks, and overseeing the timely rotation of all food products. Smaller operations may not have a sous-chef, while larger operations may have more than one. The sous chef is also responsible when the Executive Chef is absent.

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 chef de partie might have several cooks or assistants. In most kitchens, however, the chef de partie is the only worker in that department.

Commis (Chef) / Range chef

A commis is a basic chef in larger kitchens who works under a chef de partie to learn the station's or range's responsibilities and operation. This may be a chef who has recently completed formal culinary training or is still undergoing training.

Brigade system titles

Station-chef titles which are part of the brigade system include:

English French Responsibilities
Sauté chef saucier Sautéed items and their sauce. (The highest position of the stations.)
Fish chef poissonnier Fish dishes, and often fish butchering, and their sauces. (May be combined with the saucier position.)
Roast chef rôtisseur Roasted and braised meats, and their sauces.
Grill chef grillardin Grilled foods. (May be combined with the rotisseur.)
Fry chef friturier Fried items. (May be combined with the rotisseur.)
Entrée preparer entremétier Hot appetizers and often the soups, vegetables, pastas and starches. (This station may cover tasks by the potager and légumier.)
Soup chef potager Soups. (May be handled by the entremétier.)
Vegetable chef légumier Vegetables. (May be handled by the entremétier.)
Roundsman tournant Fills in as needed on stations in the kitchen, a.k.a. the swing cook.
Pantry chef garde manger Cold foods: salads, cold appetizers, pâtés and other charcuterie items.
Butcher boucher Butchers meats, poultry, and sometimes fish and breading.
Pastry chef pâtissier Baked goods: pastries, cakes, breads and desserts. May be the supervisor of a separate team in their own kitchen.

Kitchen assistant

Kitchen assistants are of two types, kitchen-hands and stewards/ kitchen porters. Kitchen-hands assist with basic food preparation tasks under the chef's direction. They carry out relatively unskilled tasks such as peeling potatoes and washing salad. Stewards/ kitchen porters are involved in the scullery, washing up and general cleaning duties. In a smaller kitchen, these duties may be incorporated.

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

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