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Question about Chefs

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 

This is probably going to sound like a weird and random question.  To be considered a "Chef" do you have to complete a culinary program that you obtain all the different certifications from? 

 

I ask because, well  I'm curious. And two, I thought I remember hearing something about that before.  If that is the case when some body opens their own restaurant or wants to work at one and is called a chef does it mean the same thing weather they are professionally trained or not?

 

 

Andy

post #2 of 26

Chefs will be along to clear it up for you, but in my mind, a "chef" is one that runs a professional kitchen. A culinary degree is not a prerequisite, and likewise, holding a culinary degree doesn't make you a chef.

"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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post #3 of 26

I have seen similar questions posed, and even discussed on the "pro" forum. Basically my understanding, is a Chef, is the manager of the operation. Yes they cook, and are considered to be the best cook, but the title is for someone that is the manager of all kitchen staff, and the daily operations in the kitchen. This means, provisioning food supplies, determining the menu, keeping the stations working correctly etc.

 

Can we call ourselves a chef because we love to cook and experiment? I personally hesitate to, I feel that the title is a professional title and without the professional experience, you cannot be a "Chef" .. but take that title for what it is. It does not mean you can't out-cook any given Chef. They just have a much larger role to play aside from menu planning/cooking.

post #4 of 26

From what I understand, being a chef is about way more than cooking. In fact, many of the big name chefs haven't been on the line in years. It's more about maintaining personnel, setting the menu, procuring supplies, etc.

"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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post #5 of 26

NO !    I would sooner hire an associate with a lot of varied trade experience then a fellow out of cooking school. The guy will most likely know the reality of the position much better and I wont have him running to me with every task asking is this right? His experience make it easy on me to perform my job. School may be fine but you can't, like in any job beat experience. There are mail order companies that print degrees from any school for $4.98, but the experience does not come with them.

 

The chef is where the passing of the buck  ENDS


Edited by chefedb - 11/17/10 at 3:25am

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #6 of 26

Chef just means you're in charge of the kitchen.  Graduating culinary school no more makes you a chef than graduating law school makes you a lawyer.  It can be a good start but many of the worlds greatest chefs had no formal education.  Lastly, the chef frequently can't "out cook" everyone else in the kitchen, especially if you mean in the sense of hanging in there with the line cooks.  His skills are often in organization, menu creation, juggling costs and the like.  By the time you reach the position of Executive Chef, you may not spend much time actually banging out covers anymore.  I've always been a very hands-on chef, but I've worked for and with a lot of "office chefs", too.

"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 26

IMHO, when you decide to call yourself a chef, you should be able to outperform any "average" kitchen worker out there.  You can be a "kitchen manager" without being a chef.  I would argue that you can be a chef without being a kitchen manager.  When you put yourself out there as being a "chef", you should expect to be able to perform to a very high set of standards. 

 

I don't think that handling personnel issues and ordering food qualifies a person to call himself a chef.  If so, McDonald's has a chef in each restaurant. 

 

I also believe that some restaurants have more than one person qualified to be called a "chef". 

post #8 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerm713 View Post

From what I understand, being a chef is about way more than cooking. In fact, many of the big name chefs haven't been on the line in years. It's more about maintaining personnel, setting the menu, procuring supplies, etc.



A while back I was watching episodes of "Top Chef Masters" on Youtube or Hulu or some such. It was fun to watch the likes of Rick Bayless, Hubert Keller, Jonathan Waxman schlepping carts through the market, prepping their own veggies and doing things they likely have not done for many years. There was one episode where they had to cook in college dorm rooms using only a microwave, hot plate and toaster oven. Hubert Keller had no idea what buttons to push on the microwave.

mjb.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #9 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by gobblygook View Post


 

I also believe that some restaurants have more than one person qualified to be called a "chef". 


There may be, but only one of them can actually be "The Chef."  Again, the word may have a certain meaning to you but at the root of it it has an actual objective definition.  I certainly agree with you that an Exec Chef should be more competent at everything than his/her average line cook.  But it's not at all unusual for some of the better cooks to actually run their station better than their boss.  I see that all the time.  I currently work p/t in a kitchen where there are at least two guys (one of them the Sous) that runs rings around the Exec when running "the wheel."  The line cooks work the same station every day whereas the Exec will usually only work a station when that station starts drifting into the weeds.  But I completely agree that to deserve the title "Chef" you should be very skilled at all facets of culinary work.

 

As for Kitchen Manager and Chef, they're completely interchangeable terms in many ways.  If pressed for my own personal opinion, I'd say the distinction is that the Chef is creating the menu.  If you're just running a kitchen with a menu given to you by the owner, you'd probably be more honest to call yourself the KM.  Of course, in the current era of cooking shows and Chefs-as-TV-celebs, you very well may have someone in a McD's calling himself or herself Chef.  I've even seen kitchens were all the line cooks are considered chefs (although obviously chef de partie would be more accurate).

