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What does a chef de partie do?
A chef de partie is sometimes called a line, section or station chef. They are trained chefs responsible for a specific section within a kitchen called a station.
Chef de parties will oversee all activities conducted at their stations, such as food preparation, cooking and presentation. They may handle various foods, including meat, fish, vegetables, sauces and pastries. They can generalise and move to different stations or specialise in specific foods such as pastries and sauces. Therefore, what a chef de partie does will depend on their specialisms.
A chef de partie’s main aim is to ensure the food produced at their stations is high quality, well-presented, flavoursome and reflects what the customer has ordered. They must also protect customers from being harmed by unsafe food, e.g. protecting them from food safety hazards, such as food poisoning and foreign objects. Being a chef de partie is about enhancing a food establishment’s reputation to attract and retain customers.
A chef de partie will carry out many tasks, including assisting the head chef or sous chef, ordering and managing stock, preparing, cooking, presenting and serving food, operating various kitchen equipment, team leading, training staff, etc. The role can also have an element of administrative work, such as menu writing and completing HACCP documentation.
Chef de parties will usually work in kitchens. There is a hierarchy where they come third. Chef de parties typically work under head and sous chefs in large, busy establishments. They may also have assistants, such as demi chef de parties, commis chefs or trainee chefs assisting them at their stations.
Chef de parties can also work with other chef de parties, kitchen porters, pot washing staff, waiting-on staff and others. They may also be required to liaise with other external stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, delivery companies, Local Authority Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) and Trading Standards Officers (TSOs).
Chef de parties can work in different-sized establishments, from smaller businesses, e.g. pubs and restaurants, to organisations with a few hundred employees, e.g. large hotels and hospitals. They can also work overseas on cruise ships. Some chef de parties may choose to work with agencies on temporary contracts.
A chef de partie’s responsibilities will depend on their type of role, the food they produce and the establishment where they work. For example, a chef de partie working in a Michelin-starred restaurant will have different responsibilities to a chef de partie working in a small pub.
Some of the day-to-day duties chef de parties may have can include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Assisting head and sous chefs with various tasks, such as menu development.
- Setting up the kitchen station before opening.
- Labelling of food and ensuring good stock rotation.
- Preparing ingredients, which can involve gutting fish and washing and peeling vegetables.
- Cooking and serving various foods to strict deadlines at their stations, e.g. fish, sauces, meat, etc.
- Plating of dishes.
- Ensuring dishes are presentable and attractive.
- Ensuring that all food produced is high quality and portion sizes are consistent.
- Managing and training assistants, such as demi chef de parties or commis chefs.
- Monitoring, controlling, ordering and inspecting stock.
- Keeping budgets in mind and minimising waste.
- Helping to create new dishes that meet nutritional standards and allergen laws.
- Understanding and complying with relevant laws, e.g. food safety and hygiene, health and safety and licensing.
- Carrying out food safety and hygiene inspections and checks in line with HACCP, e.g. temperature checks.
- Assisting in food hygiene rating inspections.
- Administrative tasks, e.g. documenting due diligence checks.
- Maintaining a clean and hygienic work environment.
A chef de partie can expect to work 40-45 hours a week, but they can do more hours depending on the requirements of their role. The shifts can be long and up to 12 hours a day. Most of this time will require chef de parties to be on their feet, so they must have a certain fitness level.
Being a chef de partie is not a 9-5 job, and those looking at entering the role must be committed to working unsociable hours, such as early mornings, evenings, weekends and bank holidays. There may be some roles that offer set days and hours. However, there may be a requirement for overtime in busy periods.
Travel may be a requirement for a chef de partie if they work for a company with several food establishments or freelance at different locations. Some establishments may also provide on-site accommodation for chef de parties so they can stay during a season.
Some chef de parties will work overseas as part of their role, e.g. those working on cruise ships.
What to expect
Being a chef de partie is hard work but rewarding. Preparing, cooking and serving well-presented delicious dishes and getting positive feedback from customers can give chef de parties a real confidence boost. It also allows individuals to be innovators by experimenting and being creative with food, almost like an artist.
Having a meal out is an experience for people, and chef de parties are a part of this. Chef de parties can go home after the working day knowing they have made customers happy with their exquisite food. If individuals become recognised for their talent, it will open up opportunities to work in high-end establishments, and there is the potential to earn fantastic salaries.
It is a good career choice for individuals who do not want to attend university, as a degree is not required. However, degrees are available in culinary arts and professional cookery. A degree can help individuals stand out if they decide to take this route.
There are no boundaries for chef de parties, and there is a high demand for those with talent. There are opportunities to work in many different establishments nationally or globally, and there is scope for travelling and experiencing different cultures. There are also so many specialisms and cuisines; it is a diverse industry. Therefore, chef de parties are unlikely to get bored.
