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The use of the title Chef

post #1 of 159
Thread Starter 
I was having a conversation with a vendor of mine the other day and the use of the term/title Chef came up. I had mentioned that I felt in the US we give any and every person who graduates from culinary school the term without putting in the time. I also said that I felt I was just an over glorified cook since that is what I really love to do and that a true chef, someone who REALLY KNOW'S THEIR STUFF, in my eyes, is someone who could pass the Master Chef exam thru the ACF, which I know I couldnt at this time. I have worked for/with a few of the Chef's who have both passed and failed and its not something that I really aspire to do at this point in my career.

What are everyones thoughts on this? What do you consider to be a Chef?

I think that all of us know what and where the term Chef comes from, what I want to know is if you think it should be a title that is given to those who have TRULY earned it or just a description of what we do?
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Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
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post #2 of 159
If you have the ability and the responsibility, you should be able to call yourself whatever you want, whether it be Chef or Grand Wizard Of All Things Culinary.
I always say I'm a cook by trade, a chef by responsiblity.
You can call me %$#@! as long as you do it respectfully.
Likewise, calling me chef while spitting venom does nothing for me.
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.
I've even had an applicant with no culinary experience say they "chef at home", so the term is definitely losing some of it's original meaning.
Bottom line: the chef is the chief.
If you're the chief of your kitchen, you are the chef.

Just my 2 cents.
Spend it as you wish.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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post #3 of 159
If you have the ability to run a restaurant, create menus, price, teach staff, run succesful events and most importantly have a loyal customer base then I feel you can call yourself a chef.

If you have someone else create menus, price and rely on 50% or more premade food but still run the operation, then I would say that person would be a kitchen manager. Im surrounded by those type of places,sadly.

I know a guy that calls himself a "chef" He worked at a seafood place and he would always brag about how busy and good his food is. I stopped by to see him and check out his operation..... First thing I saw was him cutting open a bag of white funk and dumping it into a big pot. I asked what the **** that was, he replied "New England Clam Chowder" Yuck! Then I looked around and saw cans of premades every where, from marinara, peanut sauce, to even tomato basil soup! WTF I said to myself. Im sorry but if a "chef" cant make a tomato basil soup within 30 minutes from scratch then our industry has major issues. Frozen fish, shrimp already in marnades, stuffed fish, crab cakes everything was made in a factory and bought in. And what blows me away is he did almost 250 covers that night!
post #4 of 159
This has been debated in countless forums. Here's my ake:

A Chef is the Boss, the manager of the kitchen. Period.

Forget about Chefs and cooks for a minute, lets talk about hockey. Wayne Gretzky was a good NHL player. Now he's a coach. His job is to hire, fire, train, supervise, encourage, discipline, guide, and mentor his team. He could not do this, nor win the respect of his team, had he not been an NHL player.

The Chef is the one who hires, fires, trains, coaches, disciplines, encourages, frequently cooks, does the paperwork, guides and mentors his team, er... brigade. S/he can not do this if they have not been a cook-- a good cook, can't instruct if they haven't done it a million times themselves, can't earn respect of their brigade if they can't instruct or supervise.

If you can mnore or less accept what I have written, then culinary schools do NOT produce Chefs, they produce culinary school graduates.

In Europe, things are different., It is no shame to call yourself a cook. Indeed, after a 3 year apprenticeship, you are proud to call yourself an apprenticed cook--not a "Chef", but a Cook. And if your head swells too much, you look at your certificate, it states "Cook", not "Chef"

The word Chef has been so abused by the media and culinary schools, that it is an embarassment. It's also a verb now too, "Cheffing". "I Chef at the Dine-o-might", "Do you wear your Chef's whites when you're Cheffing?"

