Depends upon the place. In a lot of small independant places, the position of chef requires working the line during service, along with paperwork, menu writing, etc. etc. etc.
Do you have to be a good line cook to be a good chef? - Page 2
Don't forget jack of all trades, teacher to FOH invalids, prep master, dishwasher bailer-outer, sysco a$$-reamer, babysitter to our "less intelligent" kitchen staff, fight breaker upper, Sunday fryer cleaner............
Ahhh small places! Love 'em and hate 'em!
You know this question comes up more often than you might think.
This is what I have experienced - the farther up the line you go the worse it gets. The chefs running Michelin starred or Beard kitchens can't work a line to save their lives. It's been too long and their skills are no longer what they once were. They are amazing at inspiration, teaching, direction, etc - but working a line, not so much. Make no mistake here - once upon a time they were amazing line cooks, at least most of them.
The chefs that do work lines are typically not in that environment. They are in restaurants that a re a few steps down and they never really stopped working a line. Case in point, one of the best line cooks I have ever met/worked for was a chef-owner of a small restaurant. His name was Gerard, he is from France. Seriously he is hands down the best technical line cook I have ever seen, anywhere, in any country. However, his food and his menu lacks a certain sophistication that should be there for someone with his experience.
In my humble opinion it seems the farther up you go the worse your line skills get. So can you be a great chef without being a great line cook, absolutely, you just need to get into the right kitchen and work up from there.
One caveat: While I believe it is true that you can do this I don't think it's possible to become a chef if you are a really lousy line cook.
You do have to work the line with some regularity to keep your hand in the game and keep your timing down.
Good chef means so many different things to different people. Listen you're 31 and sounds like you haven't been in the game for a longtime.....all of this takes experience, reps....trial & error...but to me....a Good Chef....is someone who can work the line efficiently, deftly slot into any station assess problems and make corrective actions. Holds a strong palette, displays excellent technique, extensive knowledge of the food you are producing (i.e. sources, vendors, ingredients, etc)....high level of professionalism in dealing with staff, vendors, customers, etc. Goes above and beyond to improve the idea of "team" and is consistently trying to make him/herself and the team and as a result, the restaurant, better. Be the calming inflluence when s%$% goes sideways....being a shrewd business person....understanding how to make $ from food.
That's a good chef.....anything else....well, u get the idea.
Not saying you have to be the rockstar of everything and that you're not going to have some of your guys who can do it faster......like others have said...you teach....they do.....but you have to be good at doing to be able to teach it well.
Gender means nothing in a kitchen. I have worked with cooks of both sexes.....some can kill it, others are deadweight. To make generalizations about sex and worthiness is in poor taste.