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« Camino. A New Restaurant Opens In Oakland. | Main | brown sugar kitchen, friday-saturday 5/30 & 5/31 »

28 May 2008


I hate you...

I love you...

I hate you...

I love you...

As I have commented before about your thought provoking posts...You give me things to think about myself, and hate about myself...and so I hate you.

But it gives me a reason to examine the things I have done/do...and so I love you.

Keep it up and do more of the same.

Well written, well said. Thank you. I was slightly moved. Now I head back to my little corner and to continue peeling these favas.

Being a Sous my self A good read as always but my favoriute lines

"...When you are a sous chef you are Middle Management. You are between a rock and a hard place. You have a little power, but not all of it. You have a dash of authority, and maybe a pinch, but rarely an armloadful. Sometimes your chef will back you, and sometimes not. {But your job is to back your chef, no matter what. At least in front of the kitchen. What you discuss or fight about behind closed doors is on you, or the two of you.} The sous chef and chef are to look like a unified front. On everything and everywhere...."


"...The sous chef is the chef when he's hungover from the night before..."

As always good points stuff to think on

Shuna, I haven't commented here before, but I have been lurking for a while. A recent graduate from college (history, of all things), I'm struggling to start on the path to chefdom.

I'm trying to start in my small town, but while I'm here with the only real friends I've ever had, my options for good restaurants, ones that are cooking for food and not for profit or gimmickry, are limited. Without any previous experience, I'm alternately pleading and waiting, hoping that someone is willing to make the space and take the chance so that I can show in action a determination that I'm unable to express through words.

For the time being, I'm doing my best to avoid bills and offers from turn-and-burn kitchens manned by shoemakers. By virtue of my lease, I'm committed to a year here, and with luck someone will take that chance in time. Please keep writing; it keeps me strong of will...

Wow. As usual, a brilliant post.

Well worded.

Please go on tour and preach to the masses.

Hell, I'll pay for an infomercial on the Food Channel if you would bring the soapbox.

Very Very Well Done.


I think this post is the best job description of a sous chef I"ve read in awhile. Especially since the term mean so many different jobs at different places. I hope a cooking school picks this one to have students read so they have a better understanding of what steps they need to become a chef and really understand what it means to live up to the title rather than just have a title. Good explanation.


Thank you so much for reading. I learn so much from your comments as well. And what you think means a lot since you've been at this, strong and steady, for a long time.

Yes, isn't it amazing that very few explanations of this important title exist? ~ Shuna

why do you not have a book out yet? seriously.

Craig, I f you can figure out how I can pay my rent & health insurance while I write a book, I'm all ears... ~ Shuna

Dang! Love those details, metaphors, short sentences, nouns and verbs. Oh, and insight. Thank you!

After 14 hours of just that....

Thank You!

Very nicely put.

So much to say and well said as usual.

The only thing I might add is that the real purpose of the walk-in refrigerator (other than to have sex) is for the sous and chef to disagree. I once saw a sous and chef go into a walk-in together, only to have the sous emerge ten minutes later, get a knife and go back in.

They both came out smiling, but the skate was off the menu.

I love your blog. You tell it like it is and hold nothing back. As a at home cook with culinary aspirations you really give me great insights into the business. Now, if only I could win the lottery so I could afford to work for free to learn some real skills.

Thanks for opening my (and I am sure other's) eyes to the reality of life in the kitchen.

Not much I can add, Shuna.

That was quite a mouth-full.
I guess the bottom line is being humble... for a sous chef, and for a chef. Everyone's opinionated, but not fully educated.

Love food above all. But love life even more. A chef wants a sous chef to be better than him/her-self.

... wait, wait, wait...
I just thought of one...
"Being a sous chef means that the cooks, bar-back, and assistant servers will all drive better cars than you... even though you work far more hours than they do, and you have to answer for the shit that they screw up."
It's a sad reality. Did you ever think that those little embroidered letters on your dirty white jacket would cost so much of your soul?

Shuna there have been a couple of posts here that really moved me to the point of needing to respond. Having worked together some of them I just didnt feel comfortable losing my internet virginity for... but this one, and the "chefs that work the line" have moved me as close as any egotistical male chef will ever come to tears... it so emphasizes the CHEF's need to motivate... we will lay down on a bed of nails for you if you are a worthy chef, and I think any worthy chef is humble enough to roll up their sleeves as you say for another... inspiring writing, inspiring food keep up the fight shuna...

