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Chefs and Head Cooks

Chefs and head cooks oversee the daily food preparation at restaurants or other places where food is served. They direct kitchen staff and handle any food-related concerns. Show Details

Duties

Chefs and head cooks typically do the following:

  • Check freshness of food and ingredients
  • Supervise and coordinate activities of cooks and other food preparation workers
  • Develop recipes and determine how to present the food
  • Plan menus and ensure uniform serving sizes and quality of meals
  • Inspect supplies, equipment, and work areas for cleanliness and functionality
  • Hire, train, and supervise cooks and other food preparation workers
  • Order and maintain inventory of food and supplies needed to ensure efficient operations
  • Monitor sanitation practices and ensure that kitchen safety standards are followed 

Chefs use a variety of kitchen and cooking equipment, including step-in coolers, high-quality knives, meat slicers, and grinders. They also have access to large quantities of meats, spices, and produce. Some chefs use scheduling and purchasing software to help them in their administrative duties.

Chefs might also be a restaurant’s owner. Some may be busy with kitchen and office work and not have time to interact with diners.

The following are types of chefs and head cooks:

Executive chefs, head cooks, and chefs de cuisine are primarily responsible for overseeing the operation of a kitchen. They coordinate the work of sous chefs and other cooks, who prepare most of the meals. Executive chefs also have many duties beyond the kitchen. They design the menu, review food and beverage purchases, and often train employees. Some executive chefs are primarily occupied by administrative tasks and spend little time in the kitchen.

Sous chefs are a kitchen’s second-in-command. They supervise the restaurant’s cooks, do some meal preparation tasks, and report results to the head chefs. In the absence of the head chef, sous chefs run the kitchen.

Personal chefs plan and prepare meals in private homes. They also may order groceries and supplies, serve meals, and wash dishes and utensils. Personal chefs are often self-employed or employed by a private cooking company, preparing food for a variety of customers.  

Private household chefs typically work full time for one client, such as a corporate executive, university president, or diplomat, who regularly entertains as part of his or her official duties.

Food Service Managers

Food service managers are responsible for the daily operations of restaurants and other establishments that prepare and serve food and beverages to customers. Managers ensure that customers are satisfied with their dining experience.  Show Details

Duties

Food service managers typically do the following:

  • Interview, hire, train, oversee, and sometimes fire employees
  • Oversee the inventory and ordering of food and beverage, equipment, and supplies
  • Monitor food preparation methods, portion sizes, and the overall presentation of food
  • Comply with health and food safety standards and regulations
  • Monitor the actions of employees and patrons to ensure everyone's personal safety
  • Investigate and resolve complaints regarding food quality or service
  • Schedule staff hours and assign duties
  • Keep budgets and payroll records and review financial transactions
  • Establish standards for personnel performance and customer service

Besides coordinating activities among the kitchen and dining room staff, managers must ensure that customers are served properly and in a timely manner. They monitor orders in the kitchen and, if needed, they work with the chef to remedy any delays in service.

Food service managers are generally responsible for all functions of the business related to people. For example, most managers interview, hire, train, and, when necessary, fire employees. Finding and keeping good employees is a challenge for food service managers. Managers schedule work hours, making sure that enough workers are present to cover each shift—or managers may have to fill in themselves.

Food service managers plan and arrange for clean tablecloths and napkins, for heavy cleaning when the dining room and kitchen are not in use, for trash removal, and for pest control when needed.

In addition, managers do many administrative tasks, such as keeping employee records, preparing the payroll, and completing paperwork to comply with licensing, tax and wage, unemployment compensation, and Social Security laws. While they may give some of these tasks to an assistant manager or bookkeeper, most general managers are responsible for the accuracy of business records. Managers also keep records of supply and equipment purchases and ensure that suppliers are paid.

Many full-service restaurants have a management team that includes a general manager, one or more assistant managers, and an executive chef. Managers add up the cash and charge slips and secure them in a safe place. Many managers also lock up the establishment; check that ovens, grills, and lights are off; and switch on the alarm system.

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