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when can you call yourself a chef?

post #1 of 64
Thread Starter 
I am graduating from Johnson and Wales university in May with my associates in culinary arts, and I have been working in the kitchens as a cook about 3-4 years prior to my entering school. I am on track to purchase a wedding catering business upon graduation, and I am not sure how to bill myself. Can I call myself a Chef?
The business is in a small to mid sized southeastern town, and no other catering establishments have a "chef", so for marketing purposes it would be a edge over the competition. However I certainly wouldn't want to title myself, or bill myself as something I am not. On the other hand, I would be the owner operator, and paying all the bills, so can't I call myself anything I want but the son of god?
Thanks,
Frizbee
Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
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Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
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post #2 of 64
I don't know the official rules but if I own the place, pay the bills, do the cooking, write the menus, handle ordering and costs and am in charge of staffing, I'm the chef. Maybe not "a chef" by some definitions, but at that place I'm the chef. Chef is chief, chief is in charge, you're in charge, you're the chef.
post #3 of 64
Friz-

NOT until you get one of those really tall white hats!

Couldn't resist

Mike :p
travelling gourmand
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travelling gourmand
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post #4 of 64
when your comfortable with it.....

The people i respect most are very humble and insist they be called by their first name. The pompous a~~holes who bill themselves chefs are usually worth nothing.

For marketing purposes it may not be a bad idea though.

Just my opinion, danny
post #5 of 64
I don't bill myself as a chef. I don't think of myself in those terms despite the fact that that's exactly the duties I perform at the restaurant. However I do disagree with the statement that those who bill themselves as chef's are "usually worth nothing" and "pompous a~~holes". Chef is a title, a learned skillset, an earned position but has nothing to do with the kind of person behind the title. I've known some really nice people who bill themselves as chef's and some real losers who don't use that title and vice versa. Making that statement is like saying everybody who uses "Dr." as part of their title behaves a certain way... which obviously isn't true.
post #6 of 64
I'm not a pro, but a respectful, appreciative enthusiast.

Wanting to be a chef is not adequate reason to call yourself one. I may be remembering inaccurately, but my brother considered himself a cook before going to culinary school. After that he used the title of chef. However, I'm guessing that rigorous training, even outside of a formal school, would merit the title. Didn't we discuss this at one time? :confused:

You may be wondering why I, a non-chef and mere enthusiast, would comment here. The reason is that as the Welcome Forum moderator, I often have new members sign up as "Chef" something or other. Then, when they describe themselves, you find out they're an accountant or something, and are avid home cooks rather than culinary pros. I am sensitive to this issue, as I hold chefs in high regard and don't wish to see their professionalism diluted or insulted in any way.

However, short of demanding someone's credentials, I really don't know how we can police this. We do our best, though! :)
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Moderator Emerita, Welcome Forum
***It is better to ask forgiveness than beg permission.***
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post #7 of 64
I totally disagree with this assessment of a chef. I actually feel a bit offended by it. Who are you to call chefs pompous a~~holes and worthless if they have earned the title of Chef. So Point, was worthless? Passard, Ducasse, Girardet, Robuchon, Bras, all pompous a~~holes? I think not. Before someone comes on a site devoted to professional chefs and "flames" the whole idea of the word chef should do his/her homework. There are a number of things in life I am very proud of, and one of them is being a chef (and not a worthless, pompous ******* one either)
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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post #8 of 64
guess i need to clarify ;)-the folks who insist they be addressed as Chef XXX, the next best thing since sliced bread, are the folks i am referring to. We've all worked with them, for them, or seen them on certain programs, at one time or another.

No offense intended to anyone. As i said, call yourself chef when you are comfortable with it. I call em as i see em. People refer to me as chef. I am not worthy of the title compared to Ducasse, Girardet et al. and thus avoid referring to myself as such. It is a title that must be earned through blood, sweat, and tears so to speak. A title not to take lightly. A title i do hold utmost respect for,and worth the respect of the person using it. Unfortunately this is not always the case.

danny
post #9 of 64
First a little business advice - the timid don't generally make it in the business world. With that said you can probably guess what my answer to your question is. By all means call yourself a chef if you feel you have earned it - and then back it up by being the best. However, I would take the advice of the dano 1 and don't make your employees or customers call you chef, you will come off as arrogant and affected. Use it in your marketing and realize that it is just that - a marketing edge. If you are humble and under-promise and over-deliver you should do well. Just a little more free advice from someone who has been where you are going (self-employed) - get a good CPA and a good lawyer in your corner and heed their advice. Yes it is expensive but it is even more expensive without them. Pay your bills and taxes on time and treat your employees well and you should be successfull. Good luck and remember that sleep is vastly overrated. BTW I really am an accountant that enjoys cooking but I am definitely not a chef.
post #10 of 64
Don't judge what you have never experienced.
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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post #11 of 64
IMO, when people start calling you chef, then you're a chef.

