The kitchen is a highly specialized department that takes years of experience and preparation. Not only in the production of food but also in the presentation of food, great chefs are admired for this skill. Not only does the chef need to produce the food, but he or she also needs to keep food costs under control as well. The hierarchy in the kitchen is very clear and these skills and knowledge are acquired over a long period of time and mostly by learning from someone more experienced. The executive chef is highly regarded and respected by the junior workers in the kitchen.
A large kitchen is usually run on a system called the partie system. This means that the kitchen is divided into sections such as vegetables, pastry, meat, and cold dishes, with an experienced chef in charge of each section reporting to the executive chef and his or her assistant.
The Partie System
The partie structure was founded by Auguste Escoffier. The kitchen brigade consists of the chef de cuisine (head chef), as well as a variety of parties or departments with the chef’s clerical staff and sous chefs (second in charge). Each partie (“part or “section”) falls under an expert chef de partie.
There are a large number of different parties, however not every hotel or kitchen will have each and every partie. Smaller hotels do not always need specialists such as the pâtissier (pastry chef) and might mix the work of several parties into one.
The Chef de Cuisine
One of the most important members of the hotel staff is also known to be the chef de cuisine (also called the maître chef or head chef). His or her expertise depends to an extent on the operation’s success and the reputation of the establishment. The chef de cuisine determines the quality of the items and is responsible, in general, for the proper planning, presentation, and quality of all kitchen dishes. These chefs are responsible for their employees and the running of their kitchens, including the sanitation in the kitchen. In all aspects of food buying, supervision, planning, and cooking, a chef de cuisine should be professionally qualified and should have several years of experience in all areas of the kitchen.
The Executive Sous Chef
This person is second in charge to the chef de cuisine. He or she may be given certain duties by the chef de cuisine and may have certain direct cooking duties depending on his or her special abilities. In the absence of the chef de cuisine, the executive sous chef will take responsibility for the kitchen.
Sous Chef (Under chef)
There can be several sous chefs in a restaurant. Shifts are arranged in hotels to ensure there is twenty-four hour service. When the chef de cuisine is off duty, a sous chef is then in charge of the kitchen brigade. A sous chef, if there are many kitchens in a hotel or restaurant, may also be in charge of a separate kitchen. The sous chef is regarded at a higher level than the chef de partie, and will usually be in charge of a department. The sous chef is going to report directly to the head chef, to the executive sous chef.
The specialist chefs for each partie are as follows:
- the saucier (sauce chef)
- the poissonnier (fish chef)
- the chef gardemanger (pantry chef or larder chef)
- the boucher (butcher)
- the hors d’oeuvrier (starters chef)
- the saladier (salad chef)
- the fishman (fishmonger)
- the rôtisseur (roast chef)
- the trancheur (the carver)
- the grilladin (grill chef)
- the entremetier (vegetable chef)
- the potager (soup chef)
- the chef pâtissier (pastry chef)
- the glacier (the dessert chef)
- the tourier (the fruit chef)
- the tournant (relief chef)
- the banqueting chef
- the chef de nuit (night chef)
- the breakfast cook
- the head kitchen porter (chief steward)
Chefs de partie will serve in their departments under the different sous chefs. A Commis Chef is a newly trained chef who has not yet gained considerable experience. In addition, we find the following cooking staff in a kitchen:
- the trainee chef
- the kitchen hand
- the scullery hand