Who’s who in the kitchen? We break down the chef hierarchy

chef hierarchy in the kitchen

You’ve browsed the menu and chosen a delicious eye fillet, with an antipasto platter to start, and a fresh salad to go on the side… and of course, a nice creamy tiramisu to wrap things up! 

You realise that more than one person is behind your sumptuous meals, and that there are many people who make up the kitchen staff, each working tirelessly to give 100% to foodies like you.

Unless you’ve worked in a kitchen yourself however, you probably aren’t very familiar with what this team looks like and how it’s organised.

Whether you’re a major food-lover or considering enrolling in a commercial cookery course, you’re curious about what the kitchen hierarchy looks like…

What are the positions in a kitchen?

The kitchen hierarchy (kitchen brigade if you want to be formal, or brigade de cuisine if you’re feeling extra fancy!) organises the various roles in professional kitchens, ensuring that every member of the kitchen staff who has their own responsibilities works well together.

Created by legendary chef Georges Auguste Escoffier, this system was so good it was rapidly adapted in commercial kitchens all over the world.

Even today, the vast majority of restaurants follow a version of this system.

If you have been wondering who’s who in the kitchen, we’ll give you an idea of how they fully operate. You’ll never know, one day, you might be on the top of the hierarchy!

What is the highest rank for a chef? The kitchen brigade, explained

The top dog: Executive Chef

Chefs who take on managerial roles usually carry the title of Executive Chef, which is the highest rank for a chef.

Individuals with this title manage staff, create menus, take care of budgeting, look after all the restaurant’s inventory and stock, and manage restaurant operations.

While they’re experienced chefs themselves, many of their roles actually take them out of the kitchen.

Still, they are involved in day-to-day restaurant operations, working with the restaurant manager and head chef to ensure the business establishment’s success.

Who is the most important person in the kitchen? Head Chef or Chef de Cuisine

With the Executive Chef spending much of their time out of the kitchen, the responsibility of managing the kitchen itself falls onto the Head Chef, or Chef de Cuisine.

This is the most important person in the kitchen as the role calls for them to:

  • Manage the kitchen and keep things running smoothly
  • Be the middleman between the kitchen and management
  • Put the Executive Chef’s decisions into action

Head Chefs are usually the senior chefs who oversee everything in the kitchen and between staff. In smaller hospitality businesses, the roles of Executive Chef and Head Chef might even be merged.

Sous Chef – How many Sous Chefs can you have in a kitchen?

A Sous Chef (literally translated from French to “under chef”) is usually second in command, taking responsibility in the kitchen when the head chef is not around.

The Sous Chef takes over any kitchen duties, especially if the Chef de Cuisine is busy with paperwork or admin duties in the kitchen.

In addition to this, Sous Chefs also help the head chef manage the rest of the kitchen, watching over the line chefs and monitoring different stations.

Depending on the need and the kitchen restaurant’s size, there may be two or three Sous Chefs, with the biggest kitchens sometimes rostering 10-15 Sous Chefs to keep things in line.

Chef de Partie or Line Cook

Most commercial kitchens are set up with multiple stations where food items are prepared and served – for example, a kitchen might have a food prep station, one station for soups, one station for grilling and so on.

A Chef de Partie or Line Cook is in charge of each of these sections – for bigger stations, they might even be in charge of managing several Commis Chefs underneath them.

As for their regular responsibilities, the Chef de Partie oversees preparation of food in their particular assignment area, working to ensure that they’re getting food out on time and that the kitchen is operating seamlessly.

Each Line Cook takes on specific duties that can range from:

  • Fry chef
  • Saucier
  • Grill chef
  • Pantry chef
  • Pastry chef
  • Fish chef
  • Roundman

Commis Chef

Commis Chefs usually work under Chef de Partie, helping out at specific stations by preparing ingredients. Oftentimes, Commis Chefs are trainees who have finished their Commercial Cookery course.

They often work as assistants or helpers, and are usually assigned to a specific location in the kitchen.

Kitchen assistant

A kitchen assistant is someone you call for help in the kitchen – help which can take many forms.

Kitchen assistants usually work in the food preparation process such as peeling, selecting, washing, storing, organising and storing food ingredients and food equipment.

Basically, anything that needs doing!

Once again, their presence depends on the demand in the kitchen as well as how many different kitchen tasks are needed. For smaller businesses, they might not be needed at all.


Cleanliness and hygiene of cooking equipment, cutlery, utensils, plates and dishes are essential not just in kitchen operations, but also in ensuring customer health and safety. 

Dishwashers take an important role in preparing all the needed cookware and tableware for day-to-day restaurant operations.

Enrol in our online commercial cookery courses at Academia

With the exception of dishwashers and kitchen assistants, securing a position in the kitchen hierarchy requires training.

Specifically, it requires you to complete one of our commercial cookery courses in Melbourne or Brisbane!

Our institute offers a range of courses that combine both practical commercial cookery training with in-depth theory lessons, all taught in well-stocked workshops by experienced instructors…

Certificate III in Commercial Cookery (SIT30816) 

Before starting your own business or working in the hospitality and food industry, you need to learn the basics of working in a commercial kitchen.

And that begins by enrolling in this course.

Learn everything you need to succeed as a commercial chef with lessons including:

  • Maintaining food quality of perishable items
  • Applying safe work practices
  • Food preparation techniques for meat, vegetable and special dietary requirements
  • Participating in environmentally sustainable practices
  • Planning and costing of menu

Find out more about the Certificate 3 in Commercial Cookery.

Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery (SIT40516)

Are you planning to start a restaurant or cafe? Eager to climb the ranks in your kitchen hierarchy?

Before you do so, you have to know all the necessary processes from management, finance, and marketing needed to lead a team or organisation.

And that requires a Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery.

You will need to finish this course if you want to enrol and continue with the Diploma of Hospitality Management.

Find out more about the Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery.

Find out more about our commercial cookery courses in Brisbane

In addition to cookery courses in Brisbane, our institute also offers hospitality management as well as pastry chef courses like our patisserie course in Melbourne.

Have questions? Reach out to us, and our friendly team will be here to assist you by: