It has been awhile since i’ve written an article, and that has been for a couple of reasons. Over the past few months, multiple events had taken my focus away from this blog. Some personal and some professional. Now that everything has started to settle I can get back to business. I just want to thank everyone that has stuck with me during my hiatus, I appreciate all of you!
I am very happy to say though that my professional events have been advancements in my career. About three months ago I moved from a Master Cook (in charge of firing the food for the parties), to now being the Saucier that produces all of the sauces.
Its another step in my culinary journey that I am extremely excited about. Besides being one step closer to becoming a chef, mastering the art of sauces is what every great chef needs to know. Whether its sauces, soups, marinades, vinaigrettes, they can either be the base to a dish or something to help amplify it.
Have you ever heard of a term to describe a cook or a chef and have no idea what it meant? Today i am going to provide a breakdown of what all of the common positions in a professional kitchen are. To start a kitchen staffs hierarchy is known as a Brigade System.
This system was created by Auguste Escoffier (the french chef, restauranteur and writer who popularized and updated traditional French cooking methods. He created this system to streamline and simplify the work of hotel kitchens. It was based on the division of labor, to put those with a particular skill in a certain position for maximum output and reduction in work being done twice. Under his system each position has a station with outlined responsibilities. In some kitchens they have each of the positions listed below, and in others they merge the positions to save on labor and maximize space.
So this weeks article is going to be more on the educational side. I hope you enjoy this clarification of where your food comes from when eat out at a restaurant. Working in a kitchen is one of the toughest jobs a person can take on. It, unlike the front of the house, if a very thankless job for the long hours, low pay and strenuous conditions. To all of my cooks out there, stay strong and always stay hungry for knowledge!
Executive Chef (Chef de cuisine, Head Chef)
The leader of the kitchen. They are in full command of the kitchen brigade, they bring them all together to achieve the common goal of a successful service and a profitable restaurant. They along with their sous chefs create the menus, but in the end they have the final decision. The Head chef is also in charge of budgets, food cost, labor cost, staffing. Some of the ordering and staff scheduling is handed off to the sous chefs.
- Executive Sous Chef/Sous Chefs: in some establishments this role is only a “sous chef”, but in the places i have worked they both Executive Sous Chefs and Sous Chefs. These are sometimes these individuals work directly under the Executive Chef. They are the ones in charge if the Executive is not there. In banquets one of them is in charge of scheduling of the employees and the other is in charge of the food ordering.
- Chef Tournant (Roundsman): A chef that will cover for any station that is short, they can fill the roll of each of the Chef de Parties. The term also applies for a cook that can be relief for anyone at any time. This chef tends to work consistently on the line with the other cooks, as the Sous Chefs and Executive work the pass or expediter (the pass is where the cooks place the plates for the expediter to build the trays for each server to take to their table).
Chef de Partie (Station Chef or Master Cook)
- Saucier (Sauté or Sauce Chef):
- Saute Chef: the cook that is in charge of all of the items that are sautéed (to quickly fry in hot fat, usually in a saute/frying pan).
- Sauce Chef: this position is usually combined with saute chef and from there the other cooks would be in charge of their own sauces. In my current position, I am the one that is in charge of producing all of the sauces for all of the banquet events. This position, whether or not combined with saute or pissonier, is considered the most demanding, responsible, and glamorous on the line.
- Poissonier (Fish Chef): this cook is responsible for, you guessed it, anything fish and usually their sauces if there isn’t a separate saucier. In some occasions, this position can also be combined with saucier.
- Rôtisseur (Roast Chef): this cook is in charge of all items that are roasted and whatever jus (natural sauces that come from the roasted item). Usually this positions involves cooking in the oven or the broiler (salamander).
- Grillardin (Grill Chef): this cooked is in charge of all grilled items, sometimes their position could be combined with Rôtisseur Chef. When I worked at the steakhouse there were two Grillardins, one for steak and one for fish. I worked a good amount of time on the fish grill. Besides grilling or poaching seafood, I was also in charge of setting up and temping all of the steaks for the meat grill cook.
