When some amateur cooks daydream of a culinary career, they're thinking executive chef. The executive chef is the top dog, and there's typically only one in a restaurant. But not everyone has executive chef aspirations. While you're in culinary school or working in a restaurant you may find that you're either really good at one element of cooking or that you love one aspect enough to do only that. It works out nice if they happen to be one in the same.
Many chefs specialize in these fields and become well-known and successful within that specialty. French chef Pierre Herme is a good example. He's known as the "Picasso of Pastries" -- not a bad title.
Some of the following jobs are stepping stones to becoming an executive chef, also known as chef de cuisine, but some are great stand-alone careers:
- Sous 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 sautés
- 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
Some kitchens are even broken down more specifically with separate chefs in charge of soups, cold desserts, vegetables and bread, to name a few. The fact that these jobs all have French names is no mistake. The basis of fine dining is French food, and when you hear about a chef being "classically trained," that means French cuisine and techniques. Even if it's not fine dining, chances are there's a lot of French technique involved, so unless you have some experience with it, you won't have much success as a chef.