New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

A Chef is...

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I don't mean to rant, but theres something I see all the time in the media, and even in cooking circles. The word 'Chef' itself does not mean 'cook' (although it is associated with the cooking profession these days..)

The definition of the word Chef is boss or leader. In culinary sense, a Chef is the LEADER of the brigade. Not only is it DISRESPECTFUL, but it also makes no sense to call yourself a chef when all you are is a cook. Not that being a 'cook' is a bad thing, you should wear that label proudly. 'Chef' schools are also misleading, I have yet to see a single student come out from one and have what it takes to actually be a Chef. And then some people actually use Chef as a verb ('cheffing')... It's cooking, or maybe preparing food, not cheffing...

While we're on the topic of misused french words, how about 'Entrée'... An entrée IS NOT a main course, it is an appetizer. The word itself refers to entering the restaurant, and being the course you have at the beginning. Instead of trying to sound fancy by using french words without the proper comprehension, why don't restaurants just use the english term (main course)? In the end, people just look foolish by misusing these terms...

/end of rant
post #2 of 19
Good rant!

While we are on misused terminology... how about Shrimp Scampi? Doesn't that mean "Shrimp Shrimp" or "Confit of Cranberry... confit of fresh fruit..." Doesn't confit mean 'cooked in its own fat'? I might be missing something, but I eat fruit all the time and it would take me an awful lot of time to produce enough fat for which to cook. And what about garnish? Since when did garnish mean a little sprig of parsely or wilted kale going along for a ride on a plate?

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

My Author Page

Reply

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

My Author Page

Reply
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Confit actually refers to a method of cooking that you use to make preserves (not necessarily just cooked in it's own fat although that's the method of making meat preserves), confiture de fruit (comes from the word confit) would be what we know as fruit 'jam'.
post #4 of 19
No, rant ahead. I always wince when I hear the word "Chef". My b/i law has three dogs and swears by his favorite brand of dogfood: "Chef's blend". My coffee supplier wants to fob off his cheapest blend of robusta beans on me, called "Chef's choice", any kitchen gadget advertised on late night info-mercials has to have a name with the word "Chef" in it. When I catch any cooking school calling themselves "Chef's schools" I'll give them holy h***, write them snotty letters and ask them if they offer courses on how to manage a kitchen, delegate staff, maintain food and labour costs, or do they just offer cooking courses. No one's replied to me yet... I dunno, blame the media, no one calls themselves "Chef" in Europe unless they really are. An apprentice calls himself a cook's apprentice and when he graduates, proudly calls himself a cook, Chef comes much later. An enthusiastic cook who works in another profession by day will call himslef a "hobby-cook". I guess here in N.A. "Chef" must mean "Double-plus-good-cook"....

The word entree, when I went to school, meant that the portion of meat was portioned raw prior to cooking, as opposed to a roast or other dish that is portioned when fully cooked. I also learned to never mix languages, "apple pie a'la mode", "chicken a'la...", and "green beans almondine" come to mind. Maybe we could get some good old Quebec language police to help us out...

My mother gave me some good advice. She said "Son, never eat any foods that contain the words "Chef" or "Blend". Good advice
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
post #5 of 19
Mike:

This is an ongoing debate in the modern culinary world. I emphasize “modern” because societal changes over the years have shaped what “chefs” actually do. In the days when chef literally meant chief, there were no cooking schools, culinary instructors, media chefs, food writers, food stylists, caterers, etc. To be a chef, one started in a restaurant at a very young age and worked their butt off for many years, slowly moving up the ranks. This process still happens today but it is not the sole venue for embarking on a culinary career.

The problem is, there is no OFFICIAL CRITERIA for deeming someone a “chef.” Most chefs are offended by someone right out of cooking school calling themselves a chef. Yet interestingly, doctors, lawyers, nurses, psychologists, etc., all can legally use their title as soon as their schooling is done. Even before being licensed and allowed to practice medicine, a doctor can still call himself a doctor the day he graduates. Now of course, the fledgling physician is not even near the same league as the seasoned pro whose been in the field for decades, but he’s still a doctor.