"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 #10 of 26

If you understand the terms:

  • C.E.O
  • C.F.O
  • C.O.O

then you have, possibly, the ability to understand the term "chef", the French spelling of the English term of "chief".

 

Otherwise, IMHO, your education is deficient, there is NO relationship between the term "chef" and "culinary ability". There IS a direct relationship between running a successful culinary enterprise and the term CHEF, it is identically equivalent to C.E.O., nothing more, nothing less.

 

Now, if you desire, a case might be made for a "culinary skill" designation along the lines of:

  • Apprentice Kitchen helper
  • Apprentice Prep Cook
  • Prep Cook
  • Line Cook, or possibly, journeyman cook
  • Station Cook, often termed "Chef de Partie" (though we are now entering the realm of MANAGEMENT!)

 

IMHO, there is absolutely NO relationship between "culinary skills" and "management abilities". They are two separate and distinct skill sets and occupational endeavors.

 

The finest and most creative culinary cooks may NOT be able to manage a business.

 

The finest and most creative business managers may NOT be able to produce the most creative and enjoyable culinary creations.

 

Remember, a Michelin "Star" is not earned by any one skill, it is a combination of factors.

 

Anyone who believes that the term "chef" means anything other than "boss of the kitchen" is sadly mistaken and doomed  to failure!

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #11 of 26

Forget all the definitions and what-ifs, and yah-butts.

 

Here's the true acid test.......... 

 

A "cook" is judged by what s/he puts on a plate

 

A "Chef" is judged by how s/he manages their resources.

 

It's that simple..........

...."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 #12 of 26
Thread Starter 

I was only asking because I thought I remembered hearing something about it.  In my job I have to have the initial training, monthly training and several other certifications to maintain my state certification.  I thought I had heard that if a "Chef" didn't have all the specifics they technically weren't a "Chef" Just a question asked out of curiosity.

post #13 of 26


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post

Forget all the definitions and what-ifs, and yah-butts.

 

Here's the true acid test.......... 

 

A "cook" is judged by what s/he puts on a plate

 

A "Chef" is judged by how s/he manages their resources.

 

It's that simple..........

The "chef" may judge the cook, but the patron judges the "chef"!

 


 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #14 of 26

I remembered, I almost picked a fight with this guy that claims he's a chef. He's barely in his 20's and fresh out of school. I don't know, the way he reasons out pissed me off. He keeps telling me that he is a chef since his co workers call him so. I don't know. Maybe it's just bad blood.

post #15 of 26
Quote:
Otherwise, IMHO, your education is deficient, there is NO relationship between the term "chef" and "culinary ability". There IS a direct relationship between running a successful culinary enterprise and the term CHEF, it is identically equivalent to C.E.O., nothing more, nothing less.

This is inaccurate or business specific. My last job was Manager/COO of one half the business or the gambling side (Casino/Bar/Restaurant), the other side had bar & restaurant manager, both sides served food & drink, however the menu, the daily specials, the hiring and firing of the kitchen staff, plus daily ordering was done by the Chef or Exec Chef. None of us signed pay checks or had control of how major money would be spent, our C.E.O. who was off premises most the time handled that through the C.F.O. The CEO (in our case the owner) made very few decision in running the daily business except when it came to how money was spent. Many larger food businesses are similar, the head chef at the Bellagio in LV is in charge of the kitchen and its staff and definitely not the C.E.O. Yes in a smaller organization the chef could be the CEO.
post #16 of 26

   Hi all,

 

   I get the idea of the whole chief aspect to someone holding the title chef.  I can also appreciate that I have never worked in a professional kitchen and therefor can only speculate what the responsibilities would be like. This puts me in an odd place where I'm really not qualified to comment beyond copying an accepted definition of the word.  I may be incorrect in saying so...but I believe there can be more to the term "chef" than merely its definition.

 

   I hope Just Jim doesn't mind if I quote part of a previous post of his.  (Just Jim, if you would like me to remove this just let me know)

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Just Jim View Post



Even though I've been the Exec at a few places, helped open a few as well, and have proven to be better than some who freely use the term, if I don't currently have the position, I don't call myself Chef.
But people I've worked with still call me that when we happen to meet up.
And even though I am called Chef, I have a Chef.
Although I no longer work with him, he will always be my Chef.
So again, I am a cook by trade, a Chef by responsibility.

redface.gif,

dan

post #17 of 26

I would rather learn from 20 certified chefs, than working at a restaurant where there is only 1 chef avalible to learn from... Most of the time these restaurabt chefs will be in the office looking at their Facebook updates.

 

Obviously working in a Michelin style kitchen you will learn great things quickly, but they usually want to see young cooks who have a piece of paper that shows they are passionate.

 

It all depends on what kind of chef you want to be and where you want to work. If you wanna work in NYC you better have FCI, CIA, or JWs next to your name, or your resume is getting pitched right into the trash can..

