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Chef v. Cook

post #1 of 76
Thread Starter 

Does anyone else get annoyed by the overuse of the term "Chef" it seems to me like everyone who cooks a meal is considered a Chef today. I've been cooking since I was 14 am in culinary school and work full time in a well respected restaurant in my city and I still get a little upset when people call me a "Chef". I feel like it's completely disrespectful to not only my craft but to those who have come before me and put in the work, the years and their lives to what we do. Sorry for the rant I just feel like people outside of the industry don't get it, just a pet peeve I guess.

 

post #2 of 76

Chef by definition in a French kitchen is Chief. He is in charge of most everything in the kitchen. In some places does not even cook.  A cook  does exactly that  cooks he answers to the  Ex. Chef.  It also depends how large and how kitchen is structured.   could be cook to station chef to  sous chef  to  ex. sous chef to chef d cuisine to ex. chef. The buck ends at the top.

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 #3 of 76

This topic has been done to death--at least twice a year in one form or another.

 

Listen, this is N. America, we have no standards that constitute what a cook should know or be capable of.  We have a zillion culinary schools with a zillion different curriculums, some graduate "chefs", some graduate "culinary school gaduates".

 

Therfore, like a "professional photographer", anyone can take the title of "Chef" because there are no standards to adhere to.

 

Tell people this:
 

A cook is jusged by what they put on a plate.

 

A Chef is judged by how they run a kitchen 

 

 

 

And th-thhh-that's it folks.

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post #4 of 76

For me, understanding the restaurant brigade titles is clearer when compared to military ranks, The following table illustrates my view using the U.S. Army/Navy ranks.

 

General / Admiral

Executive Chef, in charge of multiple restaurants 15-20 years
Colonel / Captain Chef, in charge of a restaurant or two 10-20 years
Lt. Colonel / Commander Sous Chef, Second in charge of a restaurant 7-20 years
Captain / Lieutenant Station Chef(s), i.e. Sauté, Grill, Fry, Roast, Fish , Pastry, Cold-Food 3-10 years
Sergeant(s) / Chief Petty Officers Cook(s), Head Cook(s) 2-5 years
Corporal / Petty Officers Prep Cook(s), possible entry level for trained/apprenticed culinarians 0-5 years
Private / Seaman Dishwasher, Trainee/Apprentice, Helper, Entry level for untrained 0-2 years

 

Private/Seaman is the most common entry level though culinary school graduates may enter as prep cook. The more training, whether culinary school or OJT/apprenticeship, will increase the potential speed of advancement, however, with few exceptions, training will not affect entry level(s).

 

Advancing beyond Head Cook (bold face) requires knowledge, formal or OJT, of accounting, business law, personnel management, business finance and a talent for management rather than production. Though by no means essential, an AA or BA/BS in culinary or hospitality will certainly enhance opportunities to move into management.

 

This is strictly my view and is based on my experience.

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 #5 of 76

Pete, you're giving me flashbacks.

 

BDL

 

 

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post #6 of 76

I make a point of telling people, that call me a chef, that I am merely a student, and in training.  I am no wheres near to being a chef yet, at least by my standards.  I have one heck of a lot yet to learn, before I even get close to that title.  By Pete's example, I will be, at best, a corporal, when I get back to work in a restaurant.  However, given my long layoff, it is more likely that I will be a Pfc/ Lance Corporal for a while, until I gain some experience.  After all, I've worked in a restaurant or two, but never in a fine dining establishment. There is a large difference, in skill levels, to my mind.

post #7 of 76

Well,

 

I was about to hit my 13 year mark as private .

 

Forget all the catering gigs (100's) , weddings (43), showers (62) , parties (uncountable) private parties (uncountable), etc......the two years at St Denis + the courses I gave let alone the ones I  took...........and thats aside from what I do on a daily basis with two servers at any given time.........+ prep for next shift and weekend.

 

Pete, I am still a dishwasher................I am going home to have a drink..........a strong one.

 

Nicko, change my name.

 

Petals.

Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(162 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
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Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(162 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
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post #8 of 76

Pete,

 

Don't worry....lol ........it does not matter where I am on the grid (right word ?) I love what I do and thats all that counts. thumb.gif xoxo

Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(162 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
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Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(162 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
Reply
post #9 of 76

Yo, PetalsandCoco,

 

Nothing in the above chart says one cannot do what the ones below do, it simply lays out responsibilities.

 

A private chef runs the client's kitchen, and probably does most of the tasks required.

 

A personal chef runs the kitchen for several clients, and probably does most of the tasks required.

 

In my mind, anyone who runs a kitchen is a chef, regardless as to what they actually do.

