Sous chefs are the “second-in-command” to head chefs in restaurants, pubs, cafes, and hotel kitchens – like an assistant manager within a kitchen team.
As well as preparing and cooking food to high standards, they assist with menu creation, staff management and supplier negotiation tasks.
This in-depth guide includes a sous chef job description and covers all the key facts and information about a sous chef job including average salaries, typical requirements, career prospects and more.
- Sous chef job description
- How much do sous chefs earn?
- What does a sous chef do?
- Requirements, skills and qualifications
- Who employs sous chefs?
- Which junior jobs progress to sous chef roles?
Sous chef job description
Sous chef | The Old Oak Pub
About The Old Oak Pub
We are a privately owned, busy pub & restaurant situated based in Norwich, with a reputation for high quality, fresh, locally produced food and drink.
About the role
We are looking for a Sous Chef to support our Head Chef with the day to day management of the kitchen operation to ensure that the highest possible levels of service and quality are maintained at all times.
- Supervise the preparation of all dishes; ensuring quality is consistent to a high standard
- Assist in the development of new menus with revenue and profit potential in mind
- Closely monitor the health and safety of the kitchen environment and ensure we are fully compliant
- Set budgets and ensure that profit margin and labour and supplier costs are in line with budgets
- Manage and train kitchen staff and prepare rotas according to demand
- Monitor stock and place supplier orders as necessary
Location & commitments
- Full-time role – 48 hours per week and must be willing to provide some out of hours cover
- Shift work including a mix of early morning, late night and weekend hours
- Based in Norwich city-centre
- 2+ years experience in a busy kitchen environment, preferably as a chef-de-partie or junior sous chef
- A clear passion for food, with a desire to progress within the industry
- Experience of creating profitable, creative and unique menu items
- Level 2 food hygiene certificate and willing to study for Level 3
- Great communicator with strong written and verbal English skills
- Exceptional organisation skills, with the ability to juggle a demanding workload
- Level 3 culinary qualification or culinary arts degree
- Previous experience of dealing and negotiating with suppliers
Contact us to apply
Apply today by sending a full CV and cover letter to our head chef, Joseph Jones, on firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to let us know why your skills and experience would make you a good fit for our team!
How much do sous chefs earn?
The average salary for a sous chef in the UK is currently £27,000. This is less than the national average, but salaries are likely to increase with experience and promotion.
Sous chef salaries in the UK
- Low: £25,000
- Average: £27,000
- High: £32,500
Sous chef salaries will vary hugely depending on:
- The type of employer – High-end restaurants, hotels and chains are likely to pay significantly more than small, independent pubs and cafes
- The level of kitchen experience – An executive, highly-experienced sous chef can expect a salary much higher rate than a junior sous chef
- The location of the role – Sous chef jobs in London and city-centres generally pay more than those in local, rural areas
For example, a sous chef working for a 5* hotel in central London is likely to earn a higher wage than a sous chef with the same experience working in a rural, independent pub.
The figures listed above have been taken from a range of job advert samples and do not include extra benefits such as bonuses and overtime and non-financial benefits, such as live-in accommodation and free meals.
What does a sous chef do?
A typical sous chef job description includes the following duties, tasks and responsibilities:
- Designing menus – Creating and changing food and drink menus alongside the head chef
- Setting budgets – Pricing up new menu items and setting ingredient budgets to ensure profitability
- Managing kitchen staff – Setting rotas, delegating tasks and supervising junior staff members – liaising with service staff such as waiters
- Monitoring food quality – Overseeing the cooking and preparation of meals by checking cooking techniques, quality and presentation
- Monitoring kitchen hygiene – Ensuring high standards of hygiene, cleanliness and food storage in the kitchen in line with government-set food hygiene standards
- Recruiting kitchen staff – Assisting with the interviewing and onboarding of new kitchen staff and junior chefs
- Training kitchen staff – Training kitchen staff to work to strict hygiene and safety standards and teaching cooking techniques and best practices to junior chefs
- Managing suppliers – Negotiating with suppliers (a person or organisation that provides ingredients for the kitchen) to gain better deals
- Managing stock – Ensuring that the kitchen is fully stocked and ordering more supplies as necessary
- Supporting the head chef – Reporting to and supporting the head chef
- Filling in for the head chef – Carrying out the head chef’s duties when they are absent from work
What do sous chefs need?
