Have you ever come across the position of Chef de Rang mentioned and wondered what on earth this means!? Fear not, for you are not alone! When we delve into the catering industry, particularly high end catering this term comes up more and more often.
Those who have read our article, kitchen hierarchy explained, will know this position was not listed anywhere within the pyramid structure outlined. Did we forget it, or is there another reason for this mysterious position being omitted?
The simple answer is that the chef de rang does not appear in any kitchen rank structure as they are not a chef at all!
Chef de Rang is a French term used to describe a waiter who is the head of a section in the dining room. They will be responsible for the commis waiters beneath them and report to the maître d’hôtel (head waiter) above them.
This can get quite confusing as they are called chef but never enter the kitchen, except of course, to collect orders to bring to the customers tables.
There are several reasons for the title which we shall look at below, as well as the other positions front of house.
We must remember that front of house staff are a vital link in ensuring that customers have a great experience. many chefs can overlook this important aspect of the overall restaurant experience.
Without professional waiters taking care of the customers in the dining room, it doesn’t matter how good the cuisine leaving the kitchen; the customers are not going to return.
What Is The Role of The Chef De Rang?
As eluded to earlier, the chef de rang is the waiter in charge of a section of the dining room.
Restaurants are divided up into sections to make it easier for the waiting staff to operate. For example, if we had a restaurant which could seat 100 guests, this may be broken up into 4 sections of 25 guests each.
By dividing the restaurant into sections we are allowing the staff to focus their efforts on the particular section that they work in. This creates a system where by everyone knows their responsibilities.
This helps to prevent waiting staff from getting confused among themselves and generally getting in each others way during busy periods.
Assigning waiters to specific sections is a method used in all restaurants from the simplest chain type pubs to the grandest 5 star hotels.
For example, if our dining room of 100 covers was a high calibre establishment, they may choose to assign 3 waiters per section. (I can hear many front of house staff shouting that they would be far more understaffed than that!)
When having multiple waiters on a section, it makes sense to decided that someone among them is going to be in charge. This is where the chef de rang comes in.
They will be responsible overall for the section of the dining room they are in charge of. This means they will ensure the flow of the service goes smoothly by working with the commis waiters beneath them.
The chef de rang will perform many important functions throughout the day such as:
- Ensuring that their section is set up and ready for service to begin.
- Taking note of any special requests their customers may have, such as food intolerances or perhaps taking care of a special birthday cake to be delivered at exactly the right moment!
- Training the commis waiters so that they can perform to the high standards expected.
- Dealing with any complaints or queries the customers may have.
- Liaising with the head waiter to ensure the whole dining room flows as it should.
As we can see, there is a lot more to being a great chef de rang than may be evident at first glance.
Chefs are notorious for getting angry and stressed if things aren’t going to plan. When things are going wrong for a waiter, perhaps through no fault of their own, it is they who must deal with the customer face to face.
No matter how difficult the shift, the waiter will always maintain a polite and respectful manor. I’m not sure that all chefs can say the same thing in difficult periods!
Some readers may be wondering why they are called chef de rang, if they are not a chef. The best way to think of it is that chef in French can also mean chief. In this way they are the chief (or boss) of a section.
This may be confusing for some as the phrase chef de rang is not directly translatable to English. But let us not forget the English language contains many similar anomalies which non native speakers struggle to get to grips with. For example, ‘I can cook’ and ‘beans come in a tin can’
Maybe chef de rang seems like it might be the right kind of job for us.
What Do I Need To Become a Chef De Rang?
A career at the front of house can be very accessible to new entrants, and attracts people from all different walks of life.
There are no formal qualifications required to be a chef de rang, however experience in a waitering environment is vital. We will be expected to deal with customers, alongside giving other staff members tasks, so great people skills are a must.
Although there are no official qualifications required, any person hoping to become a chef de rang will be judged on the experience they have as well as their personal skills they have.
Therefor, we should look at the personal qualities required to excel in this job.
- Calm under pressure – we must not let the customers see when we are flustered. The dining room should always be a calm place which diner’s can sit back and relax.
- Warm and Friendly – we have all experienced a meal out with a waiter who was less than friendly, it is a sure fire way to give a restaurant a bad reputation. This must be avoided at all costs.
- Good at managing people – as we are responsible for managing the other waiters below us it is important that we have the required leadership skills.
- Strong communicator – often waiters are caught in the middle between a demanding customer and a less than happy chef. Being able to communicate effectively ensures that any problems are ironed out.
