Responsibilities of a Head Chef

Responsibilities of a Head Chef - Chef Works

Author: Chef Perry   Date Posted: 30 November 2020 

The responsibilities of a Head Chef are many and varied. At a minimum, they organise and facilitate all kitchen activities. Also known as the Chef de Cuisine or Executive Chef, the leader of the kitchen ensures efficient, high-quality work from his staff, and customer contentment at all times. An experienced and qualified Head Chef is imperative for success in the culinary industry.

Running a professional kitchen is about creating and maintaining excellence at all times.

Chef's team
Chefs wearing purple Springfield Zipper Jackets (Mens and Womens).

Man on the left: Oxford Dress Shirt and eggplant coloured Dorset Half Bistro Apron.

The difference between good and great often lies in having the right attitude, and laser-like attention to detail. An excellent culinary leader models and cultivates these traits for and within their team. They take personal responsibility for the success of both their crew and their kitchen.

The Head Chef mostly works in the back-of-house, overseeing the creation of recipes and menus, as well as taking care of the day-to-day business tasks of inventory, scheduling, and planning. Other primary duties of the role include the maintenance of the kitchen’s efficiency and the consistent production of quality food.

Because the buck stops with them, being accountable for the success or failure of the restaurant, Head Chefs work long hours. Nights, weekends, and holidays will typically find them in their kitchen.

Boiled down (if you’ll excuse the terrible pun) Head Chefs are responsible for, leadership, management, and culinary acumen.

Chefs team supporting each other

Leadership in the Kitchen

The ability to knock out a tasty dish and create a working menu are just small parts of the Head Chef’s role in the kitchen. Far more important is knowing how to lead a team.

Escoffier’s Brigade de cuisine, the hierarchy of the professional kitchen, imitates the chain of command of naval sailing ships for a good reason.

The Chef de Cuisine runs the boat, passing commands down to lieutenants who then delegate those commands to specific members of the crew. This hierarchy creates a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts and ensures the efficiency and consistency that are vital to a successful restaurant kitchen.

A Chef should be able to make decisions quickly and efficiently. The kitchen is a fast-paced environment, and a Chef has to make numerous decisions at once. They should be able to handle the pressure, problem solve and take the initiative to fix issues before they arise.

They have to be able to motivate and communicate with those working in the kitchen.

Being an effective leader requires constant focus, perseverance and the ability to build a team that is accountable and designed to get results. Without the team, there can be no real leadership.

The unique perspectives of the position provide great insight while also validating certain commonalities.

Chef's team
Chefs wearing white Valencia Chef Jacket and black Tribeca Executive Chef Jacket

You must learn to train kitchen operatives on the fundamentals of good cooking and excellent plate presentations, as well as interview and hire new applicants for the kitchen.

Many of us in leadership or management positions know what we need to do to be better leaders, but we sometimes fail to act. Being a great leader requires constant personal and professional development, regular transparent feedback from the team, self-reflection, and taking action on feedback received.

They encourage others to follow them. They also lead by example. A great Chef, like any other great leader, never stops inspiring those around them to greatness.

If you want to be a Chef, you must also know how to lead people. You need to decide what kind of leader you want to be and evolve your leadership style and skills over time: identifying the developmental needs of kitchen staff, providing coaching, mentoring, and also helping them to improve their knowledge or skills.

Head Chef With Mentor
Chef's wearing blue Gramercy Chef Jacket

Restaurant Kitchen Management

Another responsibility of the Head Chef is to be a kitchen manager. Effective restaurant management involves several challenges, including public relations, inventory, staff, and customer service. In some instances, a restaurant owner may also serve as the manager.

Either way, a competent manager is an essential element of a successful restaurant—they are usually the person who handles both staff and customer issues. These are the crucial basics for adequately managing a restaurant:

  • From the waitstaff to the house kitchen staff, finding the best person for each role will help your restaurant run smoothly.
  • When interviewing candidates, be sure to check references to determine if they will be a good fit for the position.
  • Establish a trial period before hiring permanently. Not only should workers be skilled in performing their job, but they should also possess strong interpersonal skills, as their role will likely depend on the work of others. For example, waitstaff relies on the Chef to complete the correct orders in a timely fashion.
Head chef mentor supporting team
Sourcing food supplies from a market

Monitoring Cash Flow

Cash flow is the measure of how much cash comes in versus how much goes out of the business. This should be monitored on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. It is essential to understand this basic concept of restaurant finances to avoid financial risk.