Even though being a chef de partie is rewarding, and there are many positives associated with the role, they may also face challenges, for example:
- Fast-paced – working in a food establishment can be fast-paced and stressful. As a chef de partie, individuals must produce and serve meals promptly to customers. However, they will still need to maintain a high standard, in terms of quality, presentation and consistency. Being able to cope with pressure is essential.
- Difficult working conditions – depending on the type of kitchen, chef de parties will often need to cope with working in uncomfortable temperatures. It can get hot and humid with ovens, grills and hobs on. If there are walk-in refrigerators or freezers in the kitchen, it can get cold. Chef uniforms (whites), hats and aprons can increase discomfort, so individuals must prepare for varying temperatures.
- Health and safety risks – working in a kitchen can be dangerous. Chef de parties will face many hazards, e.g. hot surfaces and liquids, use of kitchen equipment and appliances, knives, hazardous substances, slips, trips and falls, and work-related stress. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website has further information on health and safety in catering and hospitality.
- Food safety risks – unsafe food, e.g. contaminated with microorganisms, foreign objects, chemicals and allergens, can harm customers. Chef de parties must strictly comply with HACCP systems and complete associated paperwork properly for due diligence. If food makes customers ill, it can damage businesses and chef de parties. It may be too much responsibility for some individuals, but it is a necessary part of the role.
- Preparing animals and fish – chef de parties may have to gut, descale and debone fish and prepare meat. If an individual is uncomfortable handling this, then being a chef de partie would not be the right career path (unless they decide to work in vegan/vegetarian establishments).
- Male-dominated role – the number of female chefs is relatively low. According to the last Office for National Statistics figures, only 17% of women were in chef positions in the UK. It has risen slightly since then, but it shouldn’t put off women who want to enter the profession.
Every career choice has pros and cons, and individuals must know what to expect before deciding whether the role is suitable. Working in a fast-paced kitchen is difficult and stressful. It is physically and mentally demanding, requires work in uncomfortable working environments, and the hours are long and unsociable. However, there are many positives too. Those who become a chef de partie enjoy their work.
When considering whether to be a chef de partie and the type of role, individuals should look at the pros and cons. They should also ensure they have the necessary personal qualities to carry out the role and responsibilities required.
Personal qualities needed to be a chef de partie
Some of the personal qualities that a chef de partie requires will include (this list is not exhaustive):
- A passion for food and cooking.
- A desire to learn, progress and develop.
- A high standard of personal hygiene and cleanliness.
- Assertive, confident, motivated and determined.
- Committed, loyal, hard-working and calm.
- Knowledge of food production methods for their station, e.g. technical and cooking skills.
- Knowledge of food safety and hygiene and health and safety legislation.
- Knowledge of maths, e.g. for measuring ingredients.
- Good hazard perception and risk awareness.
- Have practical skills and can work effectively with their hands.
- Knife skills.
- Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal.
- Customer service skills.
- Listening skills and the ability to understand and follow instructions.
- Organisational and leadership skills.
- Time management skills.
- Problem-solving skills.
- Be thorough and have excellent attention to detail.
- Be creative and an innovator.
- Have resilience and the confidence to produce good quality and safe food in challenging conditions.
- The ability to work both in a team and alone using own initiative.
- The ability to be flexible and adapt to change.
- The ability to delegate to others.
- The ability to learn new recipes and cooking procedures.
- The ability to accept criticism.
- The ability to work well under pressure and remain calm in stressful situations.
- The ability to use IT equipment for basic tasks, e.g. writing reports and menus.
- The ability to work in a physically demanding role and environment (hot/humid).
- The ability to work with and maintain different kitchen equipment and appliances.
French language skills can also benefit individuals, as many chef de partie titles and food types are in French.
Qualifications and training
There are many routes to becoming a chef de partie. Individuals could go to university or college, enrol on a private training course or do an apprenticeship. They could also do work experience to help them enter the role.
An individual does not need a degree to become a chef de partie. However, having a degree can help individuals stand out.
Some examples of topics that may be helpful are as follows (this list is not exhaustive):
- Culinary arts management.
- Professional chef.
- Professional cookery.
The entry requirements and the number of UCAS points needed will depend on each university, and individuals should check before applying.
They will typically require the following:
- 1 or 2 A Levels for a foundation degree or higher national diploma.
- 2 or 3 A Levels for an undergraduate degree.
- 2:1 or 2:2 relevant undergraduate degree subject for a postgraduate degree.
Some institutions may also invite applicants for an interview and a practical assessment as part of the selection process.
Undertaking a college course can help individuals become chef de parties.
Some example courses that may be useful are as follows (this list is not exhaustive):
- Level 2 Diploma in Culinary Skills.
- Level 3 Diploma in Professional Cookery.
- Level 4 Diploma in Professional Culinary Arts.
- T Level Professional Chef.