 

BTA,WTHDIK

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #10 of 76

Pete,

 

Forgive me, I did not mean to stir the pot. Did you read my post just above you ? FWIW I enjoyed your post....

 

Nous sommes tourjours des meilleurs amis ?

 

Petals.

Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(162 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
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Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(162 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
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post #11 of 76

Petals,

 

Mais naturellement !

 

¡Indiscutiblemente!

 

 

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 #12 of 76

When enough people you respect call you a chef, I guess you are one.

 

BDL

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post #13 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

When enough people you respect call you a chef, I guess you are one.

 

BDL


Eh...no.

 

That's where all the trouble starts.

 

There are lousy Chefs that earn no respect.  They are reposnsible for the quality of the food, the consitancy of the quality of food, the training of the cooks, and for running a profitable kitchnen. If they suck,--are terrible at their jobs, they don't last long.  But while they are there they are the Chef, they are responsible for the running of the kitchen.  The cook, cooks.

 

Same goes for politicians.  They can be terrible at thier jobs, but while they are in power they still have the title of Govenor or Mayor.

 

A kitchen that runs on respect is a nice kitchen to work in, but you don't neccesarily need to respect the Chef.  Of course this usually means that one of you willl leave shortly, and I have been on both sides of the situation many, many times.

 

 

Part of the problem with this whole Chef/Cook thingee is a lack of understanding.  For some reason "Cook" is a nasty, filthy, dirty, four letter word.  I don't know why this is (well, yes I do but right now I don't want to digress) but it is perpetuated by the media and many of the culinary schools.  If and when the word "cook" is ever used it is never in a positive view.

 

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post #14 of 76

LOL. As per usual, the terms "cook" and "chef" to me are just vocabulary words. I think you (anybody) should just call yourself whatever makes you happy. Do you not do a better job at things when you're happy? For me, as long as I've got work and I'm getting paid, I don't care if I'm called a "plumber". That's just me I guess. When I'm in a bar-pub and I get to make things from scratch, with my own hands, with my choice of ingredients, I think I'm as much a chef as anyone. I'm producing something with my skills. When I'm in a convention center throwing frozen wings into a deep fryer, then splashing them with sauce from a bottle and plating them for service, I find insulting to even claim to be a cook. 

"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'.

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"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'.

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post #15 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post

A cook is jusged by what they put on a plate.

 

A Chef is judged by how they run a kitchen 

 



Personally, I get offended when people refer to me as a Chef. That is a title I feel will take years/decades to attain.

This little quip is an excellent way to counter a 'chef' comment. Awesome =)

post #16 of 76

Pump,

 

You make an important point and raise important distinctions. 

 

However, Ice has the right of it.  We're not talking about jobs, we're talking about language.  Meanings change with use, that's just how it is.  No matter how much we wish that people would use terms like "agenda" (it's a plural), "hopefully" (an adjective), and "whom" (the object form of "who") properly we lose.  The term "chef" means what people mean it to mean.  That includes a lot of people whose noses we don't want in the tent, but there you go. 

 

I always considered myself a "cook" and not a "chef," until people whom I respect insisted on calling me Chef.  The operative concept in my near acceptance is the respect I accord them, not the other way around.  If they say "chef," who am I to fight it?  If you want to argue about it, take it up with them.  Me?  I'm going to write a recipe for smothered chicken.

 

BDL

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post #17 of 76

Probably.

 

I did an apprenticeship, 3 years.  At the end I had a 3 day battery of written tests and then the big one, the practical.  After a few weeks of nervous waiting, I got my "papers" and I was recognized--in all of Switzerland's 3 national languages as a "Cook".  In every place I worked in Europe, only the Chef was refered to as the the Chef.  No one, no body ever took the title for themselves.  Even serious hobby cooks refered to themselves as "Hobby cooks"

 

No language issues there.

 

N.America is where things change, and as Iceman says, he finds it "insulting to be called a cook". There are no clear cut rules/benchamrks/standards as to what  consititutes a cook, what knowledge and skills they should possess. 

 

And if you can't define what a cook is, how can you define what a "Chef" is?  Thing is, every kitchen needs a manager, the one who keeps the food good, the staff trained, and the books in the black.  Whether this person cooks or not, they still are the manager.  The cooks, cook.

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post #18 of 76

I would also like to interject a few observations from my career.

I do not understand the need to give each cook in a kitchen a title. I find people are being called Sous Chef who have no clue what it means let alone the qualifications to do the job. I see people with titles like Demi-Chef, Chef Durang, (spelling) These are French titles from another age that don not fit now.

