By nature, if you are in the food service industry, we are all cooks when it all comes down to it.
Chef is a title.Whether it has a prefix, or a suffix..its still a title.
Professional denotes getting paid to do it.
It would be interesting to know how many folks in these very forums think of themselves as "chefs".
As far as far as it being a "SOLE" means of income as a requirement, I would beg to differ.
I know MANY smaller operations that only offer dinner service, where the ONLY person that gets the benefit of regular full time income is the Executive Chef/Chef Proprietor. If you do have a family and are the main bread winner, you have no choice but to get a part time gig elsewhere. That gig may or may not have anything to do with food at all.
It is ridiculous to think that someone could be a part time sous chef, but I have seen it before, and it works quite well given the right crew.
Every great chef has a great crew.
In that hierarchy, there is that one cook that stands out from the rest. If that person functions as the executive chef when he is not there, then technically, that person would be considered his "Sous Chef". Its a bit of a faux pas to title yourself though, isnt it? If its offered, its offered, if not, thats alright too.
Alot of the time, there is the expectation of some sort of increased pay that comes along with being "official". Some Exe. Chefs just arent willing to do that though, so they simply dont feel as though the need is there to title someone.
It is what it is.
Alright, sorry for the segue.
Someone that EARNS the title of "Chef", in any capacity, in my eyes should have a fairly well rounded knowledge of various types of cuisine, a certain level of maturity, an enormous amount of finesse, and unmatched skill.
There are literally thousands of amazing cooks working lines all over the world. Being a good cook does not make you a chef though. I guess its best summed up by this:
Someone that has the title of chef should not only be the best cook in the kitchen in all facets but should also be the one thats not afraid to take charge and has the foresight to know WHEN to take charge when the situation dictates. They should be the one, even if they are the only one, keep their cool when shi* hits the fan. Along with having that title, comes the responsibility to make sure everything goes right, even when it seems like its an impossibility and the duty to the ones that pay your bills - the customers, to offer them something that they cannot get elsewhere, whether that is through playing it safe with menu development and having dishes that are fool proof and a 100% hit, or by being innovative and offering the patrons something new and amazing that they can only get by coming to eat YOUR food. If you choose to go the second route, then its up to you as the chef to ensure everyone is on the same page as far as preparation techniques, and on you to scrutinize each and every dish before it makes its way to the floor. The buck stops with you.You are paid more than a cook for that exact reason. On top of everything else thats involved with food preparation, you also do the ordering, work orders, repairs, etc. You are the one who is responsible and paid for taking initiative.
Take away the added responsibility that comes along with the title, and in my eyes, you are not a chef. You are a cook.
There is nothing wrong with that, at all..but I wish so many people would not have this glamorization of the title and think that everything that is involved with being at the top of the food chain is sexy and wonderful.
As a side note, it always makes me chuckle a little when I hear someone describe themselves as a "professional chef" and then finding out that they are "between jobs".
Edited by ResQDoc - 5/12/11 at 8:04pm