Sous Chef Skills: Examples And Ways To Improve Them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Sous chef translates to under chief in French, making a sous chef the second-in-command in a commercial kitchen where they play a leadership role. They are usually skilled in managing kitchens, guiding cooks on new recipes, maintaining general hygiene and overseeing the quality of ingredients. Understanding the skills of a sous chef can prepare you for hospitality jobs in the kitchen and improve your existing skills, helping you earn a promotion to head chef. In this article, we explain the different skills sous chefs have, methods to improve and apply them, and how to highlight these skills in job applications.

What Are Sous Chef Skills?

Sous chef skills are abilities that help you successfully manage activities in the kitchen of an office building, hotel, hospital or other food-serving facilities. While these skills assist in supervising crew members, they also entail high-level knowledge of meal preparation methods, catering to customers' special requests and supporting other chefs in improving their craft. Their skills include complying with local kitchen regulations and ensuring all ingredients and equipment are clean and properly stored.

Since they work as assistants for executive chefs, sous chefs may be responsible for executing predefined dish presentation techniques to offer customers a memorable experience. In case of additions to menus, they double-check that the preparation fits the taste and aesthetic description displayed on the menu.

Related: Types Of Restaurant Jobs (With Salaries And Duties)

Examples Of Sous Chef Skills

If you plan on pursuing a career as a sous chef, this mixture of soft and culinary skills can be helpful:

Menu development

A sous chef typically assists the head chef in planning and developing menus for restaurants and other eating facilities. You may conduct research on your customers' preferences and reviews on existing dishes to create a menu that allows for more sales. This skill requires knowledge about the background and dietary choices of the customers who often visit the eatery. As menus may change based on the season, knowledge of fresh, seasonal ingredients and their sources can help you create a high-quality menu. This skill also requires sous chefs to be proactive and decide on daily specials.

Inventory management

As kitchens often work with several ingredients and different equipment for a variety of dishes, inventory management is an essential skill for sous chefs. You might be responsible for preparing restocking schedules and staying connected with vendors for a regular supply. As this position requires supervision, you may teach the kitchen staff about updating the ingredient procurement timetable. Many kitchens require routine equipment modifications, such as new spoons and plates for different meals or maintenance of stoves and refrigerators. As a sous chef, it is your duty to check that all equipment is functional as per the necessary standards.

Hygiene regulations

Since customers entrust you with their food choices, you may require the staff to stay aware of changes in hygiene regulations and enforce them in your kitchen. You are responsible for hygiene standards related to water purification, washing vessels and the quality of cleaning detergents. This skill helps to instruct other chefs on preferred storage and food preparation methods. If regulatory authorities visit the kitchen to check whether the premises implement their rules, the sous chef can prove their measures adhere to the given policies and procedures.

Related: Careers In Hotel Management: Skills, Jobs And Salaries

Time management

Time management is a soft skill that guides sous chefs to manage their primary duties without compromising their secondary tasks. For example, they may be busy preparing food and scheduling staff meetings for quality assurance. Efficient time management helps monitor other duties, like managing supplies and incorporating customers' feedback. As an assistant to the head chef, it is important to prioritise tasks and simultaneously motivate the staff. This skill allows the kitchen staff to offer customer satisfaction to every visitor.

Stamina

Kitchen activities in eating facilities include walking, bending, lifting and standing for long durations. Sous chefs can benefit from good stamina as it helps them maintain their performance throughout their shift. For instance, your attention may be on the oven's timer and the boiling ingredients on the stove. This requires you to multitask and constantly move around the kitchen. You might also access large refrigerators and look for cutting or mixing equipment in the kitchen. Physical stamina can make sure you perform your duties carefully and maintain the quality of your work.

Diverse palate

Knowledge about dishes and suitable pairings can help create excellent menus, convincing customers to revisit the restaurant. Sous chefs with a sharp sense of taste can create flavourful combinations of dishes. If you are familiar with alternative cuisines and what makes them unique, you can use them for different dish preparation styles. This skill makes you eligible to test your dishes before delivering them to the customer. You can advise the head chef on any main or side recipe experiments.

Related: How Much Does A Chef Make? (Factors That Affect Salary)

How To Improve These Skills?

Follow these steps to improve your skills as a sous chef:

1. Work as an intern

Observing and following instructions from culinary professionals can teach you the basics of working in a kitchen. You can get insights into sous chefs' responsibilities, such as ingredient and equipment management and food presentation. You may consider looking for a sales representative or an accounts manager position in a cloud kitchen. Since cloud kitchens are usually small, you can search for an internship as a junior staff manager.

2. Apply for culinary courses

Many sous chef jobs are high-level positions and might ask for proof of participation in a culinary course. Applying for a short-term programme in culinary education can teach you essential skills, such as food preparation techniques, kitchen hierarchy and equipment usage. You can ask your teacher questions regarding cooking fundamentals or effective methods to manage staff rosters and inventories. These courses also give you exposure to offer the best hospitality and beverages based on customers' food choices.

Related: What Does A Chef Do? Definition, Responsibilities And Salary

3. Practise cooking and in-house hospitality

You can improve your skills by practising different cuisines at home. Since you might have limited equipment, you can learn to adapt to issues of missing equipment and ingredient shortages. Such situations can train you in management practices and simplify handling similar matters in the restaurant's kitchen. Try preparing different dishes and asking your family for their opinion on the taste and presentation.

4. Update your ingredient and equipment knowledge

Staying up to date on new ingredient combinations and innovations in kitchen equipment helps show your knowledge during interviews. Start reading food blogging websites and forums. Your familiarity with the latest developments in the food industry makes you a reliable assistant for head chefs. Once you demonstrate your expertise with the kitchen's inventory, your suggestions may get high priority when preparing recipes for updated menus.

Sous chef skills in the workplace

Here are some tips for displaying your skills in the workplace:

  • Multitask under pressure - Maintaining a high-performance attitude in challenging situations is a skill most head chefs appreciate. If you are ordering supplies, monitoring line cooking and attending to special requests simultaneously, always stay calm and multitask with confidence and authority.

  • Apply new learnings - Head chefs or customer reviews may often teach you something new. Applying their recommendations and improving your efficiency as a cook or supervisor is a great way to make your superiors ascertain your skills.

  • Be proactive - Sous chefs typically lead the kitchen staff and their proactive behaviour encourages the team to perform better. The best way to show your leadership skills is by delegating work based on your crew's skills.

How To Highlight These Skills?

Here are some ways to highlight your skills during a job application process:

For resumes

Dedicate a section in your resume to highlighting your core skills as a sous chef. Under the work experience section, add bullet points and correlate your skills with your contributions to companies you have previously worked with. Modify your resume to prioritise the skills demanded by the job description. The higher you position the skills, the better your chances of getting the employer's attention.

For cover letters

Focus your cover letter on vital skills according to the job description. Write about how you displayed these skills in a work setting during your internship or past job. For example, you can state how you avoided an equipment malfunction by informing the maintenance department in time.

Related: Careers In Hotel Management: Skills, Jobs And Salaries

For job interviews

Answer all questions during your job interview with keywords and phrases related to your strongest skills. For a question about your weakness as a chef, talk about how you plan to use your existing skill set to improve your job performance. Speak about how your skills contributed to a kitchen's plan to enhance their menus and staff performance.

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