What makes a good? Sous chef
What makes a good sous chef is simple. All they have to do is show complete and utter loyalty, do the head chef’s job when he’s not around, understand the chef’s style of cooking and how they like things done, support the head’s every decision be it right or wrong, help keep an eye on GP, act as the first go to for the majority of junior chefs and have complete understanding of every section of the kitchen.
So this is why a lot of sous chefs are either promoted from within or are people already known to the head chef.
With the internally promoted they already understand the majority of these things and have hopefully managed a good working relationship with the head. They know the sections, they know the food, they know the business and they know the chef. Ok so they will be staring down the barrel of some serious responsibility for the first time but with support this can be managed. However, be prepared to take casualties. If you’ve got two or more guys in your brigade fighting for the gig then the losers may not be overly happy after the decision’s made. This could lead to the departure of the disgruntled.
Secondly you have the friend of the chef. Here the situation is reversed as the head chef will already know the characteristics of the potential sous and their capabilities but the new guy will have a lot to learn. Walking into any new kitchen there is always a steep learning curve no matter how experienced you are. Every kitchen setup is different with it’s own subtle nuances so you have to allow for some bedding in time. In comparison though, learning the mechanics of a new kitchen is arguably easier than learning the mind-set of a new employer.
Which leads us to the final option, the new recruit. Someone who has been through the interviews and the cook offs but is still a relative unknown to the business. The success or failure of the new guy will be determined fairly quickly based on a number of factors but predominantly on this: do they fit with the culture of the kitchen. Of course this can be said of any member of the brigade but with a sous there is the potential to cause much more harm given the level of responsibility. Every kitchen develops it’s own way of working and communicating so if the new guy doesn’t gel with this then they’re probably not going to be around for long. You would also hope that their ability to fulfil their duties would have been thoroughly checked out prior to offering the job, but you ‘ll never really know until they’ve been through a couple of tough services with their new comrades.
So there’s a lot to consider when looking to fill a sous chef role and the pressure to make the correct appointment is huge. Get the right person and it unifies a kitchen, get the wrong one and mutiny will soon be afoot.