- Friturier (Fry Chef): so i feel like you could guess what this position doe….they make fruit plates. Just kidding, this position is in charge of everything fried. Another position that could be combined with Rôtisseur. If you’ve noticed so far, a lot of these positions could be combined in smaller establishments or even separated further. At the steakhouse we had three positions that involved frying, one that was dedicated purely to it. The first one was for the was the cook in charge of the amuse fries (instead of giving a table bread, we would give them a free trio of different flavored fries). We also had fried items in hot appetizers and sides.
- Entremetier (Vegetable Chef): this cook has an array of responsibilities. They are in charge of hot appetizers, soups, egg dishes, vegetables, pastas and other starches.
- In a full traditional brigade system this position is further split:
- Potager: in charge of soups
- Leumier: in charge of vegetables
- In a full traditional brigade system this position is further split:
- Garde Manger (Cold-Foods Chef, Pantry Chef): responisble of the preparation of cold foods including salads, cold appetizers, pâtés, etc.
- Boucher (Butcher): this cook is in charge of butchering all of the meats and poultry and occasionally fish. Either the Poissonier or a Chef would handle the fish because it tends to be more delicate and easier to have higher waste if done wrong.
- Pâtissier (Pastry Chef): they are responsible for all baked items, pastries, and desserts. The pastry chef is on the same level as a sous chef and is in charge of a separate area of the kitchen. In larger operations, such as banquets, would have its own separate kitchen. From there these chefs are in charge of overseeing cooks that specialize in different areas of pastry, those include:
- Confiseur: prepares candies and petits fours (small bite sized confectionery or savory appetizers).
- Glacier: prepares all frozen and cold desserts, such as ice cream and sorbets.
- Decorateur: prepares showpieces and special cakes (usually in a larger operations such as banquets).
- Boulanger: prepares unsweetened doughs, for breads and rolls.
Aboyeur (Expediter or Announcer):
This position would usually be held by one of the Chefs. They accept orders from the dining room and relays them to the appropriate stations. When calling out the orders they would call them by course so each cook knows the amount of time that they have to prepare their items. Most establishments have ticketing machines that with the computer program help to course the meal out for the cooks. The expediter would then call out the tickets in order making sure the tables get out on time that they came in. They would also relay any special requests, as well as inspecting the food before it goes out, ensuring the quality meets the restaurants standards. They are the last line of defense before the dish goes to the guest.
Commis (Line Cook or Apprentice)
These are the cooks that are the main cogs in the machine of the kitchen. The majority of the kitchen staff would consist of these cooks. Each station is basically like a mini team, they consist of a captain (the master cook) and the rest of the teammates (the line cooks). Some of these cooks can be roundsmen and work multiple different stations if needed, but most specialize in a specific type of food preparation.
For some establishments there would be a separate team of cooks that primary responsibility would be to prep the food for the kitchen staff. They would be the ones that trim and blanch vegetables, reduce stocks, shred cheese, make dressing, etc. When i was at the steak house we had a team of cooks that would work in the morning before the restaurant would open and prep the bulk stuff that we needed for service. We would then prep all of the detailed stuff for our stations. These individuals are the base of any restaurant, they start off any kitchen staff on the right foot.
This was a lot of information to digest, i know, but i hope you have a little better understaning of how our kitchen systems work. In my short career I’ve enjoyed getting to work as a Commis for Sauté, Grillardin, Friturier, Entremetier, Garde Manger, Pâtissier, Prep cook, and Aboyeur. My time at the steakhouse gave me the opportunity to become a roundsman, picking up new skills from each station. That experience would then bring me to becoming a Master Cook in banquets to now a Saucier. I am very excited for this next part of my journey and being able to share what I learn with all of you.
Over the next few weeks I will share with you some of the basics of sauces such as: the mother sauces, how to fix or thicken them, as well as a few recipes and tricks. So as always, I hope you remember to always stay hungry for new food, experiences, knowledge and adventures. Until next time!