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Stupid Question: How do you become a chef?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

How does a person reach the level/title of Chef in the profession? It doesn't seem like medical school where you go to school, pass a test and bam your a doctor. Someone had said that you only need to be promoted to the position to earn the title but that seems like it's too easy. Any insight? 

post #2 of 11

Easy as Pie, walk in the park, ...........It only took me about 7 yrs 6 Restaurants and working my ass of 13 hrs a day.....ya can't teach that stuff in School.......................ChefBillyB

post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Funny. That's the same response I always get. I was asking a legitimate question, and I'd appreciate an actual answer.

 

I am in culinary school and worked in the kitchens for an event last night with the chefs that totaled up to 13 Michelin stars and even more accolades. I'd like to know how to wear the idiotic looking tall hat in the mix of those artists and feel like I belong in the most miniscule sense, even if it's plating some sauce. Understand now?

 

And if it's as easy as getting a buddy to promote you to the position, that's ridiculous and an insult to those that put their lives in the kitchen.

post #4 of 11

LOL. Man, "Chef" is just a vocabulary word. Call yourself whatever makes you happy. Every guy standing out on his patio wearing a bibby-apron his wife/GF/SO gave him thinks he's a chef. You know what? ... HE IS, if it makes him happy. For me, all that counts is what I put on the plate. If the plate comes back clean, and the customer pays and comes back, all is good. Call me a plumber if you want, as long as you pay your tab and come back in  again. I never could stand those stupid big paper hats. LOL. I wear bandanas. Hey ChefBillyB, For me it's "easy as cake", pie is too tough. 


Edited by IceMan - 10/2/11 at 5:14pm

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply
post #5 of 11

Some Chefs, in some kitchens, would not even be cooks in other Chefs kitchens. You pick your star and follow the path that gets you there. The Chefs hat isn't a one fit, fits all " Well it is adjustable" but you get the point..........There isn't a guarantee path to success in this business, so don't look for it, the wizard isn't at the end of the yellow brick road.........I bet you don't see many rosy stories from the Chef's on this site, you will see a lot of truth, hard work, long hours, hardships, lost promises, lost families, Alcoholism, drug abuse, just to name a few. Sit back, have a beer, and listen, you just may learn something. I respect every Chef on this site, they all have a story to tell, you can learn from every story...................ChefBillyB

post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 

I think that's what I'm looking for, the stories. There are whispers of these things, but no one really knows until you're knee deep in it. I know about the issues with alcohol and families to a small extent, had the abusive drunk chef relationship even. At the end of the day, for me, I want to have worked a long, hot day and go home knowing my customers are full and happy and I was proud of the food that I put out. I love to cook and want to, eventually, be respected for it if I hone it into a craft. And was curious how to do that and have the chefs that I see as mentors look at me differently.

post #7 of 11

If I had to sum up the one key element of my success in this business, the word would be "Passion" ........you can't teach it, you will know when have it. The second element would be integrity, those are the only things I made sure I had with me when I left every Restaurant. I also left every Restaurant better than when I arrived................ChefBillyB

post #8 of 11
JnjsQr,

It may help to remember, the term chef is French for Chief], as in one who is in charge, it has very little to with producing and a whole lot to do with production.

To me, in any given kitchen, there is one chef, the one that is in charge at that time and that place, all of the rest are cooks or helpers.

If you're looking for a title or a piece of paper to verify your ability, you're in the wrong trade.

Chef is a title earned by one's peers recognizing an ability to see situations that lead to problems and changing those situations before they become severe problems.

The military is a pretty good parallel, the Master Sergeant/Master Chief Petty Officer is the chef. A good part is surviving for 20-30 years in the business wink.gif
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
post #9 of 11
Years of hard work and perfecting your craft. I did not know shit after I completed school 30+ years ago.
I worked anywhere and everywhere I could learning my craft.
French Bistro, Southern Italian, Pizza, Irish bar & grill, Banquet House, Seafood.
Small 30 seat fine dining to 1000 seat banquet house with 3 turns a day, plus dining room with 500 covers on a busy night. Hotel, Country Club, Motion Picture Catering, Private Catering, Emmy Awards.
I have worked in some real shit holes and some real fine places. Gained knowledge and experience from all.
Went from chef at one place to lunch time broiler cook at a place that had a very good reputation, and I wanted to work there. Was promoted to Sous within six months, Chef six months after that.

Stayed there five years, oversaw a $1m renovation on new location, with more space and started a banquet operation there. Left at the top of my game to pursue motion picture catering.

Got a foot hold in the door as a grunt for $100 a day, 3-4 months later I was running my own crew.
Did that for 6 years averaging $3-4k a week. Participated in profit sharing and had a reputation as one of the best in the business. We were always in high demand.

All it takes is a lot of hard work. Keep your nose clean and don't hang out in the bar after work.
Been there, the outcome is not pretty. Relationships are also put to the test.

I'm a cook first and foremost, that's what I focus on. I could care less about the tall hat and starched jacket with an executive name and title on it.

.
post #10 of 11

JnjsQr....I would have to agree with Pete here..... Unless you are in charge of a team of cooks in a kitchen you are not a "Chef." The term is used so much without realizing the definition, and that's why a backyard dad with a spatula is now a chef.

 

Like most of the "lifers" here, I too paid my dues with 40 years in the food service business. I too worked country clubs, restaurants, hospitals, university feeding, banquets, and such. I worked my way up form a simple pot washer, but went to school as well. I have 3 degrees and ended up enjoying the cooking part the best.

To me...,,,and if you'll pardon the use of another quote....."I haven't worked a day in 30 years."

 

Best advice? Our industry is so full of people who should not be in it, and there are no standards to establish what's poor, good, great, or outstanding. People have to pay big bucks to purchase well made food in most cases. (well made being a subjective term and in this case referring to fine dining).

 

Now, if more students like yourself continue to upgrade and show what is possible, perhaps someday, in the future, only professionally run establishments will be the ones making the money while the mediocre places will all close down.

Many of the fast casual places are all corporate run so the individual has no say or ability to affect change but in the many facilities that are not, there is a real need for people like yourself who do care and who do see a need for change.

post #11 of 11

I  kinda  went the same way as Chef Bubba only I was lucky enough after serving apprenticeship to get to Europe. Worked with great chefs and cooks  in great hotels. Came back to states and said to myself,"" the $ is in the catering business.""

Wound up running a place that did 10,0000 dinners per week, multible room banquet only.  Obtained a teaching license and stuck to volume catering, purchasing and prep. Guess I was in right place in the right era, with the right guys that was in the 1960 S .

   Tip  Stay sober, avoid any kind of drugs, be fare in your dealings with staff and management.  I am not a celebrity chef, I get in the trenches with the rest of the guys and bang it out.  Now I am semi retired and try and show young guys what I learned, and hand down what the old timers of the day taught me. As now I am an old timer.

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...

Reply
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