Overview of Culinary Arts Job Duties

Overview of Culinary Arts Job Duties

Nov 5, 2014 | 11:00 am

Careers in the culinary arts are hot right now. With the success of shows like Top Chef, Master Chef, and Hell’s Kitchen; people around the country are getting a taste of living the chef’s life—or are they?

A recent controversy in the national media arose when long time chef Jacques Pepin criticized the impression shows like Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen leave in the minds of viewers. According to Pepin, working in a professional kitchen doesn’t have a lot of room for screaming, insults, and bad tempers. Pepin states; “The worst offenders insult and humiliate their crew, cursing and swearing, with every other word a bleeped expletive. The crew, often unkempt and untidy, look at the chef defiantly and seem to be terrorized and belligerent at the same time.” We’ve prepared a culinary arts job description that’s more in line with Jacques Pepin’s reality than reality television.

Professionalism Rules in the Professional Kitchen

True to what Jacques Pepin said in his article on the Daily Meal website, professional kitchens must be run professionally. What makes for great “reality” TV is likely to drive customers away from a real restaurant. Chefs and other members of the kitchen staff are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner. Not only will yelling and swearing at your coworkers make you look unprofessional, it will likely get you fired, and possibly sued as well. There are laws in the United States about not creating a hostile work environment.

What do Chefs do?

Chefs in a professional kitchen take on a number of different duties depending on their specialty and their amount of experience. A typical professional kitchen will have an executive (or head) chef, sous chefs, and a number of other chefs, pastry chefs, possibly line cooks, and bakers. Since line cooks and bakers don’t figure into a culinary arts job description (they typically don’t have a culinary arts degree), they will not be discussed further.

Executive Chef

The executive chef is the head of the kitchen staff and is sometimes called the head chef, but the title executive chef is more common. They oversee the kitchen staff, create the menus, ensure the correct food is ordered, and a number of other managerial tasks. They may or may not actually be cooking during a service depending on the particular restaurant where they work.

Sous Chef

The sous chef is second in command in the kitchen behind the executive chef. The sous chef is typically more hands on than the executive chef and acts as the liaison between the executive chef and the kitchen staff. The sous chef will be the most skilled chef in the kitchen most of the time and will be responsible for the quality of the food being served.


Chefs do the cooking. They are typically highly trained and hold culinary arts degrees. They must understand how to prepare every dish on the menu, how to plate it correctly, and how to ensure consistency among all the items served.

Pastry Chef

The pastry chefs are the creators of the amazing deserts offered by restaurants. They do not cook the normal entrees or appetizers and focus completely on the desserts, confections, and baked goods. They are highly skilled professionals who hold culinary arts degrees.

We hope this culinary arts job description has cleared up some of the confusion caused by “reality” TV and given you an idea of what really happens in a professional kitchen. All that’s left for you to do is head over to your local culinary arts school or community college and get more information on their culinary arts programs.