What Are a Head Chef's Duties?
The main role of a head chef depends on the size of the establishment that he or she is managing. The term "head chef" is often used interchangeably with the term "executive chef" and in many cases it doesn't matter but in other kitchens they are different.
In a larger establishment, think of the executive chef as a managerial position and the head chef as more operational. The responsibilities of the head chef here is to make sure the executive chef's concept and vision is carried out as designed. Next in line is the sous chef who helps the head chef with their responsibilities and supervise the rest of the staff.
In smaller kitchens, the head chef, with the help of a sous chef, are responsible for overseeing the entire operation of the dining establishment including hiring, menu development, supplies, training and execution. The head chef may or may not be on the line cooking or expediting. Again, it depends on the size of the kitchen.
No matter what size kitchen you are working in, as head cook you need an incredible number of skills in addition to being a good cook. This is a highly skilled person no matter what the size of the operation they are working at.
Here's my list of duties a head chef may be expected to deal with on a daily basis. I'm sure there are many more so please offer you ideas in the comments section below.
Did you know the term "chef" comes from the term "chef de cuisine" or head of the kitchen.
Head Chef Responsibilities
Menu Development - to ensure the menus are accurate, updated and profitable. If there is a wine sommelier, they will work together to develop a food and wine strategy.
Staffing the Kitchen - not only does the head chef have to hire a staff, it is important to be able to teach them the skills needed to create the dishes on the menu. Presentation, portion control, and timing need to be perfect for a successful operation.
Estimating Food Costs - food prices change constantly especially when it comes to seasonal products like produce. The head chef must have a strong knowledge of these costs when planning out a menu to make sure the numbers fit their budget.
Ordering Ingredients - some foods like fish, meats, specialty items may be ordered every day. Other ingredients may be ordered less frequently.
It's critical the head chef has a strong understanding of what needs to be ordered every day and how much they need to order. A lot of this depends on experience.
How many chicken dishes do they expect to sell that night? How many beef entrees? What about seafood? Order too much and you will have waste. Order too little and you may upset your customers.
Food Quality & Consistency
Sanitary and Safety Guidelines.
Deal With Customers
Deal With Management
Deal With Wait Staff
Read, Read and Read Some MoreOne of the best suggestions I have for anyone thinking of going to culinary school or just getting into the restaurant industry is to read everything you can get your hands on. Learn from professional chefs who have worked in the industry and those who have taught in culinary schools.
There are many great books available to get you started in your culinary education and I suggest you read as much as possible before making that big decision to make sure this is the right move for you. Below is just a sample of books you might be interested in checking out.
For a much more comprehensive list of books for aspiring culinary, baking and restaurant management students, I suggest checking out my post on books for future culinary students and chefs.