What Does A Sous Chef Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

Alyssa OmandacCareer, Overview

Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Sous Chefs

The sous chef is always prepared to take over for the chef. In addition to preparing and cooking food, he or she needs to be familiar with the cooking style. The sous chef also oversees the kitchen staff, making their schedules and training them in cooking skills.

Interest Match

Sous chef literally means under the chef, and this person is an assistant to the head chef. As second in command, the sous chef will oversee the kitchen when the head chef isn’t there, make sure that food is prepared correctly, and train the staff in new cooking skills. The sous chef serves as a liaison between the head chef and the rest of the kitchen staff.

You can start out with an entry level kitchen job, such as a dishwasher, line cook, or prep cook and work your way up the ranks. Another route to this career is to attend culinary school. The key is to gain the experience and knowledge needed to hold this position.

What they do

The sous chef is always prepared to take over for the chef. In addition to preparing and cooking food, he or she needs to be familiar with the cooking style. The sous chef also oversees the kitchen staff, making their schedules and training them in cooking skills.

Assist the Head Chef

One responsibility of the sous chef is to assist the head chef. He or she should be ready to take over in an emergency, so it is important to be familiar with the head chef’s cooking style. In addition, the sous chef helps the chef plan meals and makes sure that the kitchen has all of the necessary supplies for each dish being prepared.

The sous chef makes sure that the kitchen is fully stocked and staffed. Although the head chef is in charge of the kitchen, the sous chef is responsible for making sure that the head chef has everything he or she needs.

Hire and Train the Kitchen Staff

The sous chef also hires and trains the kitchen staff. He or she will provide guidance to all of the cooks and train them in skills for cooking, food preparation, and plating. The sous chef will check over each dish and make sure that it meets the standards of the head chef.

Essentially, the sous chef is the liaison between the head chef and the rest of the kitchen. The sous chef is responsible for making sure that everyone is working and has the skills to bring the creations of the head chef to life.

Organize and Stock the Kitchen

The sous chef is also responsible for making sure that the kitchen is organized and fully stocked. Once the menus are planned, it is up to the sous chef to make sure that the food is present. He or she will work with the restaurant manager to order supplies and food for the kitchen and then keep them organized.

Fill in When Head Chef Is Not Present

When the head chef is not present, the sous chef will take over as the head of the kitchen. He or she will be responsible for making sure that the menu items are prepared as they would be if the head chef were there. It is important that he or she knows what the head chef’s vision is so that there is no issue in taking over. The kitchen should run as if the head chef is present, and the customers should not notice anything different.

What is the job like

Chef Anja Wolf

When my restaurant is open for lunch I will arrive around 8am and begin the food prep. Prepping the day’s food and managing others on how to do it is what takes up most of my day.

Once the restaurant opens then you feel like the race has begun. Some nights are a whirlwind from opening to close. The tickets pop up fast, you are deep in the thick of steam, broth, and boiling water from the minute we open to the second we close. If you want stress work in a restaurant kitchen – lol.

Typical day

The typical day begins with arriving to the restaurant 4 hours before it opens. Here is where I begin planning out and preparing the menu items with the head chef.

If any particular day had a new item on the menu we would create the dish and present it to the rest of the staff before opening. This was so they could taste test each new item.

After this initial meeting with the head chef, I would go around the kitchen checking on all of the produce and meat. If I miscalculated or did not realize we were low on mushrooms, then we would have quite a few dissatisfied customers!

Having to tell a guest that you are out of a menu item is never a great moment. This is often setting the stage for a bad review.

With that being said, a sous chef takes a tally of all ingredients and makes sure that the restaurant can run smoothly for that night.

The rest of the shift is spent helping out each kitchen staff member where they need it most.

I am not one to shy away from any job too big or too small. If one kitchen member doesn’t have time to prep the onions then I will step in and help.

Oftentimes I am in front of the stove stirring broths and putting the final touches on each plate that goes out.

A well run restaurant requires solidarity among the staff. Especially the kitchen. Oftentimes during an extremely busy shift, a sous chef wants to cry and scream, but instead finding a way to use that exhilarating kitchen energy for goodwill goes a long way!

Each restaurant will have a different set of tasks for the sous chef.

Key responsibilities include:

  • Overseeing the prep cooks
  • Chopping vegetables
  • Preparing meats
  • Checking stock of all items and making a list of what is needed for the next day
  • Managing the other kitchen workers
  • Making sure that the final dishes leaving the kitchen look correct
  • Cooking
  • Coming up with new menu ideas
  • Cleaning each work station
  • Taking over other kitchen positions when someone calls in sick


Working in a restaurant kitchen gives you a rewarding feeling of providing folks with a delicious meal that they can go on to tell others about.


It is often a high-stress environment with long hours. There are usually so many players behind the scenes of a well-run kitchen that if one player is having a bad day the whole restaurant team can suffer. We often work in sync.


You gain valuable experience as second in command in the kitchen

As second in command, you will learn all of the skills you need to become the head chef one day.

You get to work in a clean and luxurious environment

Most of the time, a kitchen that needs a sous chef is going to be clean and have all of the latest gadgets. You will normally get to work in a nice kitchen with access to expensive equipment that makes cooking more pleasant.

You are in an environment where you can get recognition

If you want to be a head chef one day, being a sous chef puts you in a position to be noticed.

You can organize the kitchen how you want it

If you enjoy keeping the kitchen organized, you will get to do it in this position.


You might work long hours

During peak dining times, you might work long hours. There might be a large party that comes in. You will also likely work weekends and holidays, so you might miss spending time with your family.

You have a lot of responsibility and little recognition

As the assistant to the head chef, you will not always get the credit for all that you do. Not only do you assist the head chef, but you oversee the entire kitchen staff and inventory.

Where they work

Private Households
Catering Company
Private Organization of Club

Sous chefs can work anywhere that has a kitchen. Many sous chefs work in restaurants, but they can also work for catering companies, clubs, private organizations, or private families. They often work on weekends and holidays, and they can work late hours. They can work in any location, and they may work longer hours in a busy restaurant during peak times. Some sous chefs work in busy restaurants with a large staff, while others work in smaller private households.

How to become one

Step 1: Get an Entry Level Kitchen Position

You can enter this career by gaining experience in an entry level position in a kitchen. You might start out as a dishwasher, a line cook, or a prep cook. This will put you in a position to be considered when the sous chef position becomes available.

Step 2: Get a Degree

You can get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in culinary arts from a culinary school or community college. You will learn how to run a kitchen and develop valuable cooking skills. This is a great way to gain credentials and experience.

Step 3: Apply for a Sous Chef Job

Once you have experience or have gone to school to receive your degree, you can start applying for sous chef jobs. You can apply at restaurants, or you might know a head chef from school who can recommend you. Be sure to check with agencies if you are interested in a private job.

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Leader

People with this personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.

You can read more about these career personality types here.

As a sous chef, you need to be quick-thinking and work well under pressure. You need to be able to adapt to changes because you are working under the head chef. You should have a good eye for detail, as the presentation of the meals is critical to this job. In addition, you should be organized and have great skills for managing the staff. Communication is critical, and you need to be able to delegate jobs to those working under you.

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