Chef or cook? A simple question, but one which has got the chef community in a stir over at cheftalk.
Whether you're fresh out of culinary school, have spent a lifetime working your way up the ranks in professional kitchens, form filling, introducing yourself or applying for kitchen jobs, you'll have had to define your role at some point during your career.
The formal definition of the “chef” took shape in ancient Greece as the head of a household’s slaves, which included overseeing food preparation. The role and the culture surrounding it expanded in ancient Rome, throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance as schools for chefs were established and traditions of training for food preparation became normative. Chefs still only belonged to private households, however, until the middle of the 18th century in France, when simple restaurants began under Louis XVI. Since then, the role of the chef and training regimens for that role have focused mostly on its culinary aspects, and less on the role’s original purpose of personnel management. Nowadays, the management of persons usually comes once a chef rises through the ranks to become head chef or executive chef, as in a medium size or large restaurant or hotel.
But leaving aside the formal, historical definition, what someone chooses to identify may be more about preference than historical precedent. How do chefs or cooks view their professional identities?
Do you feel like you've earned the title of chef or are you more comfortable being known as a cook? What qualifies a chef or a cook? Does it depend on geography, job description, tasks, responsibility or is it part of a higher calling, demanding greater discipline and respect?
You might know what you are... but reading the thoughts and opinions on the thread on cheftalk, it seems there's a lot of confusion out there.
What do you sit on the debate; are you a chef or a cook?
Let us know what you think over on our Facebook page.
What do you consider to be a chef?
I do see the difference between a chef and a certified chef, and I see how we've blurred the lines.
A high percentage of culinary graduates call themselves chefs.
If you have the ability to run a restaurant, create menus, price, teach staff, run successful events and most importantly have a loyal customer base, then I feel you can call yourself a chef.
culinary schools do NOT produce Chefs, they produce culinary school graduates.
Unless you actually have a kitchen that you are chief of, you are not a chef.
The term "chef" should be valued. I don't care if you paid 60k to learn how to make pate's and know the difference between olive and peanut oil. It takes EXPERIENCE.
So, to me, a chef would be someone who:
- sacrifices their social life and marries their job,
- works ungodly hours,
- can plan tomorrow's unexpected 5 course dinner for 30 people in their head while cleaning out the **** grease trap,
- is always pushing the envelope with specials and menus,
- drinks too much,
- is aware of and implements culinary trends (except for that foam fad, yuck) into their menus,
- 7-10 years holding "chef" position,
- Also, you should have spent at least a years working in a dish pit.
- And I like the idea of a chef being a working chef. Otherwise you're just administration
After passing through 150 kitchens in 5 years, I think that I can pass as a Chef.
an old boss years back told me:
"it takes all your life to learn how to cook and 15 minutes to become a chef (basically a job interview). Anyone can hold the title."
If a chef doesn't know something simple that should be common knowledge to a "chef" such as temperatures of proteins, the difference between various common herbs, basic flavor pairings, stuff like that... then they don't deserve to be called chef, even if their position says they are.
A Chef is the boss, the manager, period. Whether they are good or not doesn't affect their title. Their length of employment, sure, but not the title.
I'm a culinary school grad, also with an advanced degree in hospitality management; have 15 years on the line and in the kitchen. Do I call myself a chef? It depends on the job description.
When I meet people for the first time, and we get to "What do you do?", I am often asked: "So, are you a chef?" If I try to go through my little explanation, I usually lose them. So, I'll sometimes just say "Ya", and save the stress.
Some of the best Chefs I've ever worked with never even thought of taking the ACF exams. This is, after all, a hands on business.
