15 Types of Chefs: Titles and Kitchen Hierarchy Explanations

Updated July 21, 2023

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A pair of chef's hands slices a tomato on a cutting board with bowls of other ingredients nearby. There's also a list with the title "What Are the Different Types of Chefs?" with these examples:

• Roast chef
• Vegetable chef
• Fish chef
• Meat chef
• Saucier

Working in a kitchen as a chef can be a fast-paced, exciting job. There are many different types of chefs, each with a specific station and responsibilities. Learning about the different types of chefs can help you decide if pursuing this field would be right for you. 

In this article, we review the different types of chefs, provide some basic salary information and describe their duties.

What is the difference between a chef and a cook?

Though many may use the terms chef and cook interchangeably, there are differences. Typically, chefs are higher-ranking kitchen employees responsible for the management and organization of their workspace. They may plan menus, create new dishes and experiment with new ingredients or recipes. Chefs usually have at least a few years of experience in kitchens.

Cooks are typically entry-level kitchen employees who may work in casual or fast-food restaurants. They typically follow specific recipes without much deviation. Cooks can become chefs with experience and dedication to the profession. Additionally, many chefs attend culinary school to learn their craft and prepare for work in a high-quality kitchen.

Culinary programs could take one to three years to complete depending on the school and specialty. Once they graduate from culinary school, chefs may have more opportunities available to them than cooks, and they could enjoy a higher earning potential.

Chef salaries

Chefs usually work full-time in varying shifts. Their salaries vary based on their experience, training and specialties. The following are salaries for some of the most common chefs:

  • Sous chef: $45,780 per year

  • Head chef: $50,652 per year

  • Chef: $52,727 per year

  • Executive chef: $65,577 per year

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

15 types of chefs

Here are the different types of chefs you could find in a kitchen:

1. Executive chef

Executive chefs are often managers of all kitchen activities. They monitor activity during their shift, ensuring each chef is completing their duties in a timely manner. Executives chefs usually don't participate in cooking. Instead, they taste dishes before sending them to customers, review final plate presentations and create new menu items. It takes years of education and experience to become an executive chef.

Read more: Learn About Being an Executive Chef

2. Head chef

In many kitchens, a head chef is the same as an executive chef. They monitor kitchen activities, maintain an inventory, order supplies and sometimes train new employees. They may also maintain relationships with vendors, oversee the kitchen and its employees and communicate with other staff members and customers.

3. Sous chef

A sous chef is the second-highest-ranking employee in a kitchen. They work directly with an executive or head chef, ensuring other chefs complete orders and fulfill the restaurant's vision. They communicate constantly with chefs, make sure they have the ingredients and tools needed and make more involved decisions than the executive chef.

Read more: Learn About Being a Sous Chef

4. Butcher chef

These chefs prepare meat before it goes to different workstations. They determine the needs of other chefs and prepare the right type of meat types and cuts needed for the shift. Additional duties could include examining the quality of meat upon delivery, monitoring inventory and curing/storing meat as needed. Not all kitchens have a butcher chef.

5. Pastry chef

Pastry chefs, or patissiers, make all baked goods and desserts. They prepare doughs and batters, bake them and often add decorations for goods such as breads, cakes, croissants, puff pastry and eclairs. Pastry chefs can be high-ranking kitchen employees who make their own decisions separate from other chefs. Many pastry chefs attend culinary school for this specialty.

Read more: Learn About Being a Pastry Chef

6. Pantry chef

A pantry chef manages refrigerator stocks and prepares cold dishes. They typically work in larger restaurants that have several cold storage areas that need a dedicated professional to monitor supply levels and ensure all food is fresh. Pantry chefs could also prepare salads and other cold meals, order new supplies and deliver cold items to chefs who need them.

7. Roast chef

These professionals cook meats and vegetables in ovens. They prepare items for roasting, monitor them throughout the cooking time and create complementary sauces for dishes. Roast chefs could also braise meat, which means they roast it in liquid to make it more tender. Roasting can take several hours, so these chefs could arrive in the kitchen early to begin cooking.

8. Vegetable chef

Vegetable chefs handle all dishes involving vegetables. They determine the best way to prepare vegetables, such as roasting, steaming, sauteing or frying. Additional duties could include finding ways to cook multiple vegetables for the same dishes at once, creating sauces or toppings for vegetable dishes and developing only vegetable dishes or vegetables that complement meats. Vegetable chefs could also make soups and egg dishes as well.

9. Fish chef

As the name implies, this chef makes all fish dishes for a restaurant. They determine which fish are in season, the best ways to prepare them and complementary sides. Fish chefs could fry, roast, steam or saute fish. In some cases, they may prepare different cuts of fish for customers to consume raw.

10. Meat chef

A meat chef cooks all meats involved in dishes. They determine the best cuts of meat for different dishes, evaluate the quality of dishes and cook them according to directions. Meat chefs know the best ways to cook a cut to make it taste the best it can. They also know which sides and sauces work best with meat.

11. Fry chef

Fry chefs operate fryers to cook meats, vegetables and sometimes cheeses. They may bread, batter or freeze different foods prior to frying, monitor cooking times and keep their station clean. Fry chefs usually create sauces that complement their plates.

12. Saucier

Sauciers, or sauce chefs, are typically the third-highest in command in a kitchen. They follow the instructions of head chefs and sous chefs and create sauces for all dishes served to customers. Sauciers could be responsible for salad dressing, pasta sauce, gravy, stews, stocks and soups. Since they usually use the sauce at the end of plating, they check for final presentation to ensure dishes look correct before they're served to the customer.

13. Prep chef

Prep chefs help kitchens get ready for meal times. They may come in earlier than other chefs to cut vegetables, bake breads or make foods that are easy to prepare ahead of time and store until needed. Prep chefs could also determine the needs of the kitchen and ready items from the ridge or freezer.

14. Expediter

While not technically a chef, an expediter is an important role in a kitchen as they take care of the final stop for plates before they reach the customer. This kitchen professional ensures each dish looks correct and contains all the needed elements before a server delivers the meal. They match tickets with dishes to make sure chefs fulfilled special customer requests and that all plates are ready before going to a table. In smaller kitchens, head chefs or executive chefs perform the role of an expediter.

15. Commis chef

A commis chef is an entry-level chef who shadows chefs to learn more about kitchen responsibilities. They often help prepare meals in workstations that need assistance, ensure work areas are clean and provide chefs with needed tools or ingredients. Commis chefs usually earn promotions to different stations with experience and practice.


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