Understanding the Kitchen

This page is something kind of unique. Through cooking at home and the continued education I receive from fellow chef friends, I have realized that some very basic culinary terms are not so well known among us ‘non-chefs’.

Cooking hierarchy

After tons of searching for the most classic kitchen hierarchy here is the most traditional sense of the kitchen – although each kitchen will take on its own layout.

Executive Chef – The executive chef is responsible for the entire umbrella of the kitchen. He/she is responsible for maintaining the integrity of menu by approving all changes and coming up with new ideas. The Executive chef is also responsible for activities of his chefs, and will often hire staff and take care of food costs. The Executive chef may often partake in cooking (depending on the Chef). While the Executive chef generally implies status they can run the extreme of someone who is very hand on, or someone who has input in the menu but leaves the majority of duties to the chef de cuisine or sous chef. In the latter scenario it is usually because the Executive chef helps run several establishments.

Chef de Cuisine – The main difference between the Executive Chef and the Chef de Cuisine is the status. As mentioned above, the Executive chef usually has his name on several doors, and is much more well known. However, establishments prefer to only have a chef de cuisine. The responsibilities are much alike (and you will find that if the Executive Chef is more hands off, the Chef de Cuisine is in the kitchen much more in comparison).

Sous-chef – By definition this means ‘under the chef’. The Chef de Cuisine and Sous-chef alike are usually the ones who create the menu items and build the recipes that comprise the menu. Responsibilities are to look after the quality of the food and the staff as much as possible. Though less well-known than the Executive chef the sous-chef is the Executive/Chef de Cuisine’s right hand (wo)man.

Garde Manger – The Garde Manger is a specialized cook and is designated to cold plates such as salads, canapes and hors d’ouevres. In addition, the Garde Manger has the palate to combine flavour profiles which includes creating sauces and dips to partake in the cold plates. This will run anywhere from chutneys to vinaigrette.

Entremetier – The Entremetier is responsible for entrees. This is a specialized position and is quite high up in the ranks.

Saucier – The Saucier is responsible for preparing sauces. Although this sounds quite basic, most dishes require sauces that are made with consistency. There are five main sauces that any given Saucier will be familiar with and will have a part in many of the dishes.

Commis – This is an entry level position. This Commis will work directly under the line cooks (Chef de partie) and is responsible for the tools in the kitchen.

Vegetable Cuts

Have you ever followed a recipe that asks you to chop vegetables? I never really know what the recipe envisions because what is a chopped vegetable? I asked my husband the same question and he gave me that look of reassurance that I was completely right… chopped… is a loose term. Instead I did some research what the various cuts of vegetables are and here is what I found.

Click on this link and take a look a the different shapes and sizes here

Basically you have your brunoise which is a very small cube and is typically used for garnishes. One step bigger than that is the macedoine which is your typical diced vegetable. I like using this in anything that doesn’t require you to have the onion as a major player but you want the aromatic.

The chiffonade is used for some vegetables like leafy greens which are layered and require just a thin slice . For other vegetables you get slices by a paysanne which are against the grain (picture a celery stalk) or you can have julienne which are thin slices with the grain. One step up from the julienne is the jardiniere which are your basic chunky slices of veges (like that of a vegetable platter).

Not sure why the mirepoix is included in this as its not really a cutting style but a starter for lots of soupes, stalks, etc. A basic mirepoix will be a mix of aromatics such as onion, celery and carrots sauted very slowly in butter.

Check this video out… its doesnt include all the styles but its good to see. click here