In my book, a "chef" would know
- what meat, seasonings, garnishes, and bread to buy and in what quantities, and
- what price to pay for those items to turn profit, and
- when to order more or less as conditions dictate, and
- which "cook" to assign to which stations, not only the "hot line" but also the "prep line", and
- what to do when the "cook of choice" is not available, and
- how to train a replacement when necessary, and
- how to store all of the purchased products, and
- when to "throw out" or otherwise dispose of "out of date" inventory, and
- what to do when the dishwasher quits, whether human or mechanical, and
- how to convince the banker/owner/investor that it is being done correctly, and
- the list goes on
I've been trained in Australia, but have worked in Europe. Here, in Aus the technicality seems that anyone trained, is a chef. Talented people who can cook, but are otherwise untrained, are cooks.
Training to become a chef can occur through years of experience working in a professional kitchen, but a way to streamline this process is by attending a culinary school or academy. Several famous ones include Le Cordon Bleu, a French cooking school in Paris sporting a history of culinary excellence with campuses all around the world, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), a powerhouse for producing chefs with campuses around the United States, and the Hattori Nutrition College, a culinary academy in Japan providing holistic dietary education for domestic and international students. There are a number of factors to consider when deciding on a culinary school, which include the desired area of specialisation, the cost, the faculty and the work placement opportunities afterwards. Once completed, culinary school experience and knowledge can give graduates a distinct advantage over experienced but untrained chefs.
I think it depends on where you live. In England you would always be called a chef. As a beginner you would be a commis chef. In America I think you would be a line cook at this stage. A cook can actually be used as an insult in England.
Well I noticed that most people that don't work in the industry thinks that everyone that cooks is a chef. I had a chef jacket on the other day when I was going to work and some lady just assumed I was a chef, but I told here I was cook.
Escoffier "invented" the brigade system for large hotel kitchens (which, by the way were greatly responsible for the change). It was based on his experience in the military, and just as in the army a kitchen included cooks (culinaires) of a number of ranks - including several degrees of "chef."
In England almost everyone in the kitchen is called a chef, there is no stigma attached to it and it is defined by the title that precedes it. When you walk into a kitchen you know who is the boss and he or she usually prefers to be called by their own name. That said, hospitals and schools usually have cooks rather than chefs but there are no hard and fast rules about job titles and if you get it wrong it's no big deal.
a 'Chef' to me is a person who carries themselves with professionalism and who has learned how to cook appealing food that is pleasing to both the palete and the eye. To them it is more than a job but more like a calling.
I always have and always will consider myself a cook no matter what position I hold in the almighty kitchen because what i do is cook.
In my fundamentals class I was taught that you aren’t a chef until another chef or someone who actually knows better, calls you Chef.
I have known "chefs" that people raved about who wouldn't even make a grilled cheese because they felt it was beneath them. That's the kind of person I don't consider a chef.
I have excellent cooking skills, am an award-winning writer, and have worked in commercial kitchens. That doesn't make me a chef. What it makes me is somebody with first-hand experience who writes about culinary matters.
The term "chef" is used very loosely nowadays. When I graduated culinary school, I was told that "Now you're all CHEFS!!!" As if someone completing a 12 month cooking program and a 3 month externship actually earned me a title. Sorry, that's not the case. Yes, I'm a cook. And Yes, I'm an arrogant a**hole. And Yes, I would love to be called Chef someday. But I am not a Chef.
All "chefs" can probably cook, but not all "cooks" can handle the role as a "chef".
Not all "so-called chefs" can cook, I have seen Culinary grads that couldn't make a soup or sauce without a recipe. In the '60's when the Kennedys hired a French Chef everyone wanted a French Chef. I was training Frenchmen straight off the boat how to cook, as long as their name was Pierre or Jacque they got the Chef's job and they didn't even know what Larrouse Gastronomique was because they were accountants or dog catchers etc. That was also about the time Le Cordon Bleu let Julia Child enrol and really screw things up. Then the term "chef" became a four letter word and lost all the respect Escoffier had build up in the profession.
There are a lot of cooking books on the market by people who never have managed a kitchen and that doesn't make them a "Chef" either.
So many in this forum have referred to the historical definition of "chef". Ask anyone who has really worked in professional kitchens for years, chef is the one who runs it all. End of story.