Mar 062013

What’s the difference between a chef de partie and a station cook? An executive chef and a head chef? You need to know this whether you are applying for a job or hiring applicants. Since there is no licensing process for kitchen staff in the United States, titles are movable targets.

Terminology and titles are dealt with fast and free in the food and beverage industry. Sometimes we receive resumes for “sous chefs” who turn out to have full charge of the kitchen, thus be Executive chefs in practice. More often we get Executive Chefs who would be very challenged in some of our sous chef positions. One man’s Executive Chef may be another’s cook. Your title in a position is what you were given, but it doesn’t hurt to know the correct titles.

 “Chef” comes from the French word for director, head or boss of a team, a department or a business. All chefs, in the culinary world, are cooks, but not all cooks are chefs. A chef has some leadership and management responsibility or at least some specialization.

Second, “Master Chef” is not a job title. It is a certification. “Star Chef” is a media creation, which means absolutely nothing. The titles only apply to chefs with European Master Chef certification or American CMC certification through the American Chefs Federation, .

The Big ones:

Chef: Anyone in charge of professional food production from a professional kitchen.

Misuse: Anyone who cooks. That is a cook. Your cousin Winston is not a Chef just because he makes great chicken. Using chef instead of cook. Chef comes from the French and means “bos”.

Misspelling: Chief.

Alternative Terms: Working chef / Head Chef.

Working Chef / Head Chef:

Definition: A chef who works “hands on” in any kitchen. Head chef correctly denotes the person in charge of production, purchasing, etc in a small kitchen with a small staff. The connotation is that this person spends most of his or her time working with the food and not in an office.

Alternative Term: Chef.

Executive Chef:

Strict Definition: Has full responsibility for a kitchen, determines menus, develops menus and recipes, responsible for purchasing and vendor decisions, food safety, menu strategies and  costing, has final say in all b.o.h hiring decisions, trains, schedules or supervisors someone who does, responsible for product, distribution or resources, staff oversight etc.

Extreme Definition: The person in charge of operational issues in multiple units of a hotel, cruise liner or other complex food and beverage delivery system. The Executive Chef may develop recipes or not, he approves all product and supervises a range of kitchen managers or unit chefs.

False Definition: A chef who is in charge of any kitchen or a chef who only cooks with no management or administrative responsibilities.

Misuse: A chef in charge of a small kitchen.

Misspelling: Execution Chef / Execution Chief

Misunderstanding: All executive chefs carry clipboards and none cook. This is not the case. Many are hands on, while others are involved mainly in operational activities. It depends on the environment.

Synonyms and related positions: Food and Beverage Director in some properties where the chef is still responsible for but not active in production, so the chef responsibilities are operational management.

Corporate Chef:

Definition: The chef charged with all culinary development and kitchen operational responsibilities for multiple restaurants in a corporation. Duties include R&D, menu development and implementation in separate units, hiring and training of management staff, equipment selection, development of new kitchens, and much more. Corporate chefs generally travel and spend several weeks at a time at various restaurants.

Misuse: The Executive Chef of Kitchen Manager of a single or multi-unit corporate dining facility. The appropriate term would be Executive Chef.

Alternatives: At the high management responsibility level of Corporate Chefs there is a great deal of inventiveness in title creation. Vice President or President of Culinary Development, for instance. R&D Chefs, although their function is non-operational, are frequently titled “Corporate Chefs”.

Synonym: Executive Chef for the company/corporation.

Misuse: The head or executive chef of a corporate dining room or an executive dining room. A chef working for a company like Bank of America or Google. These chefs are generally Executive Chefs, Kitchen Managers or Chefs de Cuisine, depending on the level of responsibility.

Regional Chef:

Definition: The chef in charge of multiple corporate restaurant units. Like the Corporate Chef the Regional Chef is responsible for frequent restaurant checks, works on new openings, works with unit chefs on occasional hiring, but is not responsible for day to day kitchen operations such as scheduling. Regional chefs may be stationed at a single unit, where they also function as Executive Chef.

Misuse: none.

Alternatives: Regional Executive Chef, Corporate Regional Chef, Multi Unit Chef.

Executive sous chef:

Definition: The direct subordinate to the Executive Chef in a volume restaurant, hotel or other volume or multi-unit property. The Executive Sous chef is in full charge of all kitchen and culinary operations in the chef’s absence. In extremely large properties the Executive Sous Chef may actually perform the duties understood under Executive Chef including banquet planning supervision, ordering, all supervision, training, etc. Depending on the property, the Executive Sous Chef may either be hands on or have extensive office duties.

Alternative: none

Misuse: The person directly subordinate to the head chef in a small property. The term “Executive” indicates volume and complexity.

