The kitchen staff of any establishment, whether it's a five-star restaurant or a small diner, is involved in the same basic duties required to provide food services to clientele. Food preparation and the actual cooking of the dishes are just two of the jobs available in a kitchen. Larger kitchens have an extensive staff to handle the numerous duties.
Preparing the food items for the day’s menu is an important function in the kitchen. These duties include sorting, chopping, washing and storing of food so the employees cooking the dishes can concentrate on specific tasks. This position is generally considered as an apprenticeship before working “on the line” (actually cooking the food), because it familiarizes a person with the ingredients and necessary amounts used in dishes. Food preparation also includes making soups and salads, cleaning prep utensils, preparing to-go orders and, when needed, substituting on the line.
This position, which gets its name for the French word for “below,” is found more often in higher-quality restaurants. A sous chef is, in many ways, a supervisor in the same way that the head chef oversees the kitchen. The sous chef organizes the wait staff, assigns duties and keeps the flow moving during business hours. A large part of the sous chef’s job is administrative, being responsible for ordering supplies, scheduling shifts and, in some cases, even planning menus. According to hcareers.com, a sous chef's salary, as of 2009, ranges from $30,000 to $50,000. Sous chef positions at hotels and cruise ships often earn higher salaries.
The head chef, or executive chef, is generally employed by hotels and finer restaurants. This is an executive position, which includes making decisions in staff hiring, menu planning and being responsible for the overall management of kitchen operations. The head chef also chooses the dishes offered and is essentially responsible for the identity and reputation of the establishment. According to cbsalary.com, annual salary ranges, as of April 2010, are between $51,000 and $92,000.
A kitchen helper is a generic position and involves a variety of duties. This person is a utility employee, likely involved with food preparation, food storage, cleaning up and assisting other kitchen staff members. Bussing of tables and janitorial duties are often a part of a kitchen helper’s job, Helpers may also scrape food from dishes to prepare them for the dishwasher, although this task is often delegated to the dishwashing position.
A porter is similar to a helper, in some regards, but this position often has specific duties, especially in finer establishments, according to the University of Maine. A porter handles many of the duties of a kitchen helper, such as laundering table linens and chef’s aprons, as well as general cleaning up of food preparation and dining areas, as well as trash removal.