You may have read that there are 10 types of chefs, or chef ranks, in a formal kitchen, or 13, 15 or more. This confusion occurs for two reasons. One, different kitchens can combine several types of chefs or even separate a station into several seasons, each with a chef. Second, lists of chefs tend to occur in a hierarchy, from the executive chef to the bottom.
But when the list reaches kitchen stations, it ceases to be a hierarchy because one station is no more important or older than another. All of these chefs are just as important, but in reality they are not ranks of cooks, they are types of chefs. After all, for the guest who ordered a Caesar salad, the salad chef is the most important thing. An executive chef has a similar role, although he will have risen through the ranks of chefs to get there.
When the head chef is not present, daily tasks, such as controlling and managing stocks and ensuring that the kitchen is cleaned according to schedule, fall to the subchef. Depending on the restaurant and on the person himself, like the CEOs of the business world, the head chef usually leaves much of the daily operation of the kitchen to people who are lower in the hierarchy, such as the sous chef. A kitchen dishwasher is likely to depend on the kitchen curator or the chef de partie and may be asked to take on some tasks as a kitchen doorman during the busiest services. Chef de Cuisine is the traditional French term and, although it is slightly more common in European kitchens, head chef is the most commonly used title in the world.
Without the presence of an executive chef, the head chef may be more involved in the financial side of things, such as working with costs and supplies. The role of sous chef can be that of assistant to the head chef, as well as that of manager of the chefs de partie. It acts as a good workout for when the chef de partie is promoted to sous chef and has to supervise larger areas. In large kitchens, there will be cooks, or junior cooks, who will work under the orders of the head of departure at their station.
In terms of hierarchy, if there is an executive chef, the head chef would be accountable to him and, if there is no executive, he would report directly to the restaurant owner or manager. More of a practical chef than an executive chef, the assistant chef supervises all other chefs, including teaching them, correcting techniques and cooking as needed. In addition to the menu, the executive chef is responsible for ensuring that the kitchen runs smoothly by supervising the other chefs. The legendary chef Georges-Auguste Escoffier brought order to 19th century European kitchens by creating the Brigade System, the cooking system still in use today.
This chef specializes in a certain type of menu and teaches other chefs how to prepare this menu.