How To Excel As A Sous Chef: What You Need To Know

How to excel as a sous chef

In the kitchen hierarchy, the sous chef holds the crucial role of second in command after the executive chef. Being a good sous chef is essential for ensuring smooth operations in the kitchen brigade.

When the chef is away, the sous chef often takes charge of the kitchen, making it a position of significant authority and responsibility. It also serves as a stepping stone for those aiming to become an executive chef, offering valuable on-the-job training.

Mastering the diverse skills and responsibilities necessary for the role takes years of learning and practice. It also requires a unique mindset and temperament suited to managing a professional kitchen.

Here are some of the qualities required of an outstanding sous chef:


How To Excel As a Sous Chef: what you need to know

Mastering advanced food preparation skills is a must for any position in the kitchen. As a successful sous chef, however, you must be adept at every station and culinary techniques required on the line. This versatility enables you to step in whenever needed to solve problems or fill gaps.

Getting a certification can provide a solid foundation for your culinary career and elevate you from “cook” to “chef,” though it’s not always mandatory.

Starting your career with a strong understanding of restaurant cooking prepares you to navigate line stations successfully. Gaining hands-on experience and proficiency in various techniques can lead to greater responsibilities and pave the way to management roles.

Even if you were the sharpest crayon in your classroom, don’t expect to stroll out of your institution and right into a leadership role. Chefs and restaurant owners value a proven track-record of kitchen skills, management abilities, and personal reliability over quick promotions, typically promoting from within.

While there is no shortcut to becoming a sous chef, education can smooth your career path.

Consider our Certificate IV in Kitchen Management to accelerate your journey toward becoming a sous chef.

More than just cooking

Being a standout sous chef isn’t just about spinning out fancy dishes. This role requires understanding staffing and scheduling, ordering, and inventory management.

Sous chefs are also responsible for upholding cleanliness standards throughout the kitchen and stepping in on the line during emergencies like staff shortages or unexpected absences.

Managing these tasks demands strong organisational skills and the ability to stay aware of all aspects of service, regardless of whatever fires burn (literal or figurative) at any given moment, to ensure the kitchen runs smoothly.

Additional responsibilities may include:

  • Training new staff
  • Controlling food costs
  • Testing new menu items
  • Addressing disciplinary issues
  • Maintaining equipment
  • Overseeing offsite and special events (such as banquets or catering)

Simply put, the sous chef’s role is to ensure seamless flow and quality – from order receipt to orders delivery – no matter the circumstances. This ‘failure is not an option’ mentality is one that all great chefs and sous chefs share.


As a sous chef, you often set the tone in the kitchen, regardless of challenges that arise. Maintaining composure and confidence is crucial, serving as an example for the team.

In contrast to what reality TV shows might portray, outburst of anger or mistreatment of equipment or staff are counterproductive in a professional kitchen. Effective communication and fostering a positive work environment are essential skills for a sous chef.


When asked, most executive chefs prioritise trust above all else in a sous chef. They rely on their second-in-command to uphold the standards they’ve established, ensuring consistency and quality in their absence.

A capable, loyal, and dependable sous chef is highly valued and considered a significant asset to any kitchen team.

Accelerate your path to sous chef

SIT40521 Certificate IV in Kitchen Management (CRICOS Course Code: 111871G)

Ideal for aspiring chefs and cooks, this course prepares you for a leadership role in the kitchen. Develop the skills to lead teams effectively, make independent decisions, and tackle complex culinary challenges.

Discover more about our Certificate IV in Kitchen Management

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