Line Cook Job Description - Skills, Duties and Career of a Chef de Partie
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What Does a Line Cook Do?
A line cook (also known as a chef de partie, station chef or line chef) is the head of a team of cooks and assistants assigned to work on a particular area of production in a modern restaurant kitchen. The main areas of production are meat, fish, vegetables, desserts and breads, cold dishes, and sauces.
Line cooks are generally employed in large and/or high-end restaurants, luxury hotels and hotel chains where a kitchen brigade system is in operation, typically run by a head chef (or chef de cuisine) with the help of a sous chef. Each line cook (chef de partie) is in turn responsible for a team of commis chefs - apprentice chefs who assist the chef de partie with the preparation of the food required for their station.
In classic French culinary tradition, the chefs de partie are usually as follows:
- Chef poissonier - the fish chef
- Chef rôtisseur - the roast chef
- Chef entremetier - chef responsible for preparing eggs, soups and vegetables
- Chef garde-manger (otherwise known as the larder or pantry chef) - responsible for preparing cold foods, as well as meat and fish for the other chefs de partie
- Chef pâtissier - the pastry chef, responsible for preparing desserts, cakes and breads
- Chef saucier or sauce chef - responsible for preparing sauces, stews, sautéed food and hot hors d'oeuvres.
The line cooks supervise food preparation and cooking activities and organize their teams, assigning tasks to each of the team members. The proficiencies required by a chef de partie vary according to the station they are responsible for, but may include: a knowledge of preparation methods for raw and cooked foods, the cuts of meat, poultry and game commonly used in cookery, methods for cleaning, filleting and marinating fish, cooking methods for meat, fish and vegetables, cleaning and prepping techniques for vegetables, preparing desserts, sweets and pastries, and the use of herbs, spices and aromas.
The supervision and coordination role performed by the line cook, together with their technical expertise and knowledge, are vital ingredients in enabling a kitchen team to operate efficiently and in synch.
Also hugely important is the ability of the chef de partie to communicate effectively with their junior chefs and assistants and their superiors (i.e. the sous chef and the head chef) and to stay calm under pressure.
Other responsibilities of the line cook include managing stock orders for their area, performing stock controls, checking the mise en place and monitoring compliance with food hygiene and safety regulations.
Line Cook Duties and Responsibilities
The main duties of a chef de partie include:
- Organizing and coordinating food preparation activities of cooks and commis chefs for specific area
- Ensuring plates are properly garnished and checking presentation of dishes leaving the kitchen
- Checking quality of food stocks, selecting supplies and managing inventories
- Creating new recipes
- Monitoring compliance with food hygiene and safety standards in kitchen
How to Become Chef de Partie - Education, Training and Requirements
There are no special training requirements or academic qualifications that can automatically prepare somebody for a role as a line cook or a professional career in restaurant kitchens. This is because the magic ingredient that will transform a cook with a catering school diploma into a fully-fledged chef de partie can be summed up in one word: experience.
And not just any experience - where it is acquired can make all the difference. For example, a job as a chef in a large restaurant or luxury hotel with extensive kitchen staff will offer new recruits a much broader learning experience and provide them with the opportunity to specialize in a single type of dish (e.g. meat, fish, vegetables or pastries and desserts) - thus boosting their chances of landing a position as a chef de partie.
Regardless of their chosen specialty, a useful habit that is sure to improve the employability of any aspiring chef de partie is to stay on top of all of the latest food and cooking trends and fashions.
Skills and Qualifications
A chef de partie needs to have the following skills:
- Strong cooking skills
- Ability to organize and lead a team
- Interpersonal and communication skills
- Creativity and passion
- Ability to cope with stress and fatigue
Line Cook Career Path
What's the career goal of a chef de partie?
To reach the role of line cook, a professional cook will in all likelihood have had to climb the ranks from an entry-level position, such as commis chef or kitchen assistant. Once they’re there, subsequent career advancement will involve progressing first to the role of sous chef and then to the giddy heights of head chef or executive chef, at the very top of the kitchen brigade tree.
An alternative career path that some line cooks may choose to follow is to open their own restaurant, looking to capture diners’ attention thanks to their inspiring menus and sophisticated or innovative cooking.
Top Reasons to Work as a Line Cook
The job of line cook not only offers the chance to work as part of a top class kitchen brigade, but also comes with a competitive salary. This is the ideal job for those who can offer culinary flair and talent (e.g. innovative ideas for menu design and food presentation) combined with strong organizational abilities.
Additional benefits of the position include the chance to pursue an international career in a top hotel or restaurant and the prospect of progressing to a role as executive chef.