While qualifications can play their part in helping aspiring chefs to work their way up the culinary ladder, most employers place far more value on practical skills and on-the-job kitchen experience.
Specific sous chef entry requirements will vary from role to role depending on the setting and the level of seniority of the job. However, here’s what’s typically needed:
Sous chefs often land their role after working their way up in the kitchen hierarchy, starting as either a kitchen porter or commis chef, before moving on to become a chef-de-partie.
After around 2–5 years+ of experience in a busy kitchen, promotion into a sous chef role or junior sous chef role can be achieved.
Timescales do vary, though — for example, high-end and fine-dining establishments may ask for significantly more experience than a small local pub.
Sous chef skills
In order to gain a position and succeed within the role, sous chefs typically require the following key skills and knowledge:
- Technical cooking skills: Understanding advanced cooking techniques and ingredients, as well as effective storing and serving of food
- Food hygiene: Thorough knowledge of food hygiene and health and safety in a culinary environment
- Restaurant business fundamentals – Understanding the financial and sales side of running a kitchen
- Leadership: Leading, training and motivating a junior team to success
- Organisation: Working on a variety of tasks at once and ensuring that the kitchen and its staff run efficiently at all times
- Menu and dish creation: Exploring and creating new, profitable dish and menu ideas
- Attention to detail: Making sure that ingredients and measurements are exact and that food is presented well
- Ability to work under pressure: Approaching stressful and high-pressure work environments in a calm and dignified manner
Sous chef qualifications
Qualifications are not essential to work as a sous chef. It’s not uncommon for chefs to have worked their way up the ladder through experience alone, rather than formal study.
However, gaining a recognised qualification and undertaking vocational training can certainly make it easier to progress within the field. Additionally, some employers — especially those in high-end restaurants and hotels — may list certain qualifications as an essential requirement.
The following qualifications and certifications are recognised across the culinary sector:
Degrees are not essential to become a chef, but completing a relevant course can be a great way for new-starters to gain the required skills and knowledge to enter the culinary industry.
As most culinary degree courses include a placement year working within a professional kitchen environment, graduates often progress faster than non-graduates. Additionally, some employers prefer to employ graduates due to the advanced cooking techniques and methods they learn on their course. So, for chefs aspiring to work in high-end restaurants, university is often a good bet.
Relevant subjects include culinary arts, food and professional cookery and culinary management.
Diploma in Professional Cookery (NVQ)
The Diploma in Professional Cookery is a recognised qualification across the industry. It covers all the basic technical cooking skills required to gain a role as a chef, as well as essential theory. The course is available at 3 levels:
- Level 1 – Introduction to Professional Cookery: Suitable for those who are new to the industry
- Level 2 – Diploma in Professional Cookery: Suitable for those who have some basic chef skills and experience
- Level 3 – Diploma in Advanced Professional Cookery: Suitable for those who’ve worked as a chef for some time but want to move into a senior role
Some employers will ask for at least a level two qualification, but a level three qualification can help chefs to progress up the ladder more rapidly.
Level 3 food hygiene certificate
By law, anyone who handles food in a professional setting must either be supervised or have received food hygiene training. Food hygiene certificates are available at three levels, but Level 3 is the most appropriate for sous chefs or aspiring sous chefs.
The Level 3 Food Hygiene Training Course is designed for managers and supervisory staff within the catering industry and teaches students to handle food in a safe and hygienic manner. These qualifications are often sponsored by employers, but they can also be taken independently.
What is expected of sous chefs?
