Friday, September 23, 2011

Kitchen titles

People at work keep asking me about this, so I'm posting it in a note.

What do all the titles in the brigade system mean? Isn't a chef just a fancy word for a cook? How do you know who's actually in charge if you're all chefs? Well, there IS a difference between a chef and a cook. There is also a hierarchy among different types of chefs based on their special skill sets and what they are responsible for in the kitchen. The breakdown goes like this:

  • Executive chef -- in charge of designing the menu and creating recipes, oversees all kitchen operations
  • Sous chef -- (literally "under chef") the executive chef's right hand
  • Patissier -- or pastry chef, works with pastries and desserts only
  • Chef de partie -- or station chef; they're in charge of a particular part of the kitchen
  • Saucier -- prepares the sauces and saut├ęs
  • Poissonier -- works with seafood
  • Entremetier -- in charge of soups, vegetables, starches and egg dishes
  • Rotisseur -- cooks roasted, braised and broiled meats and gravies
  • Gard manger -- also known as pantry chef; prepares cold items
  • Cook -- works under the various station chefs
  • Tournant -- (literally "the touring one") also known as 'swing cook', 'relief cook' or 'floater'. Able to work any station in the event that someone is absent or on break. Usually a sous chef, or sous chef in training.
To become a  Certified Master Chef (CMC) in the US requires that you pass an exam administered by the American Culinary Federation (ACF). Given over the course of 8 days, it is an extremely intensive and exhausting test of a chef's practical knowledge of culinary history, gastronomy, and technique in all areas of food preparation. The title is currently held by fewer than 100 individuals in the US.


  1. See, I always looked at it this way:

    Executive Chef - makes the food for VIPs and high rollers.

    Sous Chef - in charge of soup rationing and approvals. Also is mildly dyslexic.

    Patissier - lit. "Pat is here;" gives massages to all the other chefs when they start to get cramps from cooking all day.

    Chef de partie - the MC of the kitchen. Bartends, DJs, hands out confetti and silly hats, tells jokes; generally ensures that all the other chefs PARTY HARD while they're cooking up a storm.

    Saucier - the feisty chef, prepares all of the witty remarks and flirtatious remarks for the chefs to use when they are let out of the kitchen to run wild for their allotted hour.

    Poissonier - the kitchen's designated assassin. A master of poisons. The reason why you don't piss off a brigade of chefs. Oftentimes skilled in the arts of knife throwing, dual wielding spatulas, and venom-tipped icepicks.

    Entremetier - the French word for "entrenchment," his job is to dig foxholes and fortifications to ward off extended sieges by hungry customers and the occasional armed food critic. Also a specialist in employing fixed weapons.

    Rotisseur - as the name suggests, he memorizes ("rote") all the useless facts and data so that the other chefs can impress people on the rare occasions they leave the kitchen. Works closely with the Saucier. Also often owns a Rottweiler.

    Gard manger - Captain of the Guard for the entire kitchen. He works alongside the Entremetier to make sure all of the defensive emplacements are properly manned at all times. Is often called upon to wage single combat with particularly tenacious food critics and restaurant managers in defense of the kitchen. Often referred to as the "kitchen's shield."

    Tournant - the event planner (lit. "tournament planner"); organizes mainly competitions, which often feature knife throwing, icepick accuracy, and occasionally, blacksmithing (from which the TV show "Iron Chef" got its inspiration from).

    Hope this helps!

  2. Wow... I'm just speechless. Thanks for clearing up the finer points of day to day kitchen life.