The difference with chefs is that a culinary degree is not required to become a chef. And I’m not saying it should be. Again, my point is, is that there is no official criteria because a formal program is not required/necessary. Thus, the only way seasoned pros can distinguish themselves from those you call “cooks” is either by being in a managerial position, (executive chef, sous chef, etc.), or by having many years in the field under their belt.

You emphasize the “chief” aspect of being called a chef. But what about a chef who, because of financial resources, goes from cooking school to his own restaurant? Is he now a “chef” because he runs a kitchen? Is he more of a chef than someone who has spent a decade or more on the line but hasn’t moved up, simply because he’s in charge?

As I stated, nowadays one needn’t follow the traditional path to become a chef. Chefs can do many other things in the modern world from teaching, writing, designing, etc. There are cooking schools, test kitchens, TV shows, institutional food services, food magazines, food corporations, etc. Why is managing a restaurant kitchen the be all and end all of being a chef? Why are the skills needed for running a kitchen more virtuous than the skills needed to write, teach, produce, style food, or test recipes? Why is the restaurant so exalted? As I’ve posted before, not all lawyers work in courtrooms, not all teachers work in classrooms, not all sailors work on ships, etc. etc. etc.

I am a cooking school graduate, but I have less than 2 years experience actually cooking in restaurants. Now I teach cooking classes, sometimes do some catering, write a cooking column, and edit cookbooks. I certainly don’t have as much restaurant know-how as you or other chefs on this forum, but I still consider myself a chef.

Mark
Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
Reply
Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
Reply
post #6 of 19
Chef is like Don. When your staff calls you chef and kisses your hand then you know you're the chef. ;) :D
post #7 of 19
I know I'm really beating this horse into a pulp but..............

I know a chef who oversees a kitchen in an Assisted Living Facility. He has a degree in nutrition and must implement meals that are within certain dietary guidelines base on diabetic, cardiac, or other metabolic disorders. Is he a chef because he is in charge? Or would some of you deem him NOT a chef because he spends his time thinking up ways to make low-fat meatloaf? He doesn't make terrines, duck confit, or pate a choux, but he must be knowledgable about saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, sodium-based ingredients, and what is and isn't a complex carbohydrate.

Is he a chef?

Mark
Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
Reply
Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
Reply
post #8 of 19
This topic has been talked about on this site so many times.

We all know what we are, or what we're not.

Let's concentrate more on the betterment of our industry, and less on titles.
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
Reply
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
Reply
post #9 of 19
MarkV, He's a Chef
Cape Chef, I'm with ya
Kuan, LOL:lol:

Tony
post #10 of 19
Man, if I'ld get a nickle for every time this comes up on MY forum, respect is earned and not given, Chef is chief, head...it seperates the cooks from the LEADERS! A cook follows orders, and so do different levels of being a chef, BUT, CHEF is head...and in todays cullinary system, in the US, not just of a brigade system. Chef tiltles CAN BE EARNED, without the process of schooling, many accredited schools offer test to those who, if provided 8/10 years of solid cullinary experience, will offer a test/course, to GIVE them the piece of paper.
I have had numerous intern/externs, who still don't know the difference between roux and slurry, don't know what mirepoix is, and have little to NO kitchen know how...most ciriculum does not teach a barking ticket machine, yet I've had employees that have been in the kitchen for a couple of years, and manage to work circles around the, mmn hmm, "chefs", with the ability to maintain my level of quality and consistancy.
Like all good meals, this too shall pass
Reply
Like all good meals, this too shall pass
Reply
post #11 of 19
Alot of valid arguements there Mark, perhaps the most important is, as you write, no official criteria, at least not in N. America. We're not doctors, we don't spend our teenage years sweating our butts off in highschool in order to make the grades in order to get to med. school were more sweating and cramming is done for another 7 years before they're licensed to peer down someone's throat.

