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The road to becoming a TRUE chef. ADVICE

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Well I would really like to have some input from all you chefs out there on what it means to be a CHEF.  I went to culinary school, have worked in different kitchens for years, and am currently working at a very prestige restaurant in Beverly Hills, CA.  Yet I don't consider myself a chef by any means...  I can work and go through the motions of a line cook, or prep cook, or what have you but working everywhere I've worked most chefs or those who consider them as much, are masters of the restaurant they work at.  I want to become a great Chef but I know my confidence is what is lacking, even though I haven't mastered the kitchen I am working at, what steps (reading, techniques, websites, etc.) would be advisable to look into, to seem like the kind of CHEF you can ask most technical kitchen questions and leave with an informed anwser.

post #2 of 12

This is N. America, so everyone and their dogs have different ideas of what the term "chef" actually means.  Some are pretty wild, others not so far off.

 

So, I'll be first to throw my hat in the ring:

 

A "cook" is judged by what they put on  a plate.

 

A "Chef" is judged by how they run kitchen, how well they manage the resources given to them.

 

 

...."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"......
Reply
post #3 of 12

FoodPump's definition is pretty close, if not spot on!

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
Reply
post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 

I guess what I need is some advice on gaining general technique knowledge, or a base line of how to become a more ingredient inspired/ creative chef.

post #5 of 12

The Flavor Bible and Culinary Artistry both by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg are very handy in terms of ingredient pairings and general ingredient knowledge. And knowing your ingredients and what they pair well with is the first step to inspiration ;) Also if you search "Flavor Network" in the Google there is a really nifty graphic that charts pairings. It is very useful for the more obscure pairings you see kicking around and knowing why they work.

post #6 of 12

Also I find Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook a constant source of inspiration.

post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks thats just the kind of anwser i was looking for, I will look into all those options, nice name too haha

post #8 of 12

The chef is the one that brings professionalism  to the kitchen.

post #9 of 12

Never stop reading...cookbooks and magazines are everywhere. A great book to look into is On Food and Cooking by Harold Mcgee, it explain's in great detail, a lot about everyday food we use in cooking.

Experiment...take your new found knowledge and use it so you truly understand it.

post #10 of 12

The term chef means chief. You are in fact head  or boss of the kitchen. You must be a leader ,fair yet stern to your cooks.  A teacher  and mentor and a person others can look up to .Honest in your dealings with everyone. You do not have to prepare all the dishes but should know the proper techniques  in preparing  them and what the final dish should taste like . You sould look at every day as a new challenge and experience. Most important like the job and the proffession. There is a lot more but it will all be learned by you through experience.

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
post #11 of 12

On Food and Cooking is awesome, and in the same vein the good people who write the blog Ideas in Food have published a book with the same name. I find it to be like OF&C, but much less extensive, a tad more accessible and strewn with RECIPES!  One of the best purchases I have made in the past year.

post #12 of 12

Your confidence will always be lacking until you do new things, and master those individual things.  You should be pushing to get involved in expediting, ordering, inventory, and all the "little" things that go into understanding how the restaurant runs and why specific decisions are made.  Most things can't be learned by observing - you have to do them.  Cooking is easy.  If it's not, you're in the wrong line of work.

Take on new responsibilities - and try damn hard to not forget to order something when the chef tells you to put together the order.  But there are times when you will miss something - just hope it isn't critical, and as soon as you discover you effed up, let the chef know - he has more connections and ideas than you do to get it fixed.   Mistakes will happen; learn from them and how to avoid repeating them.

As far as fostering your own creativity, it's a different process for different people.  Immerse yourself in reading and educating yourself.  Don't be dismissive of people like Martha Stewart, for example.  I was for years, then opened up The Martha Stewart Cookbook (1995) and realized that I could learn from this woman. I also felt like I was struggling with my own creativity, for years.  I felt like I had to be original to be creative.  But go ahead and copy other people's "creativity".  In the process, you'll likely make tweaks of your own, and sometimes those could be major.  Eventually, you'll have a wide enough base-of-knowledge where your own creativity can work from. Try new things.  Write down all ideas - even the ones that sound off-the-wall.  You may not see that note for another 3 years, and by then you might be ready to try it out or make a couple changes or simply have the ability and confidence to make it work.

And read The Food Lover's Companion cover to cover, and keep it handy as a reference forever.

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