O.K. off my soap box, time to go back to work.....
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #5 of 159

chef

I have spent many years running kitchens and cooking and I agree the term "chef" is used loosely today. In my book a chef is in charge of the kitchen or a part of the kitchen and has the final say in how foods are prepared and purchased. They also have to have the business sense to operate the kitchen within a budget. Being able to cook is only part of the job a true chef does.
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post #6 of 159
I consider "chef" to mean "head of the kitchen." But we do throw the term around too liberally. If you run the kitchen at a Denny's and just open bags and boxes, should you be called the Chef? I dunno...technically you're still head of the kitchen. Ideally you should have some culinary credentials and be an expert in all relevant skills to deserve the title.
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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post #7 of 159
We were doing a new menu tasting for the RVP, GM, VP of F&B, and other various big heads within the company.

The big heads brought in their key chef, a pretty well-known guy in the downtown area from one of our related hotels. He helped oversee the tasting to make sure everything went ok. He definitely knew his stuff about food. All his dishes were spot on.

BUTTT... the problem was that he was a mess. He made hummus on one prep table, splattered roasted pepper and chickpea puree all over the station, then moved to another one tocut vegetables. He left all the vegetable scraps scattered along the cutting board and prep area before moving to another areq to make tempura batter. Batter and flour all over my station that again he walked away from without even making an attempt to clean.

Now yes hes well known and everyone is all *bows down* to him when he walks around, but I don't know if I can consider anyone that works that messy to be a chef. I consider myself to be pretty sloppy also, so when someone's sloppiness outdoes me, especially a supposed chef of this calibur, I really feel disappointed.

Sorry if this wasnt particularly related to the thread, but just needed to rant a little bit. History/Definition of the word = Chief of the kitchen from what I understand. Unless you actulaly have a kitchen that you are chief of, you are not a chef.
post #8 of 159
I've graduated college with"chefs" i wouln't allow to feed my dog (even they were amazed they got through)

I've worked with un-qualified genius's (genii?)

I went on an ego trip when i qualified for a while, just cos i had done it. Ithought it was my right to be called chef.

I considered myself a chef even before my late-in -life qualifying. (big head)


Its a touchy subject. We see Celebrity "chefs" on tv. Most arnt qualified, and rely on Charisma:rolleyes:to blag their hyped up salaries.

Then there's joe bloggs down the road who's run a brigade for 25 years. (We all know a place like it) Not a qualification between them. and thats where you want to eat. He may not get "yes chef" yelled at him every 2 minutes. but he jolly well has it in the hat. He and everyone else knows whos chef.

I could go on and on (and often do iknow) but surely its a respect thing. Your own and that of you peers, subordinates and the public that class a good chef
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #9 of 159
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. Students coming out of culinary schools these days have their head up their @$$ thinking they can work for anyone and get paid $$$. Too much ego...not enough talent or heart.
post #10 of 159
That's because the word "Chef" is a "replacement" for cook. Everyone wants to be a chief, not an Indian.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #11 of 159
THESE ARE MY OPINIONS. DON'T TAKE THEM TO HEART. I'VE BEEN DRINKING.;)

I agree that the word is thrown around too casually,
and I feel that the term should take into consideration the caliber of food being prepared.
Most of my duties would be the duties that a chef would perform, but the food being served is, honestly, glorified pub fare.
We're really busy and keep getting busier so the menu keeps getting dumbed down. People like it, but it's not a menu that I would walk into a job interview with. I would, however walk into a job interview and explain how I leveled out FC and helped make the place more fluid and productive.

For this forum, I chose "restaurant manager" and I think the title fits better than "chef".

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 (like me :D). I do the ordering and food costing and a myriad of other things that take up my whole day, but I rarely... RARELY pick up a knife. All my knives are at home collecting dust.

It really bugs me when friends call me a chef. "Learned cook" or "somewhat knowledgeable cook" would be more accurate.

Hey, I'm no chef. Just a restaurant manager who has been in the biz for 20+ years.
Worked Foh and BoH. I don't expect to be agreed with. I've still got a lot to learn. But to me, this is what a chef is.
Hope I don't sound like an idiot.
post #12 of 159
Even when I was the exec at my previous job, I never considered myself a chef. To me, a chef is the guy who always has the answer to everything and knows how to make anything and make it well. I still feel slightly uneasy when servers at my current job refer to me as a chef (I'm not the exec there). I'd guess that I will never willingly call myself a chef, no matter how much I learn, because there is always something I don't know, and by my own criteria, I'll still just be a cook.

