What makes a good? Chef de partie
Rather than “what makes a good chef de partie?” there is probably a case for changing the first part of this blog title to “where are the good”. It’s a subject that comes up with concerning regularity when talking to chefs and clients as there is a very real shortage of candidates at this level and ultimately it’s a vital role in any kitchen. The reasons for this particular shortage are numerous and everyone has their own take on it so we won’t delve in too deep with this blog but will address it as a standalone topic in the not too distant future. So back to the task at hand…..
A chef de partie traditionally looks after a section in the kitchen, usually larder, sauce, fish etc, and it’s their responsibility to make sure that their station not only keeps in sync with the rest of the kitchen during service, but also to ensure that the section’s mise en place is prepped correctly and well stocked. They may also have responsibility for a commis chef or demi CDP underneath them as well, so they will take responsibility for training them on that section and act as a go to for any advice throughout the day.
So what we’re looking at here is the first real position of responsibility within the kitchen hierarchy, albeit without the quagmire of financial and managerial tasks that the head and the sous have to deal with on a daily basis. And it’s a role that is integral to the smooth production of food while under fire in a busy service.
What makes a good chef de partie?
For a start they need to have trained well in the early days. A good chef de partie will have more than just an understanding of the basics of cookery; ideally they will have already got at least two years under their belt as a commis, and if they attended college prior to that then we’re talking at least four years of wielding a knife with professional intent.
They also need ambition. Ambition is a great force for driving standards, because if you have two or more CDPs in a brigade the chances are that they’re all out for glory and promotion, each one wanting their section to outshine the others. Good will come of this.
The third requirement is a good understanding of what they don’t know. A CDP that already feels that they’ve learnt everything there is to know is an anchor around any progressive kitchen. They may feel like they’ve been there and done it already, but they haven’t. Just let them spend one day in the head chef’s clogs and see how they feel about their abilities after that. They will learn as they progress that cooking is only a part of it, they have yet to enter the realms of GP and labour percentages.
So if you can find a candidate that ticks these boxes then you’re well on your way to adding a real asset to your team, and if you’re struggling to find someone of this calibre we certainly know an agency that can be of assistance!
But before we sign off on this though, I think it’s worth noting that there is another very important trait that is essential in a good chef de partie and, in fact, it’s possibly THE most important characteristic in all good chefs no matter which rung of the ladder they’re stood on, and that’s a genuine and sincere love of food and life in the kitchen. It sounds almost ridiculous to point that out but there are numerous people working in the hospitality industry who have either lost their love for food, or never had it in the first place. Avoid these people at all costs. Even in the best of times a professional kitchen is a hard, demanding place to be and while financial motivators certainly help, it’s the love of the life that will get you through the difficult times.