In the French brigade system, the commis chef works at many stations to learn how the kitchen operates. This entry-level position might be one of the lowest ranking kitchen jobs, but it allows you to learn a restaurant’s culinary procedures, build stamina to handle high-pressure situations and learn about multiple duties so that you can better determine your goals for career advancement.
Commis chefs learn many jobs, rotate through sections such as pastry, saucier, meat cook, butchery and fish preparation. The job allows you prove your commitment while working under different section chefs or chefs de partie. You might find that you enjoy making sauces and soups, or your personal goals might involve working with vegetables to create unique vegetarian patés or vegan dishes.
Commis Jobs Lead to Advancement
Few people start their careers in top culinary positions but must work their way up through the kitchen hierarchy. Fortunately, kitchens promote from within rapidly for workers who demonstrate culinary skills, grace under pressure and willingness to work as team players. Your responsibilities will include the following duties:
- Preparation of ingredients for more senior chefs
- Maintaining high standards of hygiene
- Rotating food, putting away inventory and dealing with deliveries
- Measuring ingredients and sizing portions accurately
- Learning about food safety techniques
- Preparing foods for mise en place, which involves chopping vegetables, stocking stations, organizing ingredients and partly cooking some foods
Training for Entry-level Positions
Some people work their way into senior culinary positions by the classic apprenticeship method, but culinary jobs have become increasingly competitive because of the success of celebrity chefs, famous restaurants and popular dining trends. If you want to get a job in an upscale restaurant, hotel or resort, a culinary education will help you get hired and advance more rapidly no matter where you work.
Even Gordon Ramsay started as a commis chef, so you can’t avoid paying your dues. A culinary education will, however, brighten your job outlook, lead to faster advancement and help you land a job in almost any type of restaurant. Culinary certifications for food safety will help to strengthen your résumé. You can also earn a culinary degree at community colleges, culinary institutes and four-year colleges and universities. If you hope to become a head chef, you will need a culinary degree in today’s competitive restaurant environment.
- You must be a fast learner to move up in the restaurant business.
- Culinary certifications or degrees will help you qualify for entry-level positions at most types of dining facilities.
- As a commis chef, you should take the opportunity to learn how the French brigade system works.
- Communication with other chefs is just as important as culinary skills, and education can provide computer and management skills because all chefs need to multitask.
- Schools with student-staffed restaurants help you gain valuable practical skills to meet the demands of busy kitchens.
Salary Expectations for Kitchen Assistants
Busy kitchens are not the best place for timid people because the action is jammed into tight spaces, short deadlines and stressful working situations. However, if you are passionate about food, the commis chef position will allow you to prove your worth. Most commis chefs begin their careers earning about $20,000 annually, but your salary usually increases after you prove yourself competent and reliable. You might earn more by working on an hourly basis and working swing shifts to cover breakfast, lunch and dinner services.
The Downside of Commis Chef Jobs
If you love to cook, you might be surprised to find yourself working at manual labor jobs in the kitchen, such as putting away stock, cleaning chef stations, unloading trucks and cleaning ventilation filters. Working hours can be long, and you must remain on your feet constantly. Despite wearing hot white clothing in a broiling-hot kitchen, you’re expected to maintain a neat and clean appearance. Your social life will suffer because you will almost always be working nights and weekends.
The Prospects for Career Progress and Fame
Famous chef Patrick Hebert, whose career spanned continents and decades, started as a commis chef. In fact, most celebrity chefs and highly regarded local food celebrities got their start working in the commis position or as a kitchen assistant.
The kitchen environment is the world’s great melting pot, and it doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, gay, straight, attractive or ugly—if you can do the job, you will get noticed and appreciated. If you’re lazy, getting old or lack stamina, then working in the kitchen might not be right for you. If you’re physically capable, poised under pressure and dedicated, then starting as a commis chef will give you the chance to prove that you can handle responsibilities and senior restaurant work.