That said, I have met exactly two people in my life who I would willingly call "chef". The exec before me at my previous job, and the exec at my current job. I will not even refer to the sous at my current job as "chef". Respect for tradition is one thing, earning respect through a very high degree of ability is another. The sous is very good, but I still know quite a few things that he hasn't grasped yet. If I know something that you don't, you don't deserve to be called "chef" in my eyes.
post #13 of 159
Tis an interesting question. With regards to capabilities, it would be down to how one faced challenges. Ive seen people fold and people thrive under pressure situations.

I havent been an Exec nor a Exec Sous. Thats not to say that I couldnt be, just that i couldnt be bothered to this stage. My main focus is going in and helping people out, regardless of cooking styles or function.

The way I look at it, the more I gain experience, the better I can be. After passing through 150 kitchens in 5 years, I think that I can pass as a Chef.

After all, if people who own establishments feel fit to fly me around Australia to cook at in their kitchens, then there must be some value attached to my services.
"Nothing quite like the feeling of something newl"
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post #14 of 159

Chef? Me?

My focus has always been to know my craft and trade: To that end I've attained the title of "Kitchen Putz". I'll even answer to "Culinary Goof"...Or, "Hey! You in the Kitchen!!" Or best yet, just call me Tom.
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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post #15 of 159
That's a hard line to hold.
Considering that there is always something to learn, and that there is always someone who knows something that someone else doesn't (especially when you factor in regional cuisines), no one would ever be called Chef, by your standards.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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post #16 of 159
Jim! agree !
I have been in this business for over 45 years , have worked in the worst and the best , for the worst and the best The US and Abroad. I still learn something new every day. The day I don't then I won't do it anymore or I'll be deceased.:lol:
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post #17 of 159
Me too.....

I remember watching Vancouver's Rob Feenie win the "Iron Chef" in Japan a few years back. Watched him put raw Kiwis in with gelatin, knew it wouldn't gel. Knew this from exprience, the hard way, same enzyme in fresh Kiwis, figs, pineapple, and papaya that stops the gelatin from gelling.

Knowledge is NOT finite, there's somethng new every day to learn.

The day I can say I know everything pertaining to food or cooking in general, is the day the doctors strip my body of usable parts, and stuff what's left of me into a coffin.....
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #18 of 159

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 ,

whether they are slinging buffalo wings in their small make shift kitchen in a pub, pureeing soup and entrees for people in a nursing home or commanding the brigade in a Michelin restaurant

but having the skills to perform your job well and command respect is what makes a good chef

there is definitely a blurred line now everyone thinks they are a chef

and anyone armed with a few squeeze bottles and the latest Art Culinaire
is a dangerous combination with out some solid training

now more than ever it comes down to can you balance your food and labor costs

with operating expenses higher than ever , it is crucial to run a tight ship

I tell young guys getting in the business expect alot of hard work before you become a chef
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post #19 of 159
Hold on Buddy,
I'm a retried chef of forty-five years of dedicated service with a very strict respect for tradition that is hardly known today, I have worked 15 years of my younger life in France to learn the old ways and have fought my way all my life. I have been cooking most likely before you were born and It's pretty sad you think you are the greatest thing since sliced bread. I love what I have done and I support all the new and upcoming chefs.

R Hill
Oceanside,Ca
post #20 of 159
Wow I started up a bit of fireworks with this one. Fitting for the holiday I suppose? I was coming off a rough day and didn't really think about what I was saying....

What I meant was "If I personally know something that you don't at this point in my career, you don't deserve to be called "chef" in my eyes."

I'm a good line cook and ok cook otherwise, but I don't think I'm at all the best thing since sliced bread. Pretty far from it. At this point in my career, I consider myself a growing novice. I know a lot, but I have at least 100 times more to learn. 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.