 

So many of my experiences had been negatives in my career that it was refreshing to finally get the chance to work some real pro's.

I have worked for the Drunk Chef and the stupid Chef, and the dishonest Chef, and then there was the Chef who had a temper that he could not control, and then the Chef whose every other word was profane.......so, like I said, I've been there and done that.

In order to get respect, you have to show some first. And this is not just for the culinary world I might add. It goes for life as well. So many young people fail to realize this too.

 

I've know Chefs who have taken monthly inventory from their recliner with beer in hand.

I personally know Chefs now that have no clue how to cost out a plate or even create menus, yet they are gainfully employed with the title and all that comes with it.

The idea from some of the other threads would suggest a professional association whose purpose it would be to grant a culinary license to people who pass a series of tests in order to be able to own and run a food business.

 

To me this is a slippery slope.

Would we then not allow grandma to make cookies to sell at the church social because she does not have the proper licensing? 

Would a "Food Police" be established to seek out and prosecute those who serve and cook food without certification.

I don't have the answer....only that I wish that our profession was taken more seriously and the fakers and wannabe's  be dealt with.

 

post #19 of 76

I took it insulting to be called a "cook" because I wasn't really cooking anything. I was doing a "trained monkey" job. It was insulting to real kitchen food service people that actually produce something, other than just being a living breathing vending machine. I had no concern between cook or chef. 

"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'.

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

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post #20 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefross View Post

 

To me this is a slippery slope.

Would we then not allow grandma to make cookies to sell at the church social because she does not have the proper licensing? 

Would a "Food Police" be established to seek out and prosecute those who serve and cook food without certification.

I don't have the answer....only that I wish that our profession was taken more seriously and the fakers and wannabe's  be dealt with.

 



But Ross, most of this is already happening, and has been happening for a loong time.

 

Whatever Grandma does at home is her business, but what she sells to the general public--even if it s for charity and she doesn't get a dime, is, in many cases regulated by the health dept.  Grandma has the power to poison, maim, or kill people, or make a lovely cookie.  This is something that the health dept takes seriously.

 

Again, the "food police," in the guise of the health dept. do shut down businesses because they don't have certification ( a mandatory "food safe" course here in B.C.) or violate the health code. Bear in mind that 99% of business shut downs and/or fines  are the result of customer complaints.

 

Want the business to be taken seriously?  Get some standards in place.  If I had a dollar for every dip-wad in Vancouver alone who leased a place, put an espresso machine and a pannini grill in, bought his muffins and pre-cooked chicken and pre-chopped romaine  at Costco, and called it a "restaurant" I'd be a wealthy man.  Want the culinary schools to stop screwing with 19 yr olds who think "passion" is a 4o hr/week word?  Get some standards to base their curriculum on.  Want the employers to stop screwing the cooks?  Get some standards to base a pay rate on.  Want to get rid of the fakers and wannabees?  Get some standards in place.  Either you passed the test or you didn't, let's see your documentation.

 

Here in western Canadan we ahve already taken steps.  The title "Cook" is now a much harder process, requiring 3 separte schooling blocks interspaced with a prescribed amount of employment in the industry.  The employers are now aware of what Cook 1, Cook 2, and Cook 3 (Red Seal) should know and be capable of executing, and they are paying accordingly.

 

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post #21 of 76

"But Ross, most of this is already happening, and has been happening for a long time."

 

Perhaps in Canada they have this kind of thing but not here in the USA.

Grandma CAN make her cookies and sell them at the church without any government intervention.

The certification from a health department only covers health and sanitation.

It doesn't cover cooking and business sense though and this is where we have the issue.

 

"Want the business to be taken seriously?  Get some standards in place.  If I had a dollar for every dip-wad in Vancouver alone who leased a place, put an espresso machine and a pannini grill in, bought his muffins and pre-cooked chicken and pre-chopped romaine  at Costco, and called it a "restaurant" I'd be a wealthy man."  

 

Here in America we call that capitalism. Everyone has the ability to be competitive. If the owner shops at Costco, has his store bought muffins, and pre-cooked chicken that's his right.

We (a plural we the people) do not have the right to keep people from owning and running these types of places. We do, however; have the right to refuse to patronize such places.

That is our only option right now. I would love to see some kind of standards in place, but until our profession is taken seriously that will never happen.

 

 

 

post #22 of 76

I like this explanation! I will remember it for use in the future.

post #23 of 76

Is it just me? Or was this never an issue until the proliferation of cooking shows (particularly FN) and their widespread misuse of professional terms? I mean home chef? Puleeze.

