Ever wonder who is responsible for creating the salads and cold dishes in a restaurant, getting them to your table looking fresh and appetizing? Behind the kitchen door, the garde manger chef prepares and plates the cold foods, including salads or cheese plates. The garde manger chef can be an entry-level position in a restaurant where she is responsible for basic food preparation, or with extensive work experience, she can become a member of the kitchen supervisory team.
"Garde manger" comes from a French term meaning "keeper of the food." In food service it refers to the chef responsible for preparation of cold foods. Other job titles include pantry chef and pantry supervisor or sous chef. Entry-level garde manger chefs are also called line chefs. In a restaurant, the area of the kitchen where cold foods are stored and prepared is called the garde manger. The general role of the garde manger includes working with the cold foods used in creating a restaurant’s menu.
The garde manger chef needs experience working with meats, cheeses, salads and other fresh cold foods. While specializing in cold foods, they are trained to work in all areas of the kitchen, filling in at any kitchen station that needs assistance. As an entry-level chef, the garde manger is assigned to salad plating and garnishing plates. With experience, she creates cold dishes that are visually attractive and flavorful. As a senior member of the kitchen staff, the garde manger chef maintains food inventories, promotes food safety and supervises other staff members.
Skills and Abilities
A garde manger chef must have the knowledge to select, properly prepare and present cold foods, from salads and sliced meats to cold or frozen desserts. This includes having a strong sense of taste and smell, the ability to read and execute recipes and an eye for visual presentation. Good knife skills for slicing, chopping and dicing foods into uniform size are essential. As a member of a large kitchen staff, she must have the ability to work in a team environment and use good communication skills.
Salaries vary widely among chef positions. SimplyHired.com reports the average salary for garde manger chefs is $27,000 in January 2013. An industry-wide survey conducted by Star Chef, a professional culinary magazine, reports the average national salary for sous chefs (a related job title with work experience) was $43,130 in 2011. By comparison, the same Star Chef industry survey reports line chefs (entry level positions for garde manger chefs) averaged $28,895 annually in 2011. Geographical location and type of employer will affect salary levels, with cities with large numbers of fine dining establishments commanding higher salaries.
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) do not report on individual specializations, both agencies project growth in restaurant employment. BLS predicts 8 percent growth -- slower than average among all jobs -- in available positions for cooks and lower level chefs between 2010 and 2020, increasing from just over 2 million jobs in 2010 to more than 2.2 million jobs in 2013 to the existing 13.1 million jobs.
- Alice Statler Library: Garde Manger and Garnishings
- Culinary Schools: Chef Garde Manger or Pantry Chef: Job and Salary
- Culinary World: What Is a Pantry Chef?
- Simply Hired: Garde Manger Chef
- Star Chefs: 2011 StarChefs.com Salary Survey Report
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Cooks
- National Restaurant Association: News Release: Restaurant Industry Will Grow
- Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images