Edit: We might also want to ask what it is about the profession which leads people to think that some are pompous assholes like dano says, or what leads Dave to believe what he believes about the cheffin' business.

If we want to change the way we're perceived, we need to ask some questions and be receptive to answers. We may not like some of them but we can at least give them a good listen.
post #12 of 64
I said what I said because I have experienced it- professionalism that is. Professionalism is about your attitude toward what you do and striving to be the best that you can be whether it's what you do for a living or just a passion in life. Just because I'm not an actor, a mechanic, a lawyer or an artist or anything else in life doesn't mean I can't tell a good one from a bad one. The mere fact that Frizbee cared enough to ask the question tells me that he or she likely has what it takes to be a chef. Elsewhere in this forum I read that a chef is someone who is in charge of the entire kitchen responsible for all aspects of its operation - menu choice, food costs, preparation, purchasing and all of the other things that go into running the kitchen - thats what Frizbee said he or she was going to do. From what Frizbee said he or she seems to know what they're doing and has put in the time in the kitchen and in the classroom in addition to taking on the responsibility of running a catering business - that's why I believe he or she should be able to call himself or herself a chef. I have a fairly good background in the food service and restaurant business. Although I would not call myself a chef I am a fairly good and experienced cook - in fact I've won blue ribbons in statewide comptetitions for my cooking. I still don't call myself a chef because I don't have the formal training and intimate knowledge of why ingredients do what they do etc. However, I do appreciate a good a well-prepared meal and all of the hard work and creativity that go into it and certainly know good food from bad. That's why I told Frizbee he or she could bill themselves as a chef. If you disagree that's fine, reasonable people can and often do disagree.
post #13 of 64
The main characteristic of a good chef is leadership. Everything else follows from good leadership. Good food cost, consistency, quality, everything. :)

If people do not acknowledge you as their leader then you are not their leader. Simple as that.
post #14 of 64
As one of my mentors put it quite succinctly years ago "Chef is a big word". I always try to stay out of these arguements-don't know what i was thinking this time around ;).

hth, danny
post #15 of 64

Rather than bicker...

You know, we have gone back and forth about the 'chef' title in the past. So, let's get constructive, eh? How about writing an objective definition of which we can all (or most of us) agree. I propose, for instance, listing the attributes of a chef and then assembling those attributes into a meanigful definition.
Ideas?

Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

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Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

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post #16 of 64
ugh - why can't anyone be a chef - you cook, you love it, you're a chef. Jesus - why the snob factor?
post #17 of 64
Here are some definitions gleaned from the "Web":

a professional cook
www.cogsci.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/webwn


(French) A culinary expert. The chief of the kitchen.
www.ddc.com/cheferic/gloss.htm


1} A very grumpy man or woman who is in charge of creating foods and food combinations. 2} One who has access to very large knives.
[url]lifeintheweeds.tripod.com/lifeintheweeds/Jargon.html

doc
post #18 of 64
The way I see it, a Chef is kind of like a CEO. When you graduate from business school you don't become a CEO overnight, it's something earned through years of hard work... Same for a chef - when you graduate you're a professional cook, after years of hard work you might become a chef. Chef = leader of the kitchen, not just a cook with a diploma...
post #19 of 64
It has nothing to do with snobbery. Chef literally means leader, the chef is the leader of the kitchen. It's a title earned through years of hard work. You wouldn't call someone with a first aid certificate doctor, it's a title which requires years of education and hard work... Cooks get their education in the field, only after mastering cooking techniques (which does take years) and running a kitchen are they called Chef...
post #20 of 64
"ugh - why can't anyone be a chef - you cook, you love it, you're a chef. Jesus - why the snob factor?"

Hardly worth a reply, but here goes...
I like animals and I give them medicine when they are sick... I guess I am a vet....
I run and I enjoy it, so I guess I am an olympian...
I use a computer and I enjoy it, so I am a programmer...