Sous Chef:

Definition: The person directly subordinate to the head chef in a smaller property or the Executive sous chef in a larger one. There are also departmental sous chefs such as banquet or pastry sous chefs. The sous chef’s main duties are production, frequently receiving, carrying out the chef’s menu and depending on the property some minor management. The sous chef may contribute to specials. Sous chef is generally seen as a transitional position in which an experienced cook who has proven him/herself responsible is trained and groomed for a chef position.

Definition 2: In some hotels the chef in charge of any single outlet may be given the title of sous chef, although he is in full charge of the kitchen and would qualify as chef or executive chef of a mid-sized property.

Synonym: In some cases (see above) Chef de Cuisine.

Misuse: The person under the head chef in a two or three man kitchen. This is generally a cook or chefs’ assistant.

Misspelling: Sioux Chef, Sioux Chief, Sue Chef, Sow Chef.

Chef de Cuisine:

Definition 1: The chef in charge of an entire hotel restaurant with responsibilities extending from writing the menu to hiring subordinates and everything in between. The position is similar to a restaurant executive chef or head chef with the exception that hotels have departments which take care of some duties of the independent chef.

Definition 2: The Chef under the chef owner of a free standing restaurant. The chef owner is usually established as a culinary figure with a signature cuisine. Chef de Cuisine is responsible for executing the chef’s cuisine and most of the kitchen management. It is a highly responsible  position which requires a great deal of kitchen discipline and subordination of the Chef de Cuisine’s creative forces to create the chef’s vision.

Synonyms: Sous Chef, Unit Chef, Restaurant Chef.

Restaurant Chef:  The chef of a single restaurant in a property with multiple outlets. S/he is responsible for the production in that kitchen and may or not be responsible for menu development, hiring, ordering.

Synonym: Chef de Cuisine, Sous Chef.

Kitchen Manager:

Definition 1: The Kitchen Manager is the person in charge of all administrative and supervisory duties in a property with a preset menu. This can be a family dining concept chain restaurant, a retirement facility or a unit of a industrial, educational or retirement food service facility. The Kitchen manager is charged with maintaining company policy and keeping order, food safety, and quality standards in the kitchen. This position involves little to no creative input and implementing all of the provisions of operational and employee manuals.

Definition 2: The person in charge of all administrative and management issues in a free standing or hotel kitchen. These may include receiving, accounting for employee time, scheduling, checking produce and much more. The Kitchen manager may also cook, but the purpose of the position is to relieve the chef from the time burden of operational administration.

Synonyms: Depending on the venue, either Food Service Director or Sous chef for a restaurant.

Chef Manager:

Definition: In the recession many restaurants have decided to try to save money by firing a manager and giving the chef a slight raise. In theory at least this chef is in charge of both front and back of the house and FoH office duties like Workman’s comp. Considering the time demands of a well running kitchen on a chef, it is hard to see that any chef can do those and all FoH jobs well.

Abuse: The term in itself is questionable, as no one person can take care of front and back of restaurants. It requires further investigation of the actual duties and capacity of any person using it.

Synonyms: Chef&B, restaurant owner.

Chef Partner:

Definition 1: This generally refers to the Executive Chef of a multi-unit operation who has bought into the company. As such it is not a title but a definition of organizational structure. The Chef Partner for most operations is depending on the nature of the corporation or restaurant for all practical purposes the Executive Chef.

Definition 2: DA chef who owns part of a property either in partnership with a corporation or with an individual. This person is both Executive Chef and Chef Owner.,

Definition 3: A person who is given a non – equity partnership, that is, a partnership which expires when s/he leaves the property but allows him or her a percentage of the profit during employment. This person, too, is in reality an Executive Chef or Head Chef.

Misuse: The title is vague. If you are hiring, you should ask the nature of the partnership. If you are an applicant, you should clarify it as much as possible.

Synonyms: Executive Chef with non-equity partnership. Executive Chef and Equity Partner.


Definition: This is relatively rare as a title, as it generally indicates a duty rather than a position. The Expediter is the chef or cook who oversees the interaction of front and back of the house, calls out orders, checks food going out. In newer, trendy restaurants it is the person you see standing at the counter, often with an earpiece. In most restaurants the chef in charge takes care of this.

Synonym: Wheel man.

Banquet Chef: The banquet chef is the culinary professional in clubs or  hotels in charge of banquets. S/he generally is responsible for meeting with clients to discuss recipes, often for developing recipes and menus working with the Executive Chef and Banquet director, ordering, supervision and execution. The banquet chef may also function as Executive Sous Chef. The position requires very specific skills and holds a great deal of responsibility.

Synonyms: Event Chef

Celebrity Chef:  This is not a title.  It is applied either to someone who gets a lot of media coverage (As Thomas Keller or right now Josh Skenes) or someone who is a media personality, for instance Martha Stewart. You cannot apply for the job of celebrity chef.

Synonym: Star Chef

Misuse: Calling yourself one. It shows bad manners at best.

More: Stay tuned.

-garde manager

-Executive Assistant or Assistant to Executive Chef
-chef de partie
-station cook

-prep cook