The price of food can change frequently, so the cost of running your business will also vary, and Head Chefs need to keep this in mind. Restaurant menus must have prices that keep food costs low and profits high.

This balance means that as a Chef, you should strive to keep your menu exciting and make sure customers receive value for what they’re paying. While you want to keep costs low, you also don’t want to serve mediocre quality food to customers.

Piggy Bank Restaurant

Cutting Costs

Switching to energy-efficient light bulbs and low-flow faucets are just two ways that restaurants can save money, not to mention the environment. Look around your establishment for areas that require less cost without hurting the customer experience.

For example, you may be saving money by replacing chairs with less expensive ones. However, customers may not return if they become uncomfortable while dining: As you can see, it’s all about weighing the trade-offs.

The Bottom Line

Managing a restaurant involves many different responsibilities, from hiring and firing staff, to tracking sales and basic accounting. As a restaurant manager, it is your responsibility to make sure operations run efficiently to provide optimum service to customers.

Chefs loving and working with food

Having a Love for Food

As Head Chef, it is essential to develop an appreciation for food and capability in every area of your cooking. You must be able to understand your employees’ positions well enough to perform duties in their absence or determine appropriate replacement to fill gaps.

Working in the food industry requires creativity, so Chefs must be open to incorporating new food items into menus as well as improving older recipes. Creativity and imagination will keep customers coming back for more.

Chef finishing off dish

The most important hard skill Chefs need is an ability to cook, as well as knowledge of the kitchen. This broad skill includes a variety of smaller talents, including knife and tasting acumen. Chefs need to be able to cook precisely and efficiently. They also need to be skilled at recognising flavours and judging the balance of seasonings.

The world’s top Chefs are not content to cook the same dishes over and over again. Instead, they are curious about new developments in the culinary world, and unusual flavour combinations and ingredients that can take their food to the next level.

If you are continually striving to learn more about cooking, then you might have what it takes to be a thriving culinary professional.

Chefs working with fresh food

What is the key to creating the perfect dish? Passion. The key ingredient is passion.

If you have passion, it translates to the food to help create the perfect dish, whether it’s a home-cooked meal or masterpiece by one of the world’s best Chefs.

Head Chefs must also have excellent attention to detail. Cooking is science. Every ingredient and measurement must be exact, including ordering food products or figuring out how long to cook certain items so that they’re all plated at the same time.

A Chef needs to have an eye for details such as:

  • Heat Control
  • Measuring
  • Portion Sizing
  • Precision
  • Presentation
  • Quality of Food
  • Supervising
Chef finishing off dish


A Head Chef is the leader of the kitchen, in terms of staff responsibilities and what the kitchen produces. A Head Chef may operate a small restaurant kitchen with only a few employees or an industrial kitchen with a large number of assistants, Chefs and other staff.

Being a Head Chef requires a balance of advanced problem-solving skills and the ability to multitask in a sometimes hectic environment.

Leadership is about orchestration, flow, and inspiring teams to do what you need them to do. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to look effortless.

Countless leaders undo themselves and their teams with impatience, frantic behaviour, and bull-dozing their way through life. We have spoiled ourselves into believing that greatness is instant, and it’s ruining our ability to give attention and devotion to areas which need precision and thoughtfulness.

This devotion, precision and thoughtfulness are, in essence, what every good Chef must commit to. When leading an extraordinary organization, those factors at the core are the responsibilities of a Head Chef.

Of course, no Head Chef would be complete without a great Sous, here's how to be a good Sous Chef, what you need to know. 

At Chef Works, we are driven by those who are inspired by all things culinary. Fueled by the belief that every culinary professional deserves the right apparel and tools to enhance the work they do. We understand that the recipe for excellence goes far beyond simple ingredients.

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