Sous Chef Education Requirements

Sous chefs are culinary professionals who work under the supervision of executive chefs. They have authority over other kitchen staff and, when the executive chef is not present, take command of the entire kitchen. They carry out a variety of executive tasks, such as determining daily specials, inspecting food and ordering new ingredients. Read on to learn about the education required for becoming a sous chef.

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Educational Requirements for Sous Chefs

Sous chefs are generally required to complete formal culinary training after high school. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in culinary arts are available at culinary institutes, community colleges and technical schools. These 2-year and 4-year programs often include courses in sanitation and safety, food preparation, food purchasing and baking. In addition to lectures in the classroom, students learn through practical training in the kitchen.

Additional Training Options

While most sous chefs have some formal education, practical work experience is the most important requirement for entry into this career. Aspiring sous chefs can start their careers as food preparation workers or entry-level cooks in restaurants and work their way up with experience. Professional organizations, such as the American Culinary Federation (ACF), also sponsor apprenticeship programs for aspiring sous chefs. These programs typically last 2-3 years and allow students to learn through both classroom instruction and hands-on training in the kitchen.

Alternatively, aspiring sous chefs may receive formal training at some restaurants and larger hotels. The military also has culinary training programs, offering both basic and advanced food training courses, which each last several weeks.

Certification Information for Sous Chefs

Certification may be beneficial for sous chefs seeking to stand out to prospective employers. The ACF offers certification for sous chefs who have at least five years of culinary experience and 50-150 continuing education units or an associate's degree and three years of experience (www.acfchefs.org). Those who have completed apprenticeships and 4,000 hours of on-the-job training are also eligible. Candidates must pass both a written and practical exam to earn the Certified Sous Chef designation.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows chefs and head cooks earned an average salary of $46,570 in 2012. The BLS estimates employment opportunities within this field will decline, with a loss of 800 jobs between 2010 and 2020. Some of this decline can be attributed to food service businesses saving money by delegating tasks that were performed by chefs to less-experienced cooks who command lower salaries.

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