- T Level Catering.
Individuals usually need:
- Level 2 – two or more GCSEs grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) or equivalent.
- Level 3 – four/five GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent.
- T Levels – four/five GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent (including English and maths).
- Level 4 – one or two A Levels, a Level 3 diploma or relevant experience.
Private training companies and culinary and cooking schools may also offer courses. It may also be worth enrolling on low-cost online short chef courses to see if a career as a chef de partie would be of interest. That way, if not, it will save an individual a lot of time and trouble.
Courses and qualifications do not guarantee a role as a chef de partie. However, it will demonstrate to employers and companies that an individual is keen on the job and may give them a competitive edge. Always check the entry requirements before applying.
There is an apprenticeship route to help individuals become chef de parties, e.g. chef de partie advanced apprenticeship. Individuals usually need five GCSEs, grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English and maths or equivalent.
There are also intermediate apprenticeships that can help individuals move to a chef de partie role, e.g. production chef intermediate apprenticeship and commis chef intermediate apprenticeship. Individuals usually need some GCSEs, including English and maths or equivalent.
Opportunities are on Government’s Apprenticeships, Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and Indeed. The armed forces (Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force) also offer an apprenticeship route into the chef de partie role.
There are no specific academic or training requirements to become a chef de partie. Therefore, gaining qualifications is not the only route into the role. Work experience can also help individuals enter the profession.
Some employers may take on individuals as trainees and train them as chef de parties if they have the necessary personal qualities and enthusiasm for the role. It would help individuals to have previous catering experience and a food hygiene certificate. However, the requirements will depend on each employer.
Individuals may get paid work in a kitchen (as a kitchen porter, trainee commis chef or demi chef de partie) in restaurants and pubs and learn on the job by shadowing chef de parties. They could also work with recruitment agencies on temporary contracts in catering roles, leading to something more permanent.
Volunteering can also help people gain valuable practical experience and develop skills, especially if they have no experience working in a kitchen. Individuals could volunteer with charities in their restaurants and cafes and help them with food preparation, cooking and serving. They could also work in community kitchens. There is information on volunteering and local opportunities on Do-it, NCVO and Volunteering Matters.
Any work experience relevant to working in a kitchen can be beneficial and can help an individual work towards becoming a chef de partie. Even amateur community courses in food preparation and cooking can count.
Learning does not stop with experience or once someone becomes qualified. Attending relevant training courses and having additional certifications can help individuals enter the profession and enhance their employability.
We have many approved Food Hygiene Online Courses that can be useful for individuals looking at a career as a chef de partie, for example:
- COVID-19 awareness.
- Food safety and hygiene training, e.g. at least a Level 2 course.
- HACCP training, e.g. at least a Level 2 course.
- Allergen awareness training.
- Anaphylaxis awareness.
- Nutrition and healthy eating.
We also offer other courses, which could be helpful for chef de parties, for example:
- Health and safety for employees.
- Fire safety.
- Manual handling.
- Work-related stress.
- Slips, trips and falls.
- First aid at work.
- Customer service skills.
- Team leading.
- Resilience training.
- Time management.
Individuals may want to look at culinary and cookery schools for practical courses in specific areas, such as:
- Patisserie and confectionery.
- Pasta making.
- Meat cookery.
- Fish preparation and cookery.
Language courses may also be a good idea, i.e. if wanting to work in a French or Italian restaurant.
Professional bodies, unions and associations may also advise on reputable training courses, e.g. the Craft Guild of Chefs, the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, Worldchefs, the British Culinary Federation, Unichef, and others. Some also provide memberships, events and support to help individuals become chef de parties and give those already in the profession the means to continue their professional development.
The type of training required will depend on employers’ requirements and the areas and cuisine in which chef de parties specialise. It is worth looking at several job advertisements to identify the training needed for roles. Jobs are on websites such as GOV.UK find a job service, Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Caterer.com, Chef Jobs UK, Hospitality Jobs UK, LeisureJobs and many other sites. Also, look at recruitment agencies for roles.
More relevant training and competence (skills, experience and knowledge) will open up more opportunities for individuals. Refresher training will also be required, as it is a legal requirement under health and safety and food hygiene legislation, and it keeps knowledge and skills up to date.
Where do chef de partie work?
Chef de parties can work for private companies, public authorities, charities, the NHS, the armed forces, churches, ferry companies and others.
They will work in kitchens in a variety of establishments, such as (this list is not exhaustive):
- Restaurants (chain, Michelin-starred or AA Rosette-awarded restaurants).
- Pubs, bistros and bars.
- Golf clubs.
- Theme parks and other attractions.
- Bed and breakfasts.
- Cruise ships.
- Hospitals (NHS or private).
- Schools, colleges and universities.
- Care homes and hospices.
- Armed forces.
- Private households.
- Private businesses.
