I worked my way from the bottom, to the top. So, here's the 'low down'.
You start off, if you've not gone the college route, as a KP. I'm sure you've guessed what they do. Washing pots, preping basic ingredients. The salary is minimum wage, and nothing more.
Commis chef, the next step up, and the first step on the culinary ladder. Most likely, these are ex-KP's or college students that have just completed a Hospitality and catering course. Again, minimum wage.
Chef de partie, now, this is where things get a little interesting. As a chef de partie you're no longer the smallest wolf in the pack. You're in charge of important things, such as food orders for your section. You'll most likely, if it's a big brigade such as a major hotel chain, have commis chefs to look after/show what to do. The salary doesn't really increase much, 18-20K a year (working off GBP).
Sous-chef, the second in command, as it were. In charge of all the chefs beneath you and if the Head chef is, for some reason, missing from the kitchen, you'll take the helm. Salary is generally in the mid 20K's.
Head chef. Yes, you guessed it, the boss of the kitchen. In charge of well.. everything below you. From commis to sous you're mostly preparing and serving dishes, but when you turn to head chef, it's a 60?itchen job, 40?aperwork. We're talking real life, not the TV chef. Salary, of course depending on the establishment, is 30-90K.
Executive chef. The real boss of the place. This is 90?aperwork, and moving from kitchen to kitchen (in a chain establishment), making sure the different kitchens meet their GP's (Grose profits). Generally, you're making sure all the kitchens are running smoothly, and bringing home the bacon. In this position, you either own the hotel chain, or you've been working for them for 30+ years. Salary is in the 100k's.
Hope that answered your question, in a more personal, none wikipedia way. :}
Answered By: UKMancChef - 10/22/2009