What is a Kitchen Hierarchy Chart?
Restaurant kitchens are hot, loud, and often appear to be in a constant state of chaos. Inside the kitchen behind all of that chaos though, there is a head chef giving orders to number of cooks who each have a specific place in the kitchen. For a restaurant to run smoothly and efficiently it is important that every cog in the machine know their responsibilities and where they stand on the kitchen hierarchy chart.
Executive Chef / Head Chef
The executive, or head, chef is essentially the manager of the kitchen. He or she likely has years of experience in both cooking and management, and now it is their job to make sure the kitchen is running smoothly and all food leaving it is correctly prepared and looking delicious.
On the administrative side, the head chef handles hiring and firing as well as scheduling. They will check inventory levels and order supplies as well as either manage the revenue/profits themselves or oversee an admin assistant that does it.
The head chef not only handles the mechanics of the kitchen but the creative direction as well. They will often create the menu and daily specials using their team as a sounding board and as taste testers. The head chef consistently checks in on all other cooks and gives plates a last look before they leave the kitchen.
- Hiring/ firing
- Scheduling all cooks
- Ordering supplies
- Quality control
- Creative direction
- Menu creation
- Setting the specials
- Watching the numbers
The sous chef is number 2 to the head chef. They are often a jack of all trades in the kitchen and fill in wherever is needed. Aside from filling in the gaps on prep they take on whatever tasks are delegated from the head chef whether it be creative or administrative.
Sous chefs often have years of experience cooking under their belts and are working their way into management.
The sous chef’s regular tasks usually mirror the executive chef’s responsibilities as their main job is to assist the head chef.
- Assisting the head chef
- Filling in as needed with cooking or prep
- Often have creative input on the menu and specials
- Oversees the kitchen when the head chef is away
Line cooks are the work horses of the kitchen. Smaller restaurants can have as little as 2-3 line cooks, large restaurants have 8 or more. They usually have a few years of experience in cooking and are the main producers of food ready to leave the kitchen.
Line cooks are assigned to a certain station and are responsible for preparing the portion of every dish that falls under their duties- whether it be to fry, sauté, grill, etc. They must set up and clean their station each shift. In larger restaurants, every line cook has a permanent station and responsibility, while in smaller ones they might float and fill in wherever is needed.
- Handles most of the cooking
- Must coordinate with other line cooks and listen to the head and sous chef to prepare whole dishes
- Set up and clean their station each day
Prep cooks is an entry level position in commercial kitchens. They handle fetching ingredients for the other cooks and doing the non-cooking preparation - think peeling potatoes, shucking corn, and at times chopping and dicing.
Prep cooks do not have a ton of responsibility in the kitchen other than to complete their tasks quickly and efficiently, and to learn from the more experienced cooks. Although being a prep cook is entry level, it is an important stepping stone to grow in the kitchen hierarchy.
- Preparing food to be cooked
- Assisting the needs of the line cooks
- Fetching and storing ingredients in a sanitary way
Kitchen Hierarchy Chart
To every madness there is a method, and in a commercial kitchen, that method is the kitchen hierarchy chart. When everyone knows their place and their duties dishes are made quickly and well for the patrons of the restaurant to enjoy.