Jump to content
  • Brendon

    Introduction: Commis Chef (NCOH Theory)


    5 pieces of advice for any new commis chef;

    “1 - Be prepared to work incredibly hard if you want to be successful.


    2- Every chef is always learning (Even your head chefs…especially your head chefs). If another chef tells you they know everything, they’re lying.


    3- Cooking & Hospitality is not difficult in it’s concept. All the dishes, presentation and service are many small components/elements combined together to make something perfect


    4- Ask Questions at every moment you get, Listen to what others tell & teach you, Watch every other chef and how they do things. To be successful you always need to be learning and finding the best way to complete every task.


    5- Most important; When you finish work, make sure you don’t take the work home with you. Remember to switch off, relax and enjoy every moment you have out the kitchen. What happens in service, stays in service.”

    What does a commis chef do and how they work in a professional kitchen?

     A commis chef is most often known as an apprentice or trainee chef in most professional kitchens. They aren’t usually specialized in a particular skill or section but sometimes you may find commis chefs training in the specialist area of patisserie (usually when they are passionate about becoming an accomplished pastry chef).


    Commis usually complete the ‘grunt’ tasks in a kitchen which only require a basic level of knowledge, these tasks can involve;

    - Vegetable preparation

    - Meat and poultry preparation

    - Basic cooking tasks such as soups, sauces & stocks

    - Basic bread & basic baking

    - Herb & Garnish preparation

    - Working directly under a chef de partie learning a section

     In addition to general workplace tasks, the commis will be required to keep the section they work on clean & tidy at all times. They will also be required to assist in the setting of mise en place for both preparation and services including topping up throughout the day.

     A good commis chef should always carry a pocket notebook on themselves to write notes, recipes and important lessons they learn on the go. “I myself still carry notebooks 17 years after my first commis job. I have hundreds of them, some with simple recipe multiplications, others with the best recipes on sauces, breads and cakes.”

     As a commis, you can expect to be doing very similar jobs day in day out, and this may test your passion and commitment. However all the simple things such as picking herbs, peeling vegetables or descaling fish are part of your conditioning as a professional chef. “ask any chef, every classically trained chef will have had to commit to a few thousand hours of ‘boring’ jobs before getting the chance to cook or make it on the pass”


    10 key targets for fast progression/promotion as a commis chef:

     1- Personal presentation; You should hold yourself to high standards before entering a kitchen. Be clean, well groomed and presentable in clean ironed chef uniform.

    2- Punctual; Being on time for every shift and ready to work at the designated start time (don’t turn up at your start time and them proceed to get changed. Be changed and ready for work on the start time)

    3- Equipped for work; You should have all your knives (sharp & maintained), A pen/notebook and any other pieces of equipment you need for your job (this may change depending on your workplace, establishment or type of section you are working on)

    4- Attentive and eager to learn; You should listen to all instructions and guidance so you fully understand what you are being asked to do. (Use your notebook to help you remember)

    5- Keep a clean & tidy section at all times; It is very easy to be labelled a ‘messy chef’ and very hard to remove that label. You should always clean as you go, and any moment you get chance you should wipe your section down with soapy water and disinfectant.

    6- Always set professional goals; Regardless of your rank/position, you should be setting yourself goals and targets. Even something as simple as peeling/chopping carrots can be a target (last week  it took me 2 hours to prepare 50kg of potatoes, This week my personal target is 1 hour 40 minutes)

    7- Labels, Labels, Labels; Many chefs fall into the habit of labelling at the end of the day rather than as they complete each task. If you label as you go, you will save a long winded task at the end of the day.

    8- Leave your section in perfect condition; Goes without saying, leave your section as you expect to find it.

    9- Be consistent in your approach to work. To be successful in hospitality you need to be as eager, attentive and as passionate everytime you turn up to shift.

    10- Enjoy what your doing. It’s very easy to become complacent and bored with your work. It’s vital that you enjoy the career path you’ve chosen as it’s very hard with long hours. If you don’t enjoy it the likely chance is you wont perform to the best of your ability.


    Knowing your section and how to work.

    Wherever you work, you are likely to be given a workbench/section to complete all your tasks. This space becomes your home for the day, And you need to treat it like a home;

    - Keep it clean

    - Keep it tidy

    - Keep it organised

    - Know where everything is

    There are 4 key things you need to setup your section for any type of hospitality work;  

    1. Chopping boards; 90% of your preparation will involve chopping boards. Make sure you have the suitable boards for the job and avoid having raw and ready to eat boards on the same workbench.

    2. Waste bowl; Also referred to as a section bin is important to avoid cluttering your section with mess whilst you prep

    3. Soapy water/ Sanitiser; Having these on your section helps you stay clean and tidy. It also keeps the food you are serving safe.

    4. Spoons; You should always have spoons on hand for tasting/mixing/serving. These should be clean and any dirty/used spoons disposed of. (don’t mix used spoons with clean ones. It’s a bad habit)




    Seasoning & Balance

    image.png.619be0dac265848e7f9a9f47f48dddaf.pngYou will hear plenty of chefs talk about ‘balance’ and be told about seasoning

    Balance is about understanding the food/dish you are creating. Some foods will be sweet, others salty, and some acidic or bitter. When creating dishes it is important that you find the balance of each food/ingredient to create the perfect dish.

    A well accomplished chef will understand the importance of balance and using the 5 seasoning's below to enhance each dish they create. BUT it is vitally important you understand the balance and not go overboard and over-season a dish.






     Using seasoning to balance food : Balancing table

    By looking at the seasoning chart you can start to imagine different ways to season food aside from salt and pepper.

    When creating dishes you have to imagine every single item in the kitchen is a seasoning and can be used to enhance the flavour of a dish.

     “When working at a prestigous michelin star, I worked with the chef on making mushroom puree for the tasting menu. He told me to grab every single herb, spice, sugar and liquid from the dry store. We make a base mushroom puree and divided it out into around 90 takeaway containers, and then added a small amount of each seasoning into every pot; one had balsamic, another dark chocolate, another salt, thyme, lemon, ginger and so on.

     We then tasted every one and the one’s that worked we kept, the ones that didn’t we threw out.

    We were left with about 40 containers of mushroom puree, which we started mixing and combining together to try and find the best seasoning combination for mushroom puree. After about 20 minutes we had the best tasting puree I have ever experienced. I could tell you the recipe/combination, but it’s my secret and it’s important that you discover your own as you develop”


    The Balance Table:  For Commis Chefs

    Food/ Item

    Seasoning / Ideal Balance

    Tomato Soup, Sauces.

    Gastrique of Sugar & Vinegar, soft bitter flavours; cocoa powder.

    Dark Chocolate /dishes



    Balsamic vinegar, Soy sauce

    Lemon & Lime dishes

    Sugar, bitter vegetables; celery, fennel, celeriac

    Salty meats ; Bacon, gammon

    Honey, mustards, root vegetables

    Spiced foods such as curry, chilli

    Acidic citrus flavours, mint, cream, soft herbs; coriander, parsley


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    There are no comments to display.

    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.