A question for the chef..

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by kimbal, Dec 2, 2002.

  1. kimbal

    kimbal

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    Hello everyone! I am a student at University, and I am currently working on a research paper about chefs. Though I have found many