Chefs are responsible for the planning, preparation and presentation of food in restaurants and hotels. They must know for whom they are catering and plan the service and menu accordingly. Their work may vary from the preparation of traditional dishes to take-aways and also depends on the nature and size of the restaurant, hotel or guesthouse.
Chefs plan and develop menus, decide on the day’s speciality and estimate the amount of food needed. They compute the cost of food, purchase food supplies, prepare food or supervise and coordinate the preparation of food by cooks and other kitchen staff and then check the quality of food prepared. They give instructions on the sizes of the portions and supervise the arrangement of the food on platters and plates. They organise the cleaning of the kitchen and ensure that high-quality service and food are provided at all times, while maintaining hygienic standards.
They may be required to hire and train the cooks who work in the kitchens with them. The ‘Chef de Cuisine’ or head chef is in charge of the kitchen and is also responsible for the preparation of food, cost accounting, for compiling lists and ordering perishable and dry products; and to see to it that all equipment is clean and in working order.
The ‘Sous Chef’ or second chef assists the head chef and the ‘Chef de Partie’ is a departmental head in charge of a team of cooks and kitchen workers. The ‘Chef de Partie’ is responsible for the preparation of all meat dishes and sauces, as well as all vegetables and associated foods such as salads, cold foods, cakes, fruit dishes and various types of soup. This chef also approves every dish that leaves the kitchen and decides what the day’s speciality should be.
Smaller restaurants usually have only one chef or cook, who prepares all the food with the help of a short order cook and one or two kitchen helpers.
Although today’s freezing facilities and microwave ovens allow for partial preparation of dishes beforehand, special dishes require special skills from a chef. Many chefs have earned fame both for themselves and the hotels and restaurants where they work, because of their skill in creating new dishes and improving familiar ones.