What a Chef Does……..

Jan 3, 2024

Job seekers often contact us looking for new career opportunities and they ask what does a Chef do? and what’s involved in a working day as a chef?

So, we thought we would tell you a little more and explain further about the different roles within the kitchen and tell you about the daily duties of a Chef and look at the requirements to work in a kitchen.

In doing so, hopefully we will reveal how challenging yet rewarding a Chef position can be.

Chef roles vary depending on the establishment, in a classic hotel/restaurant kitchen the ranks usually start with the Commis Chef, which is the first level after finishing Culinary School, once experience has been gained you progress to Chef de Partie where you are generally responsible for a station within the kitchen specialising and preparing certain dishes.

There can be variations on the name of a Chef de Partie such as Tournant or Saucier. The next rank on the kitchen ladder is the Sous Chef who is responsible for the smooth running of the kitchen and can function as an intermediary between the junior chefs and the Head Chef.

The Head Chef oversees the overall management of the kitchen which involves all aspects of training, food safety, menu planning, dish costing and recipe creation.

Larger establishments may have an Executive Chef when there are several Head Chefs for various restaurants within the business. Often the Executive Chef will be present for Marketing and Public relations events.

In Contract Catering, and educational establishments the roles can differ, and it can be a brigade of chefs and then a Catering Manager that oversees the entire running of the kitchen.

Nursing and Residential homes often refer to their Chefs as Cooks. Each kitchen usually has a Pot washer or Kitchen Porter.

Larger hotels/restaurants will have a brigade of Kitchen Porters to wash the dishes and keep cleanliness in the kitchen.

Contract Catering/School type kitchens tend to give the title of Kitchen or Catering Assistant and this role typically involves dishing food to the customers, operating a till, washing dishes and cleaning and may also involve helping the chefs with food preparation.

No kitchen is the same so each one will vary with the amount of Chefs / Pot Washers and Porters and the job descriptions and daily duties will also vary.

Firstly, each person who works in a kitchen must have Food Hygiene training, this is by law and various levels of training can be completed, naturally the more senior roles command a higher level of Hygiene training, so Food Safety is always implemented. Having a Safe, hygienic working environment is essential to every catering business and if this is not adhered to then a business can be closed by environmental health.

Hygiene scores are advertised by businesses and can be looked up online, so the higher the score the more favourable it is to the customer… where would you choose to eat, somewhere that ranks 1 out of 5 or somewhere that has achieved 5 out of 5!

Food Allergy Training is also imperative for all employees in a kitchen, according to the Food Standards Agency ‘In the UK, there are approximately:

  • 1-2% of adults and 5-8% of children who live with a food allergy.
  • 1 in 100 people have coeliac disease’ allergytraining.food.gov.uk

This illustrates why allergy awareness in every catering business is essential.

A day in many kitchens starts with breakfast, this includes Hotels, Nursing Homes, Contract Caterers, University Halls of Residence, Golf clubs etc this can be served buffet or plated style.… After breakfast, the Chefs will prep the food ready for the next day’s breakfast service, and then start preparations for lunch or functions.

After this, the Chefs will start on dinner service and prepare for the following day lunch. By preparation this can involve chopping raw ingredients, cooking menu items that need to be done in advance, it can be preparing dishes so they are ready to pop in the oven and cook, and it can involve defrosting certain food stocks, so they are at temperature for when needed.

Following the service of evening meals or dinner service then it’s time to fully clean down the kitchen, ensure all food is stored in the correct place, all pots and pans are washed and put away, everything is restocked, and everything is where it needs to be ready for the following day, floors are swept and mopped.

This is just a basic overview however throughout the day food stock is checked, counted, and ordered if needed. Food hygiene checks will be constant throughout the day checking food temperatures and recording the safety measures taken. Labelling and preserving food will take place ensuring systems are in place to avoid food waste.

Menus’ will be planned, recipes and latest ideas will be innovated, team meetings will take place to discuss the events of the day/week ahead or to decide how certain functions will be managed. Alongside this actual cooking of the food and service happens.

Being a chef can be incredibly challenging both mentally and physically. You are on your feet all day, for extended periods of time. You constantly must be on your guard as to what is happening around you.

You need to be thinking about what to put on when, and what needs to come out of the oven next, and communicate with your team so all food is served to its best.

The success of a busy service or satisfying a dining room full of hungry people gives you such a buzz and feeling of reward. Sometimes it can be the simpler things like making someone’s day special by making them a birthday cake or cooking them a mouthwatering meal is enough to put a massive smile on your face.

This is why to work as a relief chef or a catering assistant you need to have previous experience as when you walk into the kitchen (there may be others there to help you) but you need the knowledge of how it all works as there is no one to train you on the job.

At Full Circle we are experienced Caterers so we understand what’s needed of a Chef and can identify what type of businesses you will be able to work in due to your experiences.

We also have the knowledge to ask the clients the right questions when it comes to finding out the situation on why they need cover.

One of the benefits of working as a relief chef or Catering Assistant is that you get to work in lots of kitchens with different teams and constantly feel the buzz of achievement and thanks from the client. It’s a unique and fabulous industry and we should be encouraging the next generation to pursue a career in Catering, the positives should be the focus as it truly is a worthy, skilled job and not only that, your Friends and Family will love you forever if you can cook them nice food!