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How to become a Sous Chef?


Job Role Sous Chef


Run a section of the kitchen, assist the head chef and oversee the whole kitchen in the absence of the head chef. 
Dress Code

Usually a chef white (long or short sleeved) or plain t-shirt
Bottoms: Usually black or checkered chef trousers
Apron: Usually a plain apron or butcher’s striped apron
Shoes: Black kitchen-safe chef shoes
Hat: Chef’s scull cap and/or hair net and beard net if required

Handy Hints 

  • Uniform should always be clean at the start of every shift and in good condition (eg. no rips or holes). 
  • Always be sure to take water or another drink to your shift and stay hydrated.
  • Make sure your knives are sharp and you have all the tools you need for the job.

What do I need to do to become a Sous Chef? 

After years of honing your culinary skills and showing your commitment in kitchens as a chef de partie, it may be time to take your career to the next level by becoming a sous chef. Most kitchens have a sous chef so you could be working in a wide range of establishments such as a fine-dining restaurant, busy café, hotel or even on a cruise ship.

But what does a sous chef do? The sous chef is the person who directly assists the head chef in all areas of the kitchen. You might like to think of it as being their trusty sidekick. Day-to-day, this will normally involve smoothly running your section or the pass during service, supporting junior chefs on sections and placing food orders.

You’ll also be the first port of call when the head chef is not working or otherwise busy. It can be a steep learning curve from working as a CDP so don’t be afraid to be asking the head chef for help or advice. At first, it may also help to write yourself notes and a to-do list (not just for prep) so you can remember as much as possible, especially if it’s in a kitchen that’s new to you.

As the sous chef, you may also be teaching front of house staff about the menu, ensuring guests with allergies and dietary requirements are provided for correctly during service, and making sure the pot wash area is running well. Through ensuring the kitchen has everything it needs to run efficiently, you’ll greatly improve your organisational skills. Whether this is ordering paper towels or cleaning chemicals, cooking food for the staff to eat on breaks or even arranging staff drinks – take each task as an important way to show you’re a reliable and hard-working sous chef.

But not only is this your chance to help lead the team, it’s a great position to start getting your ideas for menu items out there. With your head chef to bounce ideas off and guide you, they will encourage you to explore new products and dishes. You’ll also be learning about staff and running costs, and ensuring menu items will turn a profit.

Excellent communication between you and the head chef is one of the most important things you’ll need for the role, as this will ensure the correct information is passed to yourself and then down to the rest of the team. Whether this is about health and hygiene protocols, keeping the staff room tidy or a different cooking technique, the way you talk to people and getting all of the information across is paramount.

Like previous jobs you’ve had in the kitchen, hours can be long and you’ll most likely be working evenings and weekends. For a full-time role you’ll likely be working upwards of 40 hours a week.

So now you have enough kitchen experience and are ready to put in the work, what does it take to land your first role as a sous chef?

Like most jobs in the kitchen, to progress up the ladder to a sous chef job you don’t need to have done any formal training. The years you’ve spent working as a chef in the hospitality and catering industry will be enough. But you need to consider everything you’ve learnt so far and how this will help you in the new role.

“To become a sous chef, you need to show leaderships skills and a strong work ethic. Because there’s no two ways about it, this industry is hard; there are great rewards but it’s not easy. Any chef who enters the kitchen should have the ambition to move as quickly as they can from commis, to CDP to sous chef, and then to head chef. You need to have that when you come to a one Michellin-starred restaurant,” says Galton Blackiston, Chef Patron of Morston Hall in Holt, Norfolk.

Blackiston said that what he enjoyed most when he worked as a sous chef was becoming one of the key people in the kitchen, as he’s always enjoyed being a team player. “Being a sous chef is also about being someone junior chefs can come to, without bothering the head chef. And it doesn’t always need to be about cooking, you’re there to provide an ear. It makes you start being very responsible in the kitchen,” Blackiston adds.

For most sous chef roles, and especially at larger establishments, positions are often advertised online. Be sure to also seek out any contacts you have in past kitchens as chef jobs at this level also come about through word of mouth. As with any chef job you’ve gone for, apply in the way the advert asks and be prepared to go in for a trial and interview.

You’ll need to spend some time preparing before you go to meet the potential employer. Take each element of the job, outlined in the job description, and think of examples that show you have the skills and experience in each area. This shows the hiring chef why you’d be good for the role with real life instances. Make a great first impression and show them why you’d be an asset to their team.

A good stepping-stone into this role can be as the junior sous chef, who assists both the sous chef and the head chef. Larger kitchens are more likely to have this in-between role on offer.

The natural next step for an accomplished sous chef is normally to the role of head chef.  Read our advice on how to become a head chef.

Browse the latest sous chef jobs.

Contact your local branch.