How to Become a Sous Chef in 5 Steps

Sous chefs work directly under head chefs to help run a kitchen, and they're usually found at higher end restaurants. Continue reading for five steps to entering this career, which include completing a culinary arts or sous chef training program. Schools offering Baking & Pastry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Sous Chef Do?

The sous (meaning 'under' in French) chef assists the head chef. As the assistant, you'll be in charge of the kitchen and staff in the head chef's absence. You'll cook, season and prepare a variety of dishes, and will be responsible for the overall presentation of the food. Managing other kitchen workers, delegating tasks, keeping the kitchen stocked and estimating the amount of food required each day are some of your duties.

Step 1: Finish High School

The first step to becoming a sous chef is to finish high school. While in school, consider taking electives in cooking, health, sanitation, chemistry, nutrition, biology, math and business. During this time, begin researching the career and training programs near you. You may also want to shadow a sous chef to see his or her daily activities.

Step 2: Complete a Professional Training Program

Training programs for chefs are available at community colleges, vocational schools and culinary schools. Certificate programs, which can take 1-2 years, are available for sous chefs and apprentice chefs. Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts programs generally last two years. During your training, you'll learn knife skills, menu planning, nutrition, food storage and safety procedures in addition to culinary and baking techniques.

Step 3: Complete an Apprenticeship

You may enter an apprenticeship program in addition to, or instead of, other formal training programs. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) sponsors apprenticeship programs nationwide (www.acfchefs.org). These programs combine classroom instruction with practical experience. These 2- and 3-year apprentice programs allow you to earn money while learning how to cook in an industrial kitchen.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

While certification is not required, it shows a higher level of professionalism and may be beneficial in getting a job. The ACF offers a Certified Sous Chef designation if you meet education and experience requirements and pass both a written and practical exam. You must have five years of experience as a culinarian and 50 hours of continuing education credits. You must also have taken courses in food safety and sanitation, nutrition and supervisory management.

Step 5: Consider Job Opportunities

Working as a sous chef often requires long hours during evenings and weekends, and the job can be intense during peak serving hours. Even so, competition in top restaurants can be fierce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipated no substantial change in employment opportunities from 2008-2018 (www.bls.gov). Opportunities for advancement may include moving into a chief or executive chef position, opening a restaurant or becoming a personal chef, caterer or instructor.

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