Shuna there have been a couple of posts here that really moved me to the point of needing to respond. Having worked together some of them I just didnt feel comfortable losing my internet virginity for... but this one, and the "chefs that work the line" have moved me as close as any egotistical male chef will ever come to tears... it so emphasizes the CHEF's need to motivate... we will lay down on a bed of nails for you if you are a worthy chef, and I think any worthy chef is humble enough to roll up their sleeves as you say for another... inspiring writing, inspiring food keep up the fight shuna...

A sous chef needs to be whatever the Chef isnt being, at any given time...the good cop when he's the bad ambassador when he's being a dictator. Rewards are few and far between, and usually come in the form of the cooks under the sous doing well.

You say it so much better than I do.

Thanks for writing this.


You know how hard it is to describe a "sous chef" position to people who ask what exactly it is that you do?

This sums it up in a very big nutshell.

You have given me new light in how I look at and do my daily job.

Saying "Thank you" would not even come close on how happy you made the rest of my day feel!

Looking forward to whatever else lurks in your culinary mindset!

This is why I religiously check into your blog... and why I returned to a home kitchen. Truth hurts but at least it's not bullshit.

You work up yet another masterful post, and the timing couldn't have been better. You give me something to mull over before walking into that next job.

I just got home and headed straight over here for a little soul fixing. I just emailed your post to the sous chef I worked with tonight. There is a big festival in town right now and he has been working his tail off(talk about 15 hours a day average) because the ex.chef is not pulling his weight anymore. He was at his witt's end until I pointed the obvious to him: everybody in the kitchen right now would walk over fire for him to make sure that things get off smoothly. Not because they need the money (well, not only) but because of the things he has done and decisions he has made lately. He needs to read this he was so done and depressed...this piece is brilliant. Thank you!

I cannot tell you how important these words have been recently and how they are continuing to help me improve as a person and a cook. In context, do the right thing for a sous chef and even a line cook becomes even more important in the current world of become a chef as fast as possible. That is not the right thing. Also, trying to become a chef, have your own specials, create a name for yourself in another chefs kitchen is not doing the right thing. Mind you if you disagree with the chef, the environment etc, have a conversation. Shit or get off the pot. After the conversation you will know what to do, it is the doing which is difficult.

I think i need a beer now! Ive just been promoted to sous chef and im having a wk off first, after reading this i think i should just run and keep running!

Wish me luck.

very interesting description. i'm not a chef or work in the industry but i've held a position similar in engineering. now i work for myself as a goldsmith. the years training and working in an environment constantly changing keeps the brain cells working and hungry for more. always thinking "whats my next step?" is a good way to stop the grass from growing on you. thanks for a great article

I think you just turned me on! Well said. Way to step the fuck up.

I'm so glad I read that. Thank you! I'm not even close to being a Sous Chef but with education I believe I could be a good one.I've been working at a restaurant since 1995.I've seen people come and go. I don't get along with very many people there because I speak up. If I see a cook drop a steak on the floor damn right I'll say something. That couldove been served to my Grandma. And I swear I'm the only one who cleans the bathrooms. I get stuck with it no matter what position I'm working.I'm a prep cook now.They sure are happy when I'm gone. I can hear the heavy metal now.I don't tell people much about my working environment because I'm so ashamed to be there.I tell my boss things that people are doing wrong and he doesnt do anything about it. Hes afraid he'll have to pay unemployment if he fires someone and if they quit he'd have to work.And I can think of 5 people my boss has slept with out of the employees.So much more I could tell but I'll stop for now.

i am an executive sous... and i thought that spread was great

Every word you said hit home. How conflicted I feel at the end of a long day trying to wear all these hats-in one. It's a lot of abuse to take from above and below, but I hold on knowing that I have a greater dream to achieve. Outside of that, nothing else matters. Bring on the heat!

Inspiring. If you should choose not to work the kitchen, then dance the keyboard. Music will still be made!
I love your writing. I love your way of thinking...outside of the ordinary, and definitely outside of the box.

Absolutely true... Being a sous chef myself for a while now. I do agree. Well done there.

