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1.2: The Brigade

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    21828
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    The basic hierarchy of the classical kitchen brigade system is as follows:

    • Chef de Cuisine – the head honcho, or executive chef, in charge of the entire kitchen (basically the general)
    • Sous Chef – the under-chef, second in command. Supervises and coordinates the various station chefs (chef de parties). Second in command when the chef de cuisine is absent. Also acts as an expediter (aboyeur) during service (usually in training to become head chef)
    • Chefs de Partie – various station chefs, which have responsibility for a certain part of meal, which are divided according to the ingredients they specialize in, or the method of cooking. A chef de partie usually has several demi-chefs (assistant station chefs) and commis (attendants) working under them.

    Not all kitchens necessarily would have all the positions, but some of the following stations would be included:

    • Saucier – sauté chef
    • Poissonier – fish and shellfish dishes
    • Friturier – fry chef prepares all fried items (basically deep frying)
    • Grillardin – grilled and broiled foods
    • Rotisseur – roasted and braised foods and any stuffing for them
    • Potager – stocks and soups, assistant to the saucier. Considered a lower-skilled position.
    • Legumier – vegetable dishes
    • Entremeteir – this is a combined potager and legumier, preparing vegetable dishes, soups, and stocks
    • Garde Manger – prepares or coordinates all cold foods including salads, cold meats, pates, terrines, sausages, hors d’oeurves, decorative carving garnishes, buffet items, if present.
    • Boucher – butcher responsible for meat butchery, and poultry and fish treatment. May prepare these and then give them to the garde manger for distribution to the various station chefs.
    • Charcutier – prepares pork products such as pâté, pâté en croûte, rillettes, hams, sausages, or any cured meats. May coordinate with the garde manger and deliver cured meats.
    • Patissier – pastry chef
      • Confiseur – makes petits fours and candies
      • Glacier – makes cold or frozen desserts (today this would be someone who makes ice cream and other frozen desserts, and perhaps also makes ice sculptures.
      • Decorateur – decorates cakes or other items
      • Boulanger – baker, makes breads, rolls, and cakes
    • Demi-Chef – assistant station chef. Does most of the actual preparation of the food in the specific station they are assigned, as supervised by the station chef (chef de partie). In charge of the station if the station chef is absent.
    • Commis – attendants assigned to a particular station and given the grunt work, or lower-skill work. Usually in training to become a demi-chef.
    • Apprentice – lowest man on the totem pole and given the heavy lifting work while studying the culinary arts and in training to become a commis and then move up from there. Works through all the various stations in order to become prepared to move up.

    The Modern Kitchen Brigade

    Modern restaurant kitchens, as mentioned, rarely use the classic brigade system. However, due to the large volume, you might find the classic system in use on large cruise liners or any place where a huge volume of food is prepared.

    • Executive Chef – the top chef who manages everything to do with the kitchen, creates the menu, orders supplies, oversees the staff, communicates and reports to the owners and/or managers. Executive chefs may oversee more than one restaurant kitchen, as when there are several restaurants in a hotel or resort. Not all restaurants have a separate executive chef and chef de cuisine, defined below and an executive chef may spend much of his or her time cooking, instead of involved in administrative duties.
    • Chef de cuisine – the kitchen chef who is the head chef of the kitchen. May report to the executive chef, or directly to the owner, if the owner maintains control of the kitchen. In some cases, the executive chef and the chef de cuisine may be the same.
    • Sous chef – next in line under the chef de cuisine, same as the under chef in the classic system, and in command when the head chef (or executive chef, if applicable) is not present. Oversees the preparation, portioning, and presentation of the menu items according to the standards of the executive chef or chef de cuisine.
    • Area chefs – these are basically the chefs de partie or station chefs, responsible for a particular area in the kitchen. Depending on how closely the kitchen follows the classic brigade, the station chefs may have line cooks under them, or line cook and station chef may essentially be the same position. Any of the positions of the classic system are possible, such as: saucier, poissonier, rotisseur, or grillardin, etc. and in modern kitchens, duties may rotate.
    • Line cooks – works for the area chef and assigned a particular position in the assigned kitchen area.
    • Expeditor – (aboyeur) takes orders from servers in dining room, announces them to the kitchen, and facilitates the efficient coordination of each dish. May make a final check on the finished plate and apply finishing touches. Makes sure the servers deliver the plates promptly and correctly, and may deliver orders themselves, in some cases.

