The kitchen brigade system, also known as the “brigade de cuisine”, is a framework for hiring and organizing restaurant kitchen staff to maximize efficiency keeping the kitchen running smoothly in order to deliver orders in a timely manner. In the system, everyone has a specific and useful role, which helps the kitchen run like a well-oiled machine.
The kitchen brigade system has numerous benefits for restaurants. While fine dining establishments usually adopt the brigade system most strictly, even more, casual restaurants can benefit from its hierarchy.
This time we give recognition to those who work non-stop to provide us with quality dishes. In a kitchen, everyone’s job is important. And while the kitchen brigade system is less widely used in its full form today, it’s still the basis of most restaurant kitchen teams.
The Executive Chef
The Executive Chef sits at the top of the kitchen hierarchy. They are typically the most senior kitchen staff and will have a more business-oriented role. They manage kitchens at multiple outlets, overseeing one or more busy restaurants. Their work will often involve high-level oversight of operations as well as marketing and public relations. Some executive chefs may also have a hand in menu development.
The Chef de Cuisine (Head Chef)
Compared to an executive chef, the chef de cuisine is a more hands-on role. They are the managers of the kitchen who also collaborates with the restaurant’s general manager. Unlike the executive chef, the chef de cuisine is involved in day-to-day kitchen operations.
Depending on the size of the business or without an executive chef present, they may be at the top of the kitchen hierarchy and report directly to the restaurant manager or owner. They have a largely supervisory role, ensuring the kitchen operates smoothly and taking the lead on creating menus. The Head Chef will typically focus on managerial duties relating to the whole kitchen. Their duties might include monitoring kitchen activities, tracking the inventory, making purchases, and training new employees.
Sous Chef (Deputy Chef)
Whilst the Executive Chef and Head Chef can combine administration, financial management, and people and operations control, along with cooking, a Sous Chef is focused primarily on food.
The sous chef is the chef de cuisine's second-in-command. Typically, they will act as an intermediary between the chef de cuisine and each station within the kitchen. Strong culinary skills and management abilities are vital for a sous chef, as they must be ready to help in all areas of the kitchen as well as monitor inventory and employee performance.
They also ensure that each station in the kitchen is working correctly and safely. This can include training other chefs how to cook the dishes designed by the head or executive chef, as well as working on the stations when needed.
Chef de Partie (Station Chef)
A chef de partie will be in charge of one particular station. And while they should be equipped to work in any area if need be, a chef de partie will generally oversee a single area of production and may be titled accordingly. All of the food produced by a station is the ultimate responsibility of the chef de partie for that station. This responsibility covers the preparation and production of the food as well as the taste and quality.
Each kitchen will be set out differently, but some examples of Stations Chefs include:
Commis Chef (Junior Chef)
The commis chef, known as the junior chef, is essentially a chef in training. They’re usually still learning or may have recently graduated from their program and are learning more about a specific role in the hierarchy.
It’s in this role that they will learn about how a kitchen is run from the ground up. The role can include what seem like menial tasks that are actually very important. These tasks can be seen as a “rite of passage” for chefs. It means that even an executive chef knows how to prepare a chicken and how to pack a delivery away in the right order.
Some common tasks assigned to a commis chef include:
Kitchen porters assist with basic tasks in the kitchen and are less likely to have had formal training. Kitchen porters are there to keep a kitchen running smoothly whilst chefs cook. Their role typically involves introductory food preparation, such as peeling potatoes, and some cleaning duties.
Some common kitchen porter tasks include:
Every role in the kitchen is important, even the dishwasher. You can’t cook or serve food without pots, pans, plates, and cutlery.
Though a dishwasher will unlikely come into contact with food or cooking, there are still important things you need to know with this kitchen position, such as COSHH and general health and safety.
The dishwasher in a kitchen will likely report to the commis chef or chef de partie and could be asked to take on some tasks of a kitchen porter during busy services.