Good blog. Being 20+ years military, I like the occasional, well placed use of the f-word.

Pretty competent home cook....aspiring to do better.


Love this, absolutely love it. I'm a 26 year old Jamaican and I plan to enter the culinary field and stumbled upon this while doing some general reading. Found it inspiring, scary and thought provoking all at the same time. I like some challenges, and i'd love to at least give this one a try....eventually, if i feel so led after training and experience on the job:-). It was quite a fun read though! Thank you!

wow when i found the quote 'what is the meaning of a sous chef' i thought ehh click on this and see what crap come up, but i as soon as i started reading i moved my face about 3 inches from my screen, something that i have never ever done before in my life, i loved every single bit of that explanation, u hit the nail on the head with everything, i want to print that this out and put it on the wall at work, because i see so many of the traits in myself and there are certain sous who are not even the slightest bit half of all that.... EXCELLENT work, will bookmark this page for confidence boost when needed....respect all the way from sydney AUSTRALIA

As a Man who has been called "Chef" by most of the Sailors who work for me. Yes I am in the U.S. Navy, and no I am not a Cook for the Navy, I am a Meteorologist. I must say this post is nothing short of Brilliant. After my Career in the Navy I intend to start my career as a Line Cook and move up to truly be a Chef not just be called one because I cook amazing meals and bring them in to feed my Sailors.

My Utmost Admiration for your ability to put everything a Sous Chef is into writing. Bravo!

I'm a sous and #*/:;*# damn it well said. I been having troubles with my stressed out chef. Hopefully this will bring him back.I am all of those words and live it everyday. Sometimes work weeks in a row no days off but because I love it. I take pride in my job and would burn my hands for my excective chef. I'm very tire you know but I want to be a chef so bad. Cooks are made chefs are born and if you don't like it you're just an asshole. Lol cook shit talk. Thank you this clarifies my sacrifice and that I'm not alone. Lol

...If you can figure out how I can pay my rent & health insurance while I write a book, I'm all ears... ~ Shuna

Shuna, your blogs are the rough start for a book, The outline is decided by what your main communication theme is, and then that is 'flavored' by your style , what makes you you and then add a pinch of attaction gimmick. Then keep an open eye and ear for someone who does co-writting to team up on your 'first' book. Movie Julie/Julia is a slight example.
Kuddos from one whom has grown up in the food industry as a kid(57 now).

this article moved me so much, its funny how i came across this tonight. I was at work cooking for a few christmas parties, when my boss bailed out on me for no reason, other than "i can handle it" it put me in a disheartened mood which i tend to feel over and over again, being in this position. I have been working as a sous chef for just over two years now and the work is relentless, and its slowly tearing me up inside. Your article relit the fire of why i do what i do, regardless of time and effort. You defined the term sous chef perfectly, and now when i am asked what i do for a living ill just hand them this article. THANKS

Michael, thank you. It is comments like yours; it is bravery like yours, that keeps eggbeater going. Just knowing that I am speaking to and for 'my people' brings me immense joy & satisfaction. I know what it is to feel validated by one's own people, and that is my aim at eggbeater. thanks for taking the time to read & comment. But more, thank you for showing up every day for this industry we call home. ~ Shuna

inspirational, and hard to swallow at the same time. Thank you. The holidays really aren't for our industry, and i know now that I just need to 'step the fuck up'.

you're a bad ass, love it all

My 16 year old son asked me what a sous chef does. I didn't really know the answer so naturally I googled it. After reading your article I felt the pressure of working in a kitchen and oh my goodness... it's not for the faint hearted it it? I'll have a lot more respect when I see that someone is a sous chef - Hats off to you!

Hello, Shuna.

I'm not in the food industry, but my son and niece (10 and 13, respectively) have told me that they want to be chefs and I've taken it upon myself to learn as much as I can about the industry so that I can help them. I was always curious to know what a sous chef does, so I googled it and found your site.

I usually don't comment on many blogs, forums, etc., but I had to do it here because I loved the way you explained what a sous chef does. Not only was your explanation as clear and direct as it could be, but I think it also made it very clear that it's a job that's to be done in love as well as in ambition. It's definitely not for the weak at heart and it definitely gives me a lot of respect for them.

