How Much Does a Sous Chef Make? (With Skills and Duties)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A sous chef runs the kitchen in the absence of the executive chef, ensures execution of the menu and manages kitchen staff. It's a demanding role that requires strong leadership and organisational skills. Understanding the duties, skills and average salary you can earn in this position can help you determine if this career path aligns with your interests and long-term career aspirations. In this article, we discuss how much you can earn as a sous chef, share tips to increase your earning potential and highlight the critical skills required to succeed in this role.

How much does a sous chef make?

If you're wondering "How much does a sous chef make?", it typically varies depending on factors like education, experience, location and restaurant size. The average salary of a sous chef is $324,058 per year. Apart from a fixed salary, sous chefs are also often eligible for several benefits, such as flexible working arrangements, housing allowance, travel reimbursements, medical insurance coverage and dental insurance.

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What does a sous chef do?

A sous chef is the second in command in a kitchen after the executive chef. Depending on the restaurant size, a sous chef may be involved in kitchen and managerial duties, including:

  • creating and redesigning menus

  • pricing dishes on the menu correctly

  • creating new menu dishes

  • ensuring staff adhere to kitchen rules and regulations

  • tracking, organising and ordering inventory as required

  • alternating shifts with the executive chef, with each driving the kitchen during their scheduled time

  • ensuring kitchen equipment complies with industry standards and is repaired or replaced as required

  • ensuring the kitchen staffs maintain food quality and standards for all dishes created

  • creating a smooth workflow within the kitchen so that diners receive their orders promptly

  • hiring aspiring chefs and training them

  • scheduling staff shifts

Related: What Is a Sous Chef and What Do They Do? (With Salary)

Skills required for a sous chef

Becoming a sous chef and succeeding at the job requires several hard and soft skills, such as:

Time management

A sous chef manages their own tasks while overseeing the work of the rest of the kitchen team. They're responsible for preparing and offering food to diners as quickly as possible. Here are some tips for multitasking and effectively managing time:

  • Prepare ahead of time: Familiarise yourself with the recipes and prepare all the required ingredients in advance.

  • Create an efficient workstation: Organise and set up your workspace so that you know where to find every utensil or ingredient in the kitchen.

  • Set a routine: Establishing a pre-set routine in advance can help you create an efficient kitchen.

  • Delegate tasks as required: Ensure to delegate tasks to other chefs and kitchen employees based on their skills and expertise. This can help you create an efficient flow in the kitchen.

Communication

A sous chef communicates with other chefs, kitchen staff, hosts and bartenders. Possessing practical communication skills is essential to help kitchens function smoothly. It's important that you speak clearly and concisely when giving out instructions in the kitchen.

Teamwork and leadership

A sous chef requires effective leadership skills to manage several team members and run the kitchen smoothly. This way, they can create an excellent dining experience for their guests. You may also inspire your team to work well with each other and mentor junior chefs to help them reach their best potential.

Creativity

Often a sous chef creates menu plans and speciality dishes for the restaurant. They regularly experiment with new ingredients to create innovative and popular dishes and recipes. They also employ creative skills while plating a dish which helps add value to a customer's ultimate dining experience.

Culinary expertise

The most essential hard skills sous chefs require is an ability to cook and an in-depth knowledge of the tools and equipment used in a kitchen. Skilled sous chefs can cook efficiently and creatively. They're also skilled at recognising flavours and judging the proportion of seasonings.

Flexibility

Chefs require the ability to be flexible and innovative to fulfil sudden requests, such as a last-minute cancellation or a big group of diners with previously unannounced food restrictions. Being flexible helps you to remain calm. It allows you to deal with unexpected situations effectively.

Ability to focus under pressure

A sous chef works typically works in a fast-paced environment. They manage multiple tasks simultaneously and respond to challenges quickly. They also ensure other chefs prepare food correctly to maximise customer satisfaction. A skilled chef is constantly in tune with everything happening in their kitchen.

Knowledge about food hygiene, nutrition and safety

It's highly essential for a sous chef to have excellent food safety knowledge. Having a good understanding of nutrition can help you be flexible in the kitchen and adapt recipes easily to accommodate customers' specific requests. Sous chefs are also responsible for operating a clean kitchen according to the standards set by the health department.

Related: Cooking Skills to Become a Chef and How to Develop Them

Sous chef work environment

Sous chefs work in a variety of settings that include:

  • fine dining award-winning restaurants

  • large restaurant chains with multiple local and international operations

  • gourmet grocery chains that serve prepackaged food

  • amusement parks and family entertainment venues that offer multiple dining destinations

  • boutique hotels with restaurant services and food and beverage departments

  • culinary educational institutions

  • cruise ships

  • resorts

  • catering companies

Regardless of the setting, a sous chef's environment is most likely to be a busy one with the following characteristics:

  • long periods of standing and walking around the kitchen

  • lift heavy objects routinely

  • work with hot ovens and grills

  • long hours that may include early mornings for breakfast service and late nights for dinner service

  • work hours may include holidays and weekends to cater to increased holiday customer traffic

Career prospects for a sous chef

Sous chef can advance their careers and become executive chefs or chefs de cuisine. They can advance their careers by training, earning experience and proving their worth as expert culinary professionals. Some sous chefs open their own restaurants and become owners.

How to improve your salary as a sous chef

Here are some steps you can consider to build your culinary skills and command a higher salary from prospective employers:

1. Gain relevant education

In most cases, a college degree is not mandatory to become a sous chef, but you require at least a high school diploma. A degree in culinary arts, such as a bachelor of arts in culinary arts and management or similar courses, can increase your chances of being hired by a top employer and raise the likelihood of promotion. If you already have a degree, you may still choose to attend a culinary school to gain specialised skills, especially if you're seeking a career change. Culinary schools help teach the basics of cooking and food science.

2. Complete your apprenticeship

Most educational programmes offer a combination of classroom training and practical experience. Several of these programmes also provide a stipend for your practical work. You learn several interesting things during the apprenticeship, such as:

  • ways to use a knife properly

  • tips for planning the entire menu

  • nutritional knowledge

  • culinary arts and baking

3. Gain hands-on experience in a restaurant

In the restaurant industry, your experiences can be as helpful as your education to prospective employers. Working in different roles at a restaurant can help you learn about the restaurant business in detail. Often sous chefs start in entry-level positions such as a junior cook or line cook and then move up the ranks to sous chef as they gain experience. Whether you're looking for higher positions within the same restaurant or changing employers to pursue better roles, gaining good experience and proving your culinary skills is the best way to boost your salary as a sous chef.

4. Consider additional certifications

Pursuing certifications can help you stay updated with the latest culinary skills. You may consider several certifications based on your particular needs and interests. For example, if you wish to learn about food hygiene and safety, you may consider exploring the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department's training courses.

In addition to conferences and workshops, the Hong Kong Chefs Association (HKCA) also helps aspiring chefs become responsible leaders in the kitchen through mentorship programmes. They also offer certifications in food preparation skills. Their globally recognised certificate can help you find jobs overseas.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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