A cook is, I guess, "the second oldest profession in the world" with a farmer being a close third. It is a trade, as well as a profession and a lifestyle. And ironically N.America has some very good and stringent Gov't endorsed criteria for trades like plumbers, gasfitters, electricians, and auto mechanics. Any shoddy workmanship from these trades would result in loss of human life and/or property damage. Negligance or ignorance on the cook's or Chef's part too, can result in loss of human life, or the difference between a wonderfull meal and two days of h*** on the porcelain throne. Yet there is no Gov't endorsed criteria, and I don't forsee any in the near future. Pick up a camera and you can call yourself a photographer, pick up a poofy white hat and an ego, and you can call yourself a Chef. The title is there for the taking, all you need is the hat...

So a Chef for me is a manager. S/he must have staff to supervise, and should know just as much or better yet, more than the staff about their respective duties. S/he should also be capable of running a clean and profitable business. This description can apply to the Chef in a hospital, in a Hotel, or in my case, a catering business.

To those who upon graduating from a cooking school and take on the role of Chef with very little or no prior experience as a Chef, I have George Orwell's motto: Ignorance is bliss. Not for the Chef, but for his staff, his suppliers and his superiors. Remember your subsitute teacher in grade 3? The newbie, unknown and un-tested. Willingly or unwillingly all the students tried to find her button and see what they could get away with. So it is with a newly minted Chef. Staff trying to get whatever they can, suppliers trying to be a big brother and upping the prices, owners milking more hours and responsibilities. For the guy who grew up in his parent's café, did his homework on the prep table after school, the role of Chef immediately after cook's school is very easy to take on. For others it isn't, and the learning curve is very steep and the stakes very high. Experience will tell you to get a catalouge from a supplier prior to the rep's first meeting with you, so when you ask him to order in Belgian Callebaut, not the D8-11, and he tells you it will take some doing but he'll do it, you can point out that it is a stocked item and should be in the warehouse. Experience will tell you to make job descriptions and special request forms for days off for all staff before you even step one foot in the kitchen. Experience will tell you to cover your butt with lawyer-tight-iron-clad underwear and have an equipment list including all mechanical items and lease-hold improvements AND thier current state of repair/dis-repair before taking the keys to the kitchen. They never you tell you this stuff at school, and neither will your new boss, he'll just watch to see if you sink or swim....
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
post #12 of 19
I don't have any problems with someone calling themselves a chef. Hey, walk and act like a chef,be a chef.
Like CC says, this has been discussed in lenght on this board. The one thing I really dislike, is when someone questions the experience,training,work experience of someone else, which inturn make that person feel like he or she has to validate their being. This is utter bs.
I usually won't respond to these questions. It may send a message to the questioner, but who cares.
I have had PM's that have asked me if I think they could post a certain question on a professional thread.If it doesn't offend anyone, why not?
I eliminated titles in my kitchens many years ago. I have gotten rid of the old "I'm in charge, so I'm the chef".
I have given everyone ownership, both theoretically and in real life. I have not done one thing in my career that has impacted and helped me the way this has.
pan
FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
Reply
FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
Reply
post #13 of 19
EXACTLY! You can learn and gain something formEVERYONE, be it the dish dog, to the F&B Director(if in that line of work). Giving your staff something to be proud of, and something to take pride in, cancarry things to a hightened level.
I AM THE (WORKING)EXEC.CHEF, of my hotel, my staff knows my title, and its just that, a title...I inhiereted this kitchen with some staff that has been there for 23 years, I earned thier respect, I didn't go in there like I was a big shot w/ a title.
Titles are given to man, by man, it does not change the man. A man without title, is NOT a man without purpose, but just a man...or woman...a heck, just substitute HUMAN!
Like all good meals, this too shall pass
Reply
Like all good meals, this too shall pass
Reply
post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 
Culinary school graduates can use a title immediately after graduation, it's called 'cook'. A cook working at a diner serving hashbrowns and scrambled eggs and a cook working at a 3 Michelin star restaurant are obviously very far apart in terms of skills, but they are both still cooks.