- Firm but fair – the customer is most certainly not always right. There are times when the chef de rang will be called upon to explain to a customer they are being unreasonable. This must be done in the politest way possible.
As we can see this is by no means and easy job, and there are many people with the wrong temperament who would not be suitable.
This clip of Gordon Ramsay’s long suffering waiter shows the unique skills required when dealing with tricky customers!
Being in a customer facing role can be very difficult at times. Even if we are having personal problems, the best chef de rang will excel at making the customer feel valued no matter how difficult their own day is going.
Although this is a tough job which requires many skills, there are also many benefits for those that can perform well.
The benefit to being a successful professional waiter is the higher wages, but also the large amount of tips they will receive, particularly from the customers who visit the type of restaurants likely to employ a chef de rang.
Where Will A Chef De Rang Work?
This term is relatively unknown to a lot of people as the vast majority of restaurants do not employ waiters of this type.
A Chef de Rang is often employed by higher class restaurants. For example, 5 star hotels, Michelin star restaurants or even cruise ship dining halls often employ these professional waiters.
They will usually be a larger size restaurant which benefits from having additional senior waiters to support the lower ranked waiting staff.
It stands to reason that the higher the standard of cuisine the more vital it becomes that the waiting staff are highly trained, professional, knowledgable, and work to a traditional front of house structured system.
Who Does The Chef De Rang Report To?
As head of a section in the dining room, the chef de rang must report to the maître d’hôtel, who in turn is responsible for the entire front of house restaurant.
As eluded to earlier, one of the necessary key character traits of the chef de rang is that they are able to communicate up the chain of command as well.
What Is A Maître d’Hôtel?
Maître d’hôtel is a French term which means the master of the house. Effectively the maitre d’hotel is the chef de rang’s immediate manager. Any particularly difficult customers or problems will be escalated to this senior position.
A Maître d’Hôtel has overall responsibility for the front of house staff, including all the waiting staff and bar tenders. They ensure the smooth running of the restaurant and deal with any issues which may arise.
This is a highly sought after position and requires a high level of experience. In many ways it is the front of house equivalent of being the head chef. The maître d’hôtel takes on the responsibility of conducting the flow of the restaurant so that all customers have an enjoyable experience.
What Is The Role of the Maître d’hôtel?
The role of the maître d’hôtel can be different depending on the type of venue they are working in.
- In a one room restaurant the maître d’hôtel is responsible for that dining room.
- In larger venues, such as a cruise ship with multiple restaurants, the maître d’hôtel will be responsible for overseeing all the restaurants.
In this type of setting, ie multiple restaurant venues, the waiter responsible for overseeing each individual dining room will often be referred to as the Head waiter, or possibly as the waiter captain.
We can see that role of maître d’hôtel can be extremely challenging. Having multiple restaurants under our control is a high level of responsibility that many waiters spend their whole career working towards.
As we can imagine this type of job role is not suited to everybody. The job requires someone with great people skills; someone who is able to charm the customers as well as provide a firm voice when required.
It can be an incredibly stressful role at times, but the best maître d’hôtel will be unflappable and no matter how stressed or busy they get, they will not let that show to the customers.
The aim in any restaurant is to shield the customers from the often hectic side of the kitchen. Great restaurants are a sea of calm, when behind the swinging doors there is a flurry of activity going on.
Undoubtedly a chef de rang hopes to progress into the ranks of head waiter or maître d’hôtel, but in the same manner as climbing through the kitchen ranks, it takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice.
If we decide a career front of house is the right one for us, then we must first get some experience. To start, we will need to take a position as a Commis waiter.
What is a Commis waiter?
To begin a professional career as a waiter we will need to begin as a commis waiter. In the same way that a commis chef in a kitchen is the entry level position, the same is true when we use the word to describe someone front of house.
A commis waiter is a trainee who is learning the necessary skills and experience to become proficient. Once they have gained relevant experience they can hope to progress up the ranks to become a chef de rang (head of section waiter)
As with all entry level positions in catering, a desire to learn and a passion for cuisine are perhaps the most important traits a candidate can posses.
Although there are no formal training requirements to become a commis waiter, competition can be fierce, especially in well established restaurants with great reputations.
Restaurants that are well established and provide a high standard of cuisine get inundated with applicants hoping to start their waitering career.
The reason, is that candidates are aware they will receive excellent training and experience. In the same way it is vital to have experience in a chef career; for a waiter the experience they can show on their C.V is vital.