While roles will vary, sous chefs are typically required to commit to the following:
- Full time hours or more – Sous chefs generally work full-time — often 40 hours or more per week — with part-time roles being rare
- Unsociable hours – Working in the early mornings, evenings, at weekends and on bank holidays is more common than not
- Demanding work – Working as a sous chef can be challenging, with long hours, shifts largely on foot, a humid environment and a fast-paced workload
- Uniform – Traditionally, the uniform is chef whites, but this can vary between employers — however wearing a hat and an apron is essential
- Location – Typically based at a single restaurant, cafe, pub or hotel restaurant
Sous chef benefits
Sous chefs normally receive a good benefits package from their employer, which may include things like:
- Live-in accommodation – For sous chefs who work in hotels or for a private household, free accomodation is sometimes available
- Free meals & drinks
- Pension scheme
- Travel opportunities – Larger, high-end establishments may offer their chefs the opportunity to travel and learn about different cuisines for the benefit of the business
- Company discounts – For friends and family
Who employs sous chefs?
Due to the growing number of restaurants, cafes and hotels all over the world, chefs are constantly in high demand. In the UK, there’s been a known chef shortage for many years, meaning the chef job market is thriving.
It’s possible to find a sous chef role almost anywhere in the UK. However, as with most professions, employment opportunities are generally greater in the cities.
Sous chefs are required in any establishment that has a professional kitchen. Some of the most common include:
- Privately-owned restaurants
- Chain restaurants
- Pubs and gastropubs
- Hotel kitchens
- Private households
- Cruise ships
- Armed forces
- Contract catering companies
- Events companies
- School diners
Which junior jobs progress to sous chef roles?
Apprenticeship and graduate training schemes are common within the culinary industry. As these opportunities combine practical experience with formal training and a salary, they can be a great route into the profession.
However, it’s also common to work up the culinary ladder from the bottom and, eventually, progress into a sous chef role. This path might include the roles of:
A kitchen porter ensures the kitchen remains clean by washing up, cleaning and sanitising kitchen areas. They may also assist with basic food preparation, such as chopping and washing ingredients. This is an entry-level role with no prior experience needed and can help new-starters to gain valuable practical skills and learn some of the tricks of the trade.
A commis chef, sometimes referred to as a ‘junior chef’, works under the close supervision of a chef de partie to learn cooking techniques on-the-job. They typically rotate between cooking stations (such as fish or vegetables) every few months. While this is an entry-level role, many commis chefs undertake the job alongside part-time culinary study.
Chef de partie
There are normally several chefs de partie in a professional kitchen, each taking responsibility for a different cooking station. They report to the sous chef, and cook and present a range of dishes within their speciality section. The next logical step up for a chef-de-partie is a sous chef role.
Which senior jobs do sous chefs progress to?
With chefs in high demand, opportunities for career progression are plentiful. Some common career moves include:
Executive/senior sous chef
With a few years of experience as a sous chef, progression into an executive/senior sous chef role is achievable. This position is common in larger and more high-end establishments, but is not always present in smaller teams. The senior sous chef is second-in-command to the head chef and ensures that quality is maintained throughout service.
Gaining a role as a head chef takes significant time and commitment, but it is still highly achievable for those committed to the industry. While the role can be stressful, salaries are generous, and many chefs appreciate the creative freedom that comes with taking the lead. Ultimately, head chefs have the final say on every dish that leaves their kitchen and overall responsibility for the service.
Due to the extensive hospitality, culinary and business experience gained in a sous chef role, it’s also common to change direction into roles such as:
- Restaurant manager
- Development chef
- Food writer
- Catering manager
- Restaurant owner
- Nutritionist (requires further study)
Sous chef job description – conclusion
For anyone with a passion for cooking and a strong work ethic, a job as a sous chef could be a great career option.
While the job largely offers under the national average salary, progression into higher-paying senior chef and head chef roles is common.
The job can be stressful yet highly rewarding and offers employment opportunities available across the UK.