    There are many other positions possible in a kitchen, and there are also duties that have not been covered here, such as dishwasher and others, that are needed for the functioning of a busy kitchen.

    Work Ethics of a Chef

    Here is the reality check: if a person wants to pursue a career in food operations, he or she must understand that the commitment is unique. Yes, other careers do require a strong work ethic, but foodservice is unusual in that the requirement for work typically exceed what one would normally expect. It is what it is and will not likely change. Here is why: we work so that other people can play. This is our charge, this is what is required and is the nature of hospitality. Holidays are busy days in restaurants – there is no getting around it. Dinner happens after 5 p.m. when others are done for the day – this is the time when we gear up for a long night. Weekends are not for foodservice staff – in fact, our weekends are typically Monday and Tuesday, if at all. Accept it – this is what we are about. Food positions are not for the weak at heart. No matter what some might promote as a need to change, this is the reality of work in hospitality. Now, all that being said, those who can make that adjustment will share in the lifestyle of a unique, very special group of people who are hard-working and fun loving – people who are committed to service and do enjoy making others happy. Those who do not fit will move on to something else, those who stay are the heart and soul of the service business and the nurturers of others enjoyment. Work ethic in foodservice must include an understanding and acceptance of this.

    Hire work ethic, be upfront with those who apply, enjoy the company of those who are willing to commit and celebrate the dedication that they have to the enjoyment of others.

    Strong work ethic is the price of admission in food service.

    Attributes of a Chef

    A Thinker

    Cooks and chefs are faced with analyzing situations and making decisions constantly. As much as the job of cooking is physical, it is just as mental. Determining timing, prioritizing steps, adapting to variables in the flavor profile of ingredients, troubleshooting staffing issues, and solving equipment issues requires sharp minds as well as accomplished hands.

    Intelligent

    Cooks possess an innate intelligence demonstrated through their ability to sift through various situations and factors that lead to rapid-fire decisions. As stated in the description above, cooks and chefs are consummate planners, masterful problem-solvers, highly creative artists, great students of food, and in possession of fine-tuned memories that allow them to keep multiple tasks and procedures close to their chest.

    Inquisitive – Willing To Question

    Serious cooks and chefs are constantly looking for the answer to “why”. It is this quest for answers that makes a cook better at his or her craft and a ‘chef’ able to meet the demands of the job.

    A Dreamer

    Although it is usually advisable for cooks and chefs to prepare food that customers are comfortable with, the culinary professional pushes the envelope and introduces food that we will learn to love and become excited about. This is what continues to allow restaurants to grow and remain significant.

    Competitive

    Great cooks are inherently competitive. Sometimes they focus on competition with other restaurants, other chefs, or even their peers, but the most successful cooks and chefs are primarily, in competition with themselves. “How can I improve? How can a dish that is well supported by guests become even better?”

    Great cooks and chefs are never satisfied with how well they are performing today. They are always seeking to stay relevant and improve.

    A Person with Unquestionable Work Ethic

    To define a cook or chef as “serious” is directly relates to their commitment to the work. Great work ethic is second nature to great cooks. We might complain about the long hours and intensity of the work, but underneath we know that anything less is not enough. Total commitment to doing what is necessary is the essence of professional cooking.

    Goal Driven

    If the ultimate form of business assessment is results, then cooks and chefs should be the poster child. Some goals are small, while others might determine the longevity of a restaurant as a business, but to a cook they are all the same. A goal is a goal and it is their job to meet or exceed expectations.