Working in a high end restaurants opens many career doors as the skills we acquire become highly prized by future employers. As the standard of the restaurant we work in increases, so does the wages we are able to earn.
How Much Does A Chef De Rang Earn?
Getting an exact idea regarding how much waiting staff earn can be difficult (as we shall look at in a moment) however, as a general rule of thumb;
A Chef de Rang in the uk will earn between £23,000 and £28,000 on average. Although this is their annual salary, we must also factor in additional benefits such as tips and subsidised staff accommodation to get a true reflection of earnings.
As we can see this is a wide range and this comes down to the restaurant they are working in, as well how much they are expected to earn in tips.
It’s important to note that when we discuss positions such as chef de rang or maître d’hôtel, these are professional positions for those who have dedicated their careers to their craft. Hence why they are paid higher than our average waiter working part time in a pub!
It is a controversial practice, but one that happens none the less, for employers to offer a lower hourly rate but tempt employees with the promise that they can earn a substantial amount in tips.
Many disagree with this practice as they feel they should be paid a fair wage, and the tips they receive are a bonus on top for the hard work they do.
Whatever our feelings on this matter, we cannot overlook that the tips waiting staff receive in higher end restaurants can be substantial. This is especially useful for the lower paying entry level waiting positions to help improve their income.
As a commis is an entry level position, it is often a low paying job, usually earning no more than minimum wage per hour.
However, waiters can earn substantially more via the tips they receive and this is a big factor as to why so many are eager to work in the finest restaurants.
It should be noted that tips are taxable the same as any other kind of income and all staff that receive tips are required by law to declare them.
However, as tips are often given as cash by the customer, this can be difficult to police.
The cash based nature of tips can make it very hard to get an estimate of the wages waiting staff truly earn, especially when working in a top restaurant.
I guess we’ll all just have to take our own educated guesses at the amount someone paying hundreds of pounds for a meal is willing to give as a tip!
I will also point out that many restaurants add a gratuity onto the bill. This is then divided among all the staff evenly and tax deducted appropriately before being handed out in each employees wage slip. Therefor, rumours of large sums of cash being given to waiting staff may have come to an end.
Another factor we must look at when calculating how much a chef de rang earns is whether or not the position includes staff accommodation.
Many restaurants, particularly larger places such as hotels, offer accommodation to their staff at a heavily subsidised rate.
The standard of this staff accommodation can vary widely. I have seen examples of fantastic accommodation where the staff are getting a great deal. Unfortunately, I have also witnessed examples where the accommodation is far from great and even at the heavy discount, the staff are probably still over paying!
I cover staff accommodation in detail on my article, how much do chefs earn, which is applicable to all front of house staff as the accommodation is the same.
Having the kitchen staff and the front of house staff living together actually helps create a team spirit among the two departments. Something which can be especially useful during a busy dinner service.
In order to progress up the pay scale there is often high competition to become the next maître d’hôtel. However, along with the higher pay comes a lot of responsibility.
Another option for waiting staff is to specialise and become a sommelier.
What is a Sommelier?
This is a specialist role within the front of house staff as it requires an expert knowledge that is gained over many years.
A sommelier is the term given to the specialist waiter with an in depth knowledge of wines. The name can translate to wine steward and it is their job to advise customers on which wines are best suited to each course of their meal.
Wine pairing is a specialist art and those that are truly great at it command a lot of respect within a restaurant.
Customers often get to know the sommelier well and trust they will receive excellent recommendations. In some ways they are a salesman, but more than that they must choose the wine that best compliments a dish to the customers budget.
What better way to endear ourselves to a customer than to recommend a wine, and have the instant feedback moments later when they taste it and tell us it is perfect?
It is a role which requires much tact and an understanding of customers wants and needs, without always having to ask the direct questions.
If a sommelier where to suggest bottles of wine which are far too expensive for that customer, they may cause embarrassment. A large degree of tact is needed to ensure customers feel completely relaxed.
Many restaurants offer tasting menus of 5, 7 or maybe more courses. These are often paired with a different wine for each course. It is the sommeliers job to work alongside the head chef to pick the wines that work perfectly with each dish.
The vast majority of sommeliers started their careers as commis waiters before progressing to chef de rang then possibly maître d’hôtel.
To Sum Up
We can see from this article that a career as a waiter is a serious profession. Many people are able to refer to themselves as a waiter, but we must be able to distinguish between those career professionals and those who do it at a lower level.
In this way it is very similar to being a chef. The term chef covers a multitude of different job roles, and the only real way to distinguish between the culinary standards of different chefs is by the experience they have gained.