Here's What A Roundsman Actually Does In A Restaurant Kitchen

For those who've never worked in a busy, high-end restaurant kitchen, a peek inside can reveal what looks like chaos. However, the workforce of commercial kitchens is typically highly structured with clearly defined roles for chefs. Many positions, like the saucier, pastry chef, or grill chef, are self-explanatory. However, one job is a little more general by design — the roundsman.

To truly understand what a roundsman does, it's vital to understand the hierarchy of a restaurant kitchen. The head chef and sous chef are in charge. They supervise a group of more specialized chefs (chefs de parties) who focus on meat, fish, roasted dishes, fried foods, vegetables, and other dishes.

Whether they're out sick or need a few minutes for a bathroom break, occasionally, a chef de partie is overwhelmed with orders or isn't available. This is the roundsman's time to shine. The roundsman (also known as chef de tournant or swing cook) serves as a jack-of-all-trades in the kitchen, stepping in to help when other chefs need relief.

Versatile training for ambitious cooks

The nature of the roundsman's job means they often have to cook a wider variety of dishes and use more techniques than the rest of the kitchen staff. For this reason, the position requires an intimate knowledge of the restaurant's menu, solid technical skills, and training, making it an excellent spot to develop the experience to become a head chef or sous chef down the line.

To be sure, not every restaurant — even luxury ones — will have a roundsman. Many can't (or don't) adhere to the strict "kitchen brigade"-style staffing and roles popularized by legendary French chef Auguste Escoffier. This can turn every cook into a roundsman, forcing them to cover all aspects of food preparation rather than specializing in just one.

When you're enjoying your next high-end meal, raise a toast to the roundsman. This underappreciated but vital member of the kitchen staff may be the reason your meal went so well!