Like MikeB said, it has nothing to do with snobbery. I has to do with hard work, dedication, SKILL, leadership and, above all, experience. :chef:

Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

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Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

My Author Page

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post #21 of 64
Thread Starter 
I know my question prompted this discussion, and I think in the abstract it depends on what job title you have, or what your boss titles you. I certainly can’t call my self an engineer if I am in the kitchen cooking, I would have no business doing as much. Since I am going to be the boss I shall bill myself as Chef. My only concern was criticism from my culinary community, but in soul searching, I have realized that every chef started being called chef at some point and the first time they were called Chef I am sure it was a reflection of their job title. We don’t call each other Chef on the line after all, we are cooks. I guess I was just having anxiety about it.
Two other points I would like to address...someone mentioned that some people get stuck on the title, and I agree. Those people do seem more pompous and not who I am. I would introduce myself as such, in professional situations, but not flip if an employee or client failed to call me "Chef ...".
Also I think that we forget that Chef can precede many titles, meaning it is a shortened version of exe chef, sous chef, chef garde manger, etc.. and has more commonly been used to refer to the top person in charge of that kitchen. However I have called sous "Chef", and so on, and I personally think that anyone who is in charge of a particular food prep, like Chef garde manger, would rate the reference.
I have know some who have refused to refer to some exe chefs as Chef, because they were of poor personality or caliber, and I think that is sad. You can't take anyone's experience or education away from them, and if they have put in the time, and garnered the education they should be referred to as such, especially if that is their title. I just referred to them as Chef ******* quietly under my breath.
Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
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Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
Reply
post #22 of 64

Chef Bill C.C.C.

As for my two cents worth,

I've been in this buisness for over twenty years,and in that time I've been called several things,until I took a position as the Sous Chef many years ago I never called myself "CHEF" , since that time I've earned the title from hard work,continuing education and testing with the American Culinary Federation, I tested and earned my "Sous Chef" title several years ago and later "Chef de Cuisine" and I'm now working on my "Executive Chef" certification,after that comes " Master Chef",I doubt I'll ever live that long :-)
post #23 of 64
We can spend hours debating over what "chef" means. We all have our personal opinions about who has the right to call themselves "chef", but when it comes down to it, a chef is the leader (ruler, chief, head) of the kitchen. He is the one who makes all the "big picture" decisions, and is the one ultimately held responsible for running of the kitchen and its profitability. Under that definition, anyone that runs a kitchen has the right to call themselves "chef". It doesn't matter if it is McD's, a Mom and Pop diner or a 5-star restaurant. That said, I too attach many more stipulations to the title "chef". I don't like to use the title "chef" when refering to myself as I don't feel I have achieved that status, and I don't use that title when speaking with " chefs" that I don't feel have earned it either. To me, personally, "chef" is a title of respect, but ultimately it is a very utilitarian term used to denote the person in charge of a kitchen. I am not bothered by all the inexperienced people and hacks out there throwing the term around. I laugh at the recent culinary school grad who, too quickly, takes a management job and calls himself "Chef", because I know when the s*** hits the fan, and the tickets start rolling in, who will be left standing.
http://www.onceachef.com/ is my personal blog where I share many recipes, my passion for cooking, and all things food.
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http://www.onceachef.com/ is my personal blog where I share many recipes, my passion for cooking, and all things food.
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post #24 of 64
well said Pete
post #25 of 64
I have a different perspective on being or not being called "Chef".

I have a degree in Physics. No one has ever called me Physicist Roger.

I've been an medical device design Engineer for 33 years, and no one has ever called me Engineer Roger.

I can talk about intrathecal drug delivery and hold my own with the best MD's in the world on that subject, and while I'm not an MD, everyone calls me doc roger!

I am not a professional musician, but when I play Mississippi Delta slide blues on my 1935 National Duolian guitar, some of the world's greatest professional blues musicians have told me that I'm about as good as it gets, so they call me Delta Doc Roger. (As Artie Traum (brother of Happy Traum-Homespun Tapes) once said, "Ya gonna play slide, ya gotta have three names!"

Go figure! :)

doc
post #26 of 64
hey Doc....


1st of all...being a "Chef" is sort of like a right of passage. A boy turns into a young man, and so forth hitting different stages of life.

