Many chefs begin with little more than a love for food, creativity, and a dream to share their creativity through new and innovative combinations of flavors. A chef is an individual who cooks for other people as a profession and is responsible for the creation of new food dishes, but “chef” is not the title of only one job. A commercial kitchen has a hierarchy of duties that must be completed, and there are different variations of chefs that are trained to specialize in these different tasks.
People who enjoy working with one specific menu item, such as salads, meat, or appetizer creation, may be suited to perform as a line cook. A line cook, who may also be called a “station chef”, is the chef designated to take charge of a certain area of food production, such as meat or salad preparation, and is responsible for much of the cooking in a commercial kitchen. Line cooks may have a few assistants to help with food preparation, but in the majority of kitchens, line cooks work independently in their department. In some kitchens, titles like First, Second, or Third Cook are assigned to help clarify the kitchen hierarchy.
For those who have a sweet tooth, the position of pastry chef may be most desirable. In a traditional commercial kitchen, a pastry chef is the line cook in charge of and trained in the production of desserts, pastries, and breads. Pastry chefs are found everywhere from fine restaurants to small cafés, and spend their time developing recipes, refining the dessert menu, and preparing food for the workday.
The Sous Chef is, in essence, the second-in-command of the kitchen. A Sous Chef will act as assistant to the Executive Chef and a replacement or assistant to line cooks as necessary, and is therefore expected to know their way around all areas of food production. In some cases, a Sous Chef will also be in charge of scheduling shifts or other similar managerial duties.
Working as an Executive Chef is an excellent option for those who are managerially-minded, and who are flexible in terms of daily expectations and operations. The Executive Chef is the chef who directs the day-to-day operation of the kitchen. They are often in charge of menu creation, plating design and layout, recipe production, and management of kitchen staff.
For those individuals who find the stress and adrenaline of a commercial kitchen undesirable, there is the option of working as a personal chef. A personal chef is a chef who will prepare meals for a specific client or customer, often in the customer’s private kitchen, in accordance to the client’s dietary needs or preferences. Personal chefs are self-directed, and manage their own hours of work, shopping, food preparation, service throughout the meal, and cleanup. A personal chef may cook for an individual or a dinner party consisting of multiple guests, and may be called upon to provide meal planning for families.