No profession in the world doesn’t have some hierarchy of some sort, even if it isn’t clearly stated, there’s surely a cadre that governs how things are run in the said profession or institution. The culinary industry is no different, and there is a ladder which even the most naturally gifted of the lot must climb to reach the Apex of the culinary industry.
It would surprise you that some of the best-known and most revered chefs in the world had less glamorous roles once upon a time, which they worked diligently on before they got their big break.
There are no skipping steps in the culinary industry, everyone has to pay his or her dues to make their dreams come through no matter how long it might take. So here we will be showing you the cadres in the culinary industry, the kitchen hierarchy, the chef positions and their functions, the importance of starting from the bottom, and of course, we’ll be showing you a couple of master chefs that lived the dream after starting in the humblest of positions.
So ladies and gentlemen, brace up as we take you into the kitchen, and show you the highest of the highs and lowest of the lows as far as culinary ranking is concerned.
The Kitchen Hierarchy
The kitchen is way bigger than you think, and what might look like a tiny cubicle from the outside is a mini-village on the inside, a mini-village that contains differing opinions, different characters, and a group of individuals that bring their expertise to the table.
The roles in the kitchen vary from kitchen to kitchen, however, there are a couple of roles that change no matter the kitchen being in the spotlight. So without further ado, let’s get to the kitchen hierarchy and where people would normally start in the culinary world (1).
This is the lowest ranking member of the kitchen but not necessarily the least important. His or her role is to take the orders of the patrons to the kitchen, serve them once they are done preparing the meal, and occasionally take back complaints to the kitchen just in case the patron isn’t best pleased with something about the dish.
The dishwasher is the young guy or lady that is in charge of washing dishes as soon as a meal has been completed. A dishwasher ranks higher than the waiter because he is almost exclusively in the kitchen soaking up vital tips and tricks.
3) Kitchen Porter
This kitchen porter is in charge of some of the menial jobs in the kitchen. His role isn’t exactly tedious, and he exclusively resides in the kitchen as his major role in ensuring the little things are in order.
4) Junior Chef
The Junior Chef is a rookie chef that is understudying the main chefs in a kitchen. Usually, they are recent graduates of a registered culinary school, looking for some proper face-to-face teaching on how to man a kitchen.
5) Station Chef
A Station Chef is what a head of a department is in a government organization, he or she is the person in charge of a specific niche in the kitchen. Such a station chef could be in charge of a plethora of stations such as grilling, sauces, fish, roasting, frying, and the likes.
6) Deputy Chef
As the name implies, the deputy chief is the second in command to the head chef of a restaurant or kitchen. Also, he or she is tasked with manning the kitchen’s affairs if the head chef is unavoidably absent.
7) Head Chef
This is the numero uno of the culinary hotspot, especially once he or she is typically hands-on with what they do. The head chef typically works on managerial duties relating to the whole kitchen. Also, the head chef can sometimes go the extra mile in curating new menus for the restaurant.
8) Executive Chef
While not in any way responsible for cooking, the executive chef is typically a veteran chef in the culinary industry with a managerial acumen. The executive chef oversees all administrative aspects of the kitchen and can hire or fire anyone that he deems inadequate to the lofty ambitions of the kitchen.
Why Start From The Bottom?
The importance of starting from the bottom can never be understated, it is super necessary for people to cut their teeth in the less glamorous aspects of their dream jobs for them to know and value what they’ll be doing for the productive parts of their adulthood.
The saying also applies in the culinary industry, and there are examples aplenty of some of the world’s greatest chefs that got their first gigs in some of the less awesome jobs in the kitchen. We brought out a list of some of the finest to ever do it, and we’re pretty sure that this would inspire you to write your grass to grace story. The famous chefs that have done so include:
1) Bobby Flay
The great Bobby Flay has been there, done that, and gotten an incredible following during his culinary career. However, you might be a little surprised to know that his first job was as a dishwasher after being kicked out by his dad for dropping out of high school. That was way back in 1981, and it’s fair to say that he didn’t turn out half bad in the decades that followed.
2) Thomas Keller
Thomas Keller surely didn’t have to go through the tradition of working a small kitchen job before he made his big break, surely he didn’t have to get his hands dirty. Well, we’re sorry to throw you off guard, but Thomas Keller had his first gig in the culinary industry as a dishwasher in a restaurant known as Bay & Surf. Luckily the restaurant belonged to his mother, so at least he was being appreciated for a job well done as early as his sixth or seventh grade. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have envisaged being so big in such little time.
3) Michael Chiarello
Michael Chiarello is one culinary expert that doesn’t take the job of dishwasher lightly one bit. He considers it as one of the most important jobs in the kitchen, as it either makes or mars all the hard work that the other members of the kitchen have done. Michael Chiarello started his culinary career as a dishwasher when he was merely fourteen years old. It was there that he got exposed to a big kitchen, and he develops his passion to an extent that he’d not have to worry about washing the dishes all by himself anymore.
The culinary industry is a very huge and complex establishment made possible by the hard work of a group of individuals that go to great lengths to ensure restaurant patrons get the value of their money. Most of the top chefs you see on the television started as either waiters or dishwashers, which turn out to be the least paying of all the jobs in the culinary industry. Isn’t it amazing that most of them ended up far better in just a few years thanks to hard work and perseverance?
No one doesn’t love an underdog story, even though that in this case we’re talking about people going from the lowest cadre to the crème of the crop in the fanciest restaurants that the world has to offer. Common, Rachael Ray was a Macy’s candy counter clerk, Tom Colicchio was a concession stand cook, Anthony Bourdain was a Dishwasher, and we can go on and on about intriguing “glow ups”. Who said that becoming a master chef was a piece of cake?