A prep cook turns into a cook, a cook to a chef. Sort of the same idea. Not knocking any other profession, but the cooking industry is more of a lifestyle. Not that any other job or career doesnt' have these characteristics, but I can attest that cooking professionally is more of a way of life. With this said, the rights of passage comes with life, and hense the kitchen does as well. It's not just moving up in ranks or "graduating" to the next level. It's the life you choose as a Culinarian.

In short(too late for that), you may be good at playing the drums, you may be great at bowling, you may be the best at playing baseball, but nothing you can say, or do can compare to the life of a kitchen scrub.

Tell me, what other career can you start off at the bottom, work your way up the ladder, all the way to the top, then as life goes on you are moved back down the ladder to the same place you started when you get older.
????? Hummmm wow the life of a Chef.
MOST....I stress most.. start off as a dishwasher...they then get hooked on the food, money(somtimes) and the fun that goes with working in the kitchen. Then you want more, so you look to move up to prep cook, and then to the stage of cook...then you push and push to be a Sous Chef....then Executive Chef......woops..then you start getting old.....you can't handle the stress any longer...you move back down to Sous... then that gets to be too much, so you look for a job as just a cook....then woops too old for that now, then you BOOM you are right back to where you started, a dishwasher.

And so back to what you say about just being good at something doesn't grant you the right of a title, you are right. But just being good at cooking will NEVER grant you the right at being called a Chef. It' s the life of being a Chef that grants us the right to have the title. Not that I'm big on titles, it's only a word, I could care less. When you try and compare playing someone elses work on an instrument and being a Chef, I must say you may be smart, but you have NO idea what you are talking about.

nuff said, and sorry for being so long winded.

Chef Ed
post #27 of 64
Hi Chef Ed,
I was enjoying your post until I got to the part where you felt it necessary to bash me.

You know what that tells me, here is guy who says that titles don't mean that much, that it's only a word, and you could care less. But then, you come across as very defensive about your title as "Chef". That's ok.

Generally speaking, people who have inferiority complexes need something like "titles" to feel good about themselves. Especially when they feel the need to bash someone that "threatens" them, does it become very apparent that the title is what gives you a feeling of self-worth. So be it.

Me...I don't need a title to have sense of self worth. I don't feel the need to bash somebody when I feel threatened. Just for the sake of setting things straight, smart does not cut it. There are plenty of "smart" people out there that couldn't play an instument or cook if their life depended upon it. And to be a "chef' requires something more than being smart, it requires talent. Same with being a musician. Amateur or professional, you either have it or you don't. The point that you missed is why do chefs like you feel that someone who is not a "professional" cannot be worthy, when world class musicians have no problem with recognizing talent, regardless if that talent is professional or amateur, and you, as chef, cannot??



You think that a world class professional musician is any the less involved with music in their life than you are with your culinary pursuits?

You missed the point completely. I wasn't trying to compare playing an instrument with being a chef. I was trying to point out that talent is talent, and no matter where you are, or who you are, if you have talent, you got it.

Professional musicians, or professional chefs, whatever, if you feel the need to "have" a title to feel important, then you are missing something vital in your life.

Next time you try to bash someone like me, try taking a look in the mirror and repeat what you said to me.

doc
post #28 of 64
doc....

what i got out of your post, was someone that was triing to compare the life of a chef, with someone else where no "Titles" are used. So before you go on about my self worth, why don't you try and get off your high horse. And as far as my "title" like i said....I'm just a glorified dishwasher and could care less about someone calling me chef....as a matter of fact in my 6 kitchens all of my staff refers to me as Ed or Chef, it's their call.
I'm not stuck on myself, like someone has posted, I'm just one of the highest paid dishwashers in Michigan.

and as far as my names here in the Forum...well the name "Ed" was already taken.

so before you can try and act like you know me, and try to ramble on about someone you have no clue about...try looking at yourself before judging others, and how hard they may work or how passionate they may feel about how hard they work at something like being a chef.

untill then...you can take your degree and well.......i won't say it here in the forums. But I will say, I would love for you to spend a year working in a high volume kitchen and see how you would react.
post #29 of 64
Hey, fellas....

You can certainly have a witty and insightful exchange of opposing viewpoints without getting personal. THere's already enough anger in the world; let's enjoy each other's company whether or not the other person enjoys our perspective or not.

Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

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Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

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post #30 of 64
Hi Chef Ed,
I'm sorry if what I say has offended you. Wasn't my intent.

doc
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