    Creative

    Cooks are the consummate artists. Appealing to every human sense in a way that brings enjoyment is an everyday job for kitchen professionals.

    Dependable

    Frankly – no other part of a cooks profile is more important that his or her desire and total commitment to trust. To be a great cook or chef is to be dependable without exception. Trust that they are present and ready when needed, trust that quality will never be sacrificed, and trust that the best interests of the team and the operation are of paramount importance to every cook who carries the label of “serious”.

    Antagonistic

    The best cooks push others, critique others (while offering solutions), ensure that everyone remembers what the big picture is, and never turns his or her back on doing things right. He or she might be a thorn in other cooks sides, but they help to make everyone better at what they do.

    A Rebel with a Cause

    Unlike James Dean, the cook who is often seen as rebellious, pushy, crusty, hard, confrontational, and a real pain in the ass is really a proud professional. He or she helps to ensure that everyone remembers what they are in the kitchen to accomplish; respect the food; working as a team; producing exceptional food; pleasing the guest; and helping the restaurant to build a brand and reach its goals.

    Your Best Friend or Your Worst Enemy

    I have never found individuals who can fit the description of “friend” better than a cook who has learned to trust me. I have never found a higher level of commitment to friendship and respect than in the kitchen but at the same time, it would be hard to find someone more intent on taking another person down than a cook who feels that another has violated this trust or commitment.

    Highly Organized

    Without methodical organization in a kitchen you are only left with chaos. Since mise en place is at the core of what we do and the first skill that a cook learns, it only makes sense that serious cooks find that organization is the essence of what they do.

    Protective

    All for one and one for all – cooks are protective of other cooks. This level of protection may even go beyond the walls of an individual kitchen. If you wear whites then you feel support from anyone else who wears the uniform and stands before a range.

    Street Smart

    Those who are street smart are individuals who can separate truth from a line of bull, fact from fiction, honest from dishonest, opportunity from danger, and inherently good people from those whom you should avoid. I am not sure if it is the work of the kitchen or the diversity of characters that call it home – but most serious cooks that I know are as street smart as they come. This skill allows them to survive and thrive. A cook who is dedicated to the craft and street smart is more likely to become an effective chef/leader than one who lacks this breadth of experience.

    In Touch with the Five Senses

    Of course, unlike the vast majority of people, cooks are tactile artists who understand how to incorporate taste, touch, sight, smell, and sounds into the experience of eating food and dining in restaurants. Cooks are the complete artist package.

    Tough but Tender

    Crusty and tough as nails, serious cooks are tender underneath. They are emotional bandits who feel deeply, care wholeheartedly, and give more than they take.

    A Fantastic Storyteller

    Chefs, in particular, use their story making skills in numerous ways. Most significantly, a restaurant menu is a compendium of stories that depict a chef’s career and the impact that food and specific dishes have had on his or her life. Sometimes this is made obvious through a theme or stated philosophy, but even when this is not the case; the menu will reflect a chef’s comfort level with certain preparations and the stories behind them.

    In a more obvious way, cooks and chefs accumulate stories of the kitchen (the good, the bad, and the ugly) over a period of years, and are always willing to share them with others. The longer that a cook spends in professional kitchens, the better he or she becomes at telling, and sometimes exaggerating these stories. It is these stories that serve to attract others to careers in the kitchen and fascinate those who dream about what it must be like to cook for a living.

    Proud as Hell

    Above all else – cooks are proud of what they do, what they are capable of, the people with whom they work, and the impact that they have on others. It is the chef’s greatest pleasure to point this out, shake hands with his or her team, hug those who give it all every day, and celebrate this pride every day with some of the best, most talented people anyone could know.

    **This type of person is valuable, appreciated, respected, and on the road to success. BE THIS KIND OF COOK and watch how many doors open and how many opportunities come your way.


    This page titled 1.2: The Brigade is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by William R. Thibodeaux & Randy Cheramie via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.