 

When I was cooking professionally I was just that: A cook. A short-order cook, to be precise. Never entered my head to resent the term; nor to even think of myself as a chef. But now, thanks to the influence of the TV cooking shows, and, to a lesser degree, the culinary schools, in the public's mind, anyone who cooks professionally is a chef.

 

I've spent the past seven months demonstrating 18th style cooking at a living history museum. Can't tell you the number of people who've asked, in one form or another, "so you're the chef?" I explain, as courteously as possible, that "chef" is a professional title, and that I'm a cook. But, and here's my point, would this have even been an issue ten or 15 years ago? I think not.

 

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #24 of 76

Eh....I don't think so.  If Grandma sells cookies loaded with salmonella or rat crap there will be a law suit

 

Look,, how do you want the profession to be taken seriously?  Or are you happy with the current situation?

 

 

My idea of certification for restaurant owners is based on the European model, and there's a lot of crappy Eruopean places selling processed product.  However the operators can not claim ignorence to health law, building codes, food and wine knowledge, or accounting and labour law.  The rates of a place going under in the first year is far far, lower than in N. America

 

Capilatisim is all fine and dandy--until someone undercuts your prices with inferior mass processed food backed up by a national advertising campaign. And you know what?  The general public couldn't care less, Crapplebbee's rules!  And because they couldn't care less, they couldn't care about food quality, if the guy putting food on  the plate actually knows what he's doing,or is slicing open pouches, or if the owners are thumbing their noses at the minimum wage standard, succesfully lobbied State gov'ts and now are paying servers as low as $2.30 /hr.

 

 

I guess the public has made their choice, eh?

 

It's just something to think about.

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post #25 of 76

Look out, here comes the word police. 

 

Let's not confuse capitalism with "free enterprise."  "Capitalism" means using money to make money, which is not at issue here.  We're talking about whether and to what degree it's appropriate to regulate a (fairly) free market. 

 

BDL

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post #26 of 76

Uh-huh.....

 

Take a look at your boys on Wall Street, the damage they've done, and the bonuses they've recieved and ask yourself if a free market works best with some standards firmly in place or not.

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post #27 of 76

The trick is balancing.  You want enough regulation to keep the market fair, but enough freedom for markets to reward innovation and efficiency while cleansing inefficiency and obsolescence.  Not easy.  I'm not going to say where I stand on the continuum, but since I spent years toiling in the vineyards of enforcing anti-trust regulations you can pretty much guess.  History provides a larger context as it repeatedly proves that societies which go too far one way or the other cannot compete for long against those which find a "golden mean."

 

Not to be too repetitive, but in this thread we're talking more about words than jobs.  Like it or don't, the evolution of language is as "free market" as it gets.  Attempts to make it otherwise, have never succeeded.  I would be more than surprised if it isn't far too late to put the "chef" genie back in the bottle.

 

BDL 

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post #28 of 76

I would be more than surprised if it isn't far too late to put the "chef" genie back in the bottle.

 

Sadly enough, Boar, you're probably right on this. Short of a repressive government body handing out decrees, there's no going back. Ever.

 

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 #29 of 76

Pump,

 

For the record: 

 

1.  They're not "[my] boys on Wall Street."  Mitt Romney's, maybe;

2.  My understanding of economics, economic systems, the North American equity markets, politics, fiscal policy, and political systems is actually fairly sophisticated; but

3.  This isn't a good place to discuss any of them; and

4.  No matter how stupid my beliefs, I'm far too stubborn to be convinced by yours.

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 11/4/11 at 8:07pm
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post #30 of 76

You left out one important point, every student whether still in school and or who has just graduated classifies them self a Chef, They haven't qualified as a good dish washer. My observations when presented with a station or a job other than what tey were hired for they fall apart.

 

I have watch cook shows and have been aghast at how many Chefs are so unfamiliar with certain foods, from around the world, I watch one Chef complain because his restaurant only sells Steaks he his not familiar with Fish, WOW! I have observed the same with different types of vegetables.

 

The very narrow scope of experience for people who have been in the industry for 10+ years is WOW! can't find the words for it. i am retired now so I have time on my hands and some of the local Caters and or restauranteurs want me to cook for them and I say NO, the reason is I set it up they take control, they bring in another at half the pay, they push me out the door and then sen the Quality of food to Hell in a Basket and scratch their heads trying to figure out why.

 

August I cooked Tibetan and Indian, Yesterday, Brazilian and Peruvian and next week I'll be cooking some Polish and Russian Dishes, not to count the Baking, candy making and Chocolate skills and desserts, but to me that is what a Chef is not one item, one name and what ever title they can acquire. Luck to you

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