 

Lastly there are plenty of great community college that offer the same as the big dogs, so start there if your new.

post #18 of 26

Gimme a break, JoJo. There are 7,000 restaurants in NYC. If all of them insist on only hiring grads from those top three schools they're gonna run out of staff awfully fast.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #19 of 26

Today a resume could be the reason you do not get a job, depending on what HR person reads it. It may say the wrong things that they do not want to hear. What is a Certified Chef? And by whose standards.?    In the old Hotel Kitchens there was the Chef Garde' Manger, Chef Saucier,,Chef Poisoniere Chef Potage, Chef Rotissiere  etc. They were all reffered to as Chef.  Why?   Simple they were all IN CHARGE  of their specific department, under the auspices of the  Sous Chef who then reported to the Chef D Cuisine who then reported to the Exec Chef. Today this system cannot be afforded. This was the Hierarchy of the classic French Kitchen

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #20 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post


Anyone who believes that the term "chef" means anything other than "boss of the kitchen" is sadly mistaken and doomed  to failure!



Are you saying Pete that it is not typical of an executive chef to make menu choices, create dishes, etc? Do they not typically taste and approve the creations of those working under them? When I referred to their cooking ability early on I was thinking along these lines, that often they are expected to know seasonal ingredients, have a good pallete, and make menu choices. If that is not true, then I have a misperception and that's fine.

post #21 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by eastshores View Post
Are you saying Pete that it is not typical of an executive chef to make menu choices, create dishes, etc? Do they not typically taste and approve the creations of those working under them? When I referred to their cooking ability early on I was thinking along these lines, that often they are expected to know seasonal ingredients, have a good pallete, and make menu choices. If that is not true, then I have a misperception and that's fine.

Nooo, that is NOT what I said, in fact, I carefully avoided ANY mention of culinary skills, or the lack thereof.

 

IMHO, the term "chef" refers to "management skills and knowledge" or, if you prefer, the ability to "run a business".

 

Obviously, if the "business" involves the culinary trade(s), skill in the "culinary trade(s) IN ADDITION TO "management skills to run a business"  would be a tremendous asset. If one doesn't have the "culinary skills", one can hire someone with those skills!

 

However, the reverse is NOT true, IMHO, if one does NOT have the "management skills" essential to run a successful business, it is next to impossible to hire someone with those skills without ending up working for them. That being said, there ARE some successful partnerships where one has superior skills/knowledge in one area that complements the deficiencies in the other.

 

Culinary innovation does NOT guarantee success but business management acumen probably does.
 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #22 of 26

AH! I completely misread your post. Boss of the kitchen is exactly what I understood the chef to be. Usually this means they can hire/fire cooks, dishwasher, etc. But when it comes to hours of operation, advertising / business demographic choices, pricing, etc. the chef quite possibly has no ability to do any of those well, whereas a restaurant manager would be expected to and also correct me if I'm wrong, but usually the one person the executive chef has to answer to is the rest. manager?

post #23 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by eastshores View Post

AH! I completely misread your post. Boss of the kitchen is exactly what I understood the chef to be. Usually this means they can hire/fire cooks, dishwasher, etc. But when it comes to hours of operation, advertising / business demographic choices, pricing, etc. the chef quite possibly has no ability to do any of those well, whereas a restaurant manager would be expected to and also correct me if I'm wrong, but usually the one person the executive chef has to answer to is the rest. manager?

Unless the "chef" is also the owner/manager laser.gif
 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #24 of 26

In large ops.  he reports to the Food and Beverage manager.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #25 of 26

The Chef is like the Captain of a ship, when the seas are mild and the ship is on course, the Captain just needs to make sure his crew has all the tools, information, and training to ensure a smooth comfortable ride for his guests. When the seas are high and a storm in brewing, the Captain of the ship is at the helm, directing every station to perform at a high level so the ship stays on course, and the guests have the same quality of comfort as if it were a clear day. If you owned a ship, would you want a 90 day wonder right out of school. or would you want the seasoned veteran at the helm that has been through many storms...................It's the lessons learned and how you deal with the pressure of a job that builds the character needed to perform at a high level when needed...........................ChefBillyB

post #26 of 26

I dig the ship analogy.

 

When I left the hotel f&b biz the structure was thus from the top down (and to my knowledge it hasn't changed at two particular properties):

 

General Manager of the hotel property,

Food & Beverage Director (Restaurant GM and Executive Chef report to this position and are lateral positions),

Executive Chef

Banquet Chef and Sous Chef (Banquet Chef on the banquet side and Sous Chef on the restaurant kitchen side; lateral positions)

Pastry Chef (reports to the Banquet Chef)

Various banquet cooks (report to Banq Chef) and line cooks (hot side, cold side, etc. - report to Sous Chef)

Dish employees (generally report to Sous Chef)

 

I don't like food, I love it.  If I don't love it, I don't swallow.
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I don't like food, I love it.  If I don't love it, I don't swallow.
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