I emphasize the 'chief' aspect of the word Chef, because that's what the word actually means in it's original language. And yes, a kid who buys his own restaurant, is in charge and runs the kitchen can be called a chef. And yes, this kid would be more of a 'chef' than a veteran line cook simply because he's the one in charge.

Maybe I just don't understand North American culture well enough to know why cooks would use a French word, then change the meaning to something it wasn't originally... BTW, I am not a chef (yet), just a skilled cook who has worked in some very high end restaurants (and has been speaking the french language all my life).
post #15 of 19

chef?

I can quote one of my apprentices, "you can polish a turd all you want but it is still a turd", though he was referring to a special one of my other apprentices made, it is also applicable here.


Chef to me means the top dog, the general. The chef of a kitchen is the boss period. If you are the chef of a nursing home or a top restaurant.
If you run, train and organize a kitchen you are a chef.

Everyone else is a cook, period.

I actually prefer the title "Lord and master of all time, space and dimension"
Fluctuat nec mergitur
Reply
Fluctuat nec mergitur
Reply
post #16 of 19

Please Lord forgive me where I sin...

When I saw this post I thought I wouldn't respond, but I have to give my two cents because I read through all of the available posts. So because I have spent ten minutes of my life already and because my girlfriend won't care if I go to her tonight and b*tch, I'll say this much...MarkV and MikeB, I agree with your points of view. Yes, the title of chef is abused much by some in the U.S. For years I had to constantly correct family members and friends that would introduce me to people as a chef when I was a cook. They would say: "Aw, c'mon, they won't know thw difference." and I would say: "Yeah, but I do." I think this country is drunk with Food TV and celeb "chefs" (How do some of those people even get their own show? Rachel Ray???...I digress) and most are too quick pigieon hole things that they aren't knowledgable about. My thought is this...A true chef, formally schooled or not, is one that currently holds or has held for some time, a position of leadership and management in a professional kitchen. Even if you no longer are working in that capacity, you can still be called a chef, hence, now you write about your experience, or you teach, or consult. I could go on way too long about this, but I'll end with this thought...Lincoln once said: "Whatever you are, be a good one."
post #17 of 19
Big deal. You're 21 years old. You're less than 2 decades away from being potty trained.

You haven't even been a "cook" long enough to rant about this topic as if you were in a position of experiential authority.

I was managing a restaurant when your parents were dating.

Please.

Mark
Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
Reply
Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
Reply
post #18 of 19
Thread Starter 
Yes, you're right. I've only been cooking (professionally) for 3 years, working 2500+ hours per year. I've held the title 'Chef de Partie' at restaurants that have won over a dozen awards in various magazines/newspapers just over the time I've spent at each, and have spent plenty of time in both savoury and sweet cooking, as well as hot and cold food. I've helped open a restaurant, managed shifts, planned partial menus, and I've also trained more cooking school graduates and line cooks than I care to think about (some of whom were 10+ years older than I). Although most of my training has been French, I've also cooked a bit of Japanese, Chinese, Italian and Southern barbeque styles of food (keep in mind this is only my professional experience). And I wouldn't even bring any of this up (it is the internet after all, anyone on this forum could be making everything up), I don't think it's important but you bring in your petty insults, so I'm just going to state my experience....

But none of that matters, accomplishments mean nothing because I haven't 'put in my time', right? I'm trying to make a living and a name for myself, working professionally, and see all the time the media and even some fellow cooks cheapening our profession as well as butchering the French language...(which I have been speaking all my life, not to mention my name and heritage are French so it's hard to ignore) Now tell me I can't say something about it.
post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 
Nice post. A pretty nice summary of the topic.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Professional Chefs