- Catering businesses (including contracts).
How much do chef de parties earn?
A chef de partie’s salary will depend on their role, qualifications, experience, geographical location, employer, working hours, contract and specialist area.
Some examples of average salaries include the following (these figures are only a guide):
- £8.70 per hour for an entry-level chef de partie with less than 1 year’s experience (Payscale).
- £21,862 per year (Glassdoor).
- £23,000 per year (Caterer).
- £24,572 per year (Blue Arrow).
- Starter £15,000 per year and experienced £30,000 per year (National Careers Service).
- £23,400 per year or £12 per hour (Talent).
The downside to an entry-level position is that salaries are relatively low, but this can quickly change with ambition. The more qualifications and experience an individual gains, the more earning potential they will have.
Earnings can also increase when individuals go up the career ladder and become renowned and work in a high-end food establishment with an excellent reputation, i.e. Michelin starred. Individuals must understand that it is a competitive field. Therefore, they must work hard if they want to achieve more earning potential.
As an apprentice, the salary will depend on an individual’s age and how long they have been in their apprenticeship. Apprentices must earn at least the current National Minimum Wage (NMW). Some employers will pay more than this. However, it will depend on the organisation and role on offer.
Types of chef de partie roles to specialise in
You have learnt that there is a hierarchy in the kitchen within a food establishment and many different types of chef roles.
With chef de partie roles, there are many areas to specialise in and specific titles, such as:
- Butcher Chef (Boucher) – prepares (butchers) meat, poultry, and fish and may also get involved with breading.
- Fish Chef (Poissonnier) – selects, prepares and cooks fish and fish dishes, including seafood, and may also butcher. They may also combine their role with a saucier.
- Fry Chef (Friturier) – specialises in fried food items. They may combine their role with a rotisseur.
- Grill Chef (Grillardin) – responsible for grilling foods, e.g. meats. They may combine their role with a rotisseur.
- Meat/Roast Chef (Rotisseur, Roast Chef) – specialises in roasted and braised meats but sometimes will make sauces.
- Pantry Chef (Garde Manger) – looks after the area where foods are stored and prepared cold, e.g. salads, patés, cold appetisers and cured meats.
- Pastry Chef (Pâtissier) – specialises in baked goods and makes plated desserts, bread, cakes and pastries.
- Roundsman (Tournant) – also known as a swing or relief cook. They work on different stations around the kitchen and fill in as and when needed.
- Sauce Chef (Saucier, Sauté Chef) – makes sautéed items, sauces and gravies that accompany other dishes. It is the highest position of all the stations.
- Vegetable Chef (Entremetier) – prepares vegetables, soups, and other appetisers or side dishes. A légumier will take charge of vegetable preparation, and a potager will look after soups in large kitchens.
All specialist roles require differing knowledge, skills, experience and qualities. All chef de parties must know how to prepare ingredients, cook/chill/reheat and maintain food hygiene and safety. Any additional areas of expertise will depend on what a company is looking for and a chef de partie’s intended specialist areas. Further qualifications and training may be necessary for specialised roles, e.g. Boucher and Saucier.
If a chef de partie does not manage their station effectively and correctly, it can impact the rest of the kitchen and cause delays. Also, if food is not prepared, handled, cooked and stored safely, it can result in customers becoming ill. It can affect a chef de partie’s reputation and the establishment’s. It may also result in enforcement action from Environmental Health Officers.
If food is not of the quality expected by customers and is not well-presented or tasty, it can also lead to a poor reputation. Unhappy customers can add negative reviews online, affecting future business. Therefore, chef de parties must have the necessary competence (knowledge, skills and experience) to produce food professionally and safely. They should also know the limits of their competency and not carry out duties if they are not trained and competent.
Food safety and hygiene standards, culinary techniques, equipment, trends and laws are updated regularly. Therefore, chef de parties must keep ahead of the latest developments and changes to carry out their roles effectively and correctly. Continuing professional development (CPD) gives chef de parties the knowledge and skills to keep up to date with these changes, understand their responsibilities, and progress in their careers.
Joining a professional body, as previously mentioned, can help prospective and current chef de parties enhance their skills and overall career. These offer different levels of membership, CPD and access to industry contacts and networking events.
There is ample opportunity for career progression within the industry. With more qualifications and experience, a chef de partie can become sous, head, or executive chef. They can focus on a particular cooking area, such as pastry or butchering. They may also move to larger premises, a Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant, or work overseas on a cruise ship.
Alternatively, chef de parties may want to move away from cooking to managing a food business or start up their own business and become freelance. They could also work on contracts with a recruitment agency. There is potential for growth and movement in catering and hospitality.
Knowledge, skills and experience can also lead to a career in different industries. For example, a chef de partie may want to teach/train prospective chefs at a college, university or private training provider. They may also want to work in manufacturing and work in development kitchens.