Does that clear the air a bit?
post #21 of 159
What I meant was "If I personally know something that you don't at this point in my career, you don't deserve to be called "chef" in my eyes." Schuster'

Making a blanket statement like this on this site could possibly get you into trouble. Some people on this sight could possibly ask you questions that you may not even have heard of, never mind answering. Ego is both bad and good. No one knows everything.
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post #22 of 159

Who's a/the Chef?

A few responders to this thread have touched on the "definition" of Chef. 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. The word Chef is French for Chief, or person in charge. Nothing more, nothing less. So, the person in charge of a particular kitchen is the chef of that kitchen; likewise, the person in charge of a station is the chef of that station. Therefore, if using proper grammar, one should ask: Are you THE chef vs. A chef? One may be the chef of their restaurant or kitchen, but once they step into someone else's kitchen, they are no longer "the chef". 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. To answer the question that I posed at the top of the paragraph: "Do I call myself a chef?" Currently the answer is no. I'm now in F&B Management for a resort and therefore not currently active in the kitchen. Even though the entire kitchen staff is under my direction, I don't use the term. Because of my years in the kitchen, some staff refer to me as chef. I try to correct them; sometimes with success, sometimes without. We have a chef de cuisine running our kitchen...we call her "Chef".


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post #23 of 159

re

this has been discussed countless times on this forum, and with nothing new being added. So I won't be adding my 2 cents. But Just want to say hi everybody.
post #24 of 159
Shuster, we're going around in circles here.

Look, I'll ask a quick question and I need a knee-jerk answer, ok.?

What's the capitol of California?

Knee-jerk answer: Sacremento

No one's asking if Sacremento should be the capitol, or why L.A. or Sanfrancisco isn't.

A Chef is the boss, the manger, period.

In highschool I had some good teachers and some really lousy ones. Ones who couldn't control a class and would hunker down in their desk, afraid to move or talk; ones who had the entire semester of physics on 4 rolls of overhead projector film and would mumble infront of the screen with the lights off--a 15/30/30 record. That is to say, within 15 minutes the teacher had the entire class of 30 students asleep. Yet, I still refer to these teachers as teachers--incompetant as they were. They were hired as teachers, paid as teachers, and expected to teach the curriculum.

A Chef is the boss, the manager, period. Whether they are good or not doesn't affect their title--thier length of employement, sure, but not the title.

Am I making any sense?
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #25 of 159

Just throwing another 'topic' for discussion

OK - there is the chef - generally titiled the Executive Chef. Then there is/are the Sous chefs. Would you call them 'chef' as well??? In many cases the Sous Chef shares responsibilities with the Executive Chef so how can you justify calling one Chef and the other by, say, their first name? Just curious.
post #26 of 159
Under the Brigade system in the classic French kitchen , the sous chef is in charge when the exec. or chef d cuisine is not there. He is always second in command at all times . He also assist the chef d partie(station chefs) or in some cases he is also the chef d partie depending on size of kitchen. n the classic french kitchen every one in charge of a station is called chef, example. Chef Garde Manger, Chef Potage, Chef Saucier , Chef Poissenierre and on and on, as each one is a recognized specialist in what they do. Each one has assistants depending on volume of kitchen. Hope this helps..:D
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post #27 of 159
In virtually all the places I worked at in Europe--some of them 5 star with the Exec. Chef highly decorated, it was expected for the entire Brigade to address the Exec. as "Herr Gothuey", the Sous, Herr Lichtenberger", etc. In other words, "Mr." no title.

Even after 14 years back in N.America, it still is strange for me to address the Chef as "Chef", Or "Chef Smith". In such cases I usually adress them as "sir", but that's just me.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #28 of 159
Don't call me Chef, I work for a living :p
post #29 of 159
I work in a small town family dinner. We make almost everything from scratch and do some pretty aggressive specials (for our restaurant type) . I have just been promoted and put in charge of the kitchen. IM NOT A CHEF! I'm not debating the definition, i'm just saying i'm not one.
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are you picken up what im layen down?
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post #30 of 159
chef translated from most european languages means chief     ergo anyone who cooks is a cook unless you have the ultimate responsabillity then you are chef. 
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