Thanks for your insightful article. I'm definitely going to keep using your site as a resource for their questions.

And for all those sous chefs out there -- my prayers and thanks are with you.

Very nice,really moved and inspired me. I have some big shoes to fill and I'm ready,thank you for your insight!!!

Very well written. Funny i have an interview for promotion to sous chef.


I want more than anything else in the world to become a Chef and I feel that as females we must work twice as hard to somehow prove ourselves in such a throat cut industry. I've been a dishwasher at various places over 4 years but wanting to work in Manhattan went to an open call at a Greenwich Village Restaurant. I worked one night only-due to various outside factors-but was amazed/thrilled to experience the intense, chaotic and close relationship and atmosphere the line, sous and head chefs share. I almost couldn't help but love the cursing, yelling, pressure because it is all in the name of creating amazing food and living up to a specific standard. In the following week I dreamt of dishwashing there and still want to return to work, I think I would even dishwash for free just to be in that kitchen. Your writing is such an inspiration, thank you!

Hi Shuna.

But you masterfully got to the essence of the issue: the sous chef is everything and nothing simultaneously. Arch duke and peasant at the same time.

Sous chefs go on to eventually become chefs. They take with them the lessons learned as a sous chef and those lessons learned form the basis for the lessons to be taught to your sous chefs.

You have provided valuable clues for the grill cook itching to move up.

Hi Shuna,

My son, a graduate of J & W in RI, is an experienced Sous chef. I never understood what the term meant until I read this article.

Tony's an extremely hard worker with more than 20 years of experience who is currently out of work due to the impact of our current economical woes.

I found your article while surfing the web looking for some interesting 'Sous Chef' openings to send him. I'm hoping to convince him to move to a location with greater opportunity for emplyment in the field of culinary arts and fine dining.

After reading this article, I can visualize just how much effort he has put into honing his skills. I understand now why he feels that it is so important not to step back into a position beneath his standings. It would be like a major league ball player taking up a position on a minor league team just to stay in the game. It's a tough pill to swallow, and a step backward from your goals.

Keep up the good work... and maybe you should reconsider writing that book... I'll be looking out for it.

Tom Bembenek, CPO USN Retired.

i m working in kitchen industry for last 9 years and recently i got prommoted from jr.sous chef to sous chef ,i do 100% agree w8ever u have described above,super mind blowing sous chef explanation........wish me luck for my future,hope i will fulfill all task which one good sous really has to do.............

Wow, that is an amazingly accurate portrail of the Sous' responsibilities, I have been doing the job with out the title or pay and now the powers that be finally wish to acknowledge my efforts. This blog will be a large part of my description and reasoning behind the salary amount I will be negotiating when I meet with the chef and owners!!

Thanx for telling it like it is!!!!

Ah the internet's a beautiful thing.Rants,facts,inspiration,frustration(?)and you'd do it all again wouldn't you? Maybe just to develope that one great Chef.Or work for that ONE GREAT ONE???
I've done the same but in training driving horses and farming.Different uh? I enjoy the comments and commentary on food.Keep on writing.(have you noticed a lot of sailor comments!?)

Thanks for sharing all this valuable information. I love it when people openly share the truth.

Well written, everytime someone asks me what i do, I defer them to this page. It's a pretty complex job we have.
Thank you

Shuna, Thank's for the heads up. iv'e recently become unemployed and looking to make a career change. Iv'e always love cooking to the piont my wife stays out of my kitchen, She tells me all the time she loves my cooking only then to complain about her waist line, lol. And after visting a local college to check out my options I came home to google Sous Chef ! witch lead me to your blog, Know I understand totaly the deffenation I must give it more concideration lol, Enjoyed your blog and my hats off to you Thanks Joseph.

WOW.. i work in a very small kitchen with only 6 chefs, i am 21 and this is the first time i have been promoted to sous chef i got promoted approx 12 mnths ago and thought i was just doing a terrible job until i started to realise that i wasnt it is the job to cop the shit and make the executive look fantastic and flawless thanx for this insight opened my eyes and now i can do an even better job gawd i love my career p.s. i gotta say the person who commented about the coolroom being the place executives and sous chefs argue, ur absolutely right its like a "cone of silence"we say what we need to say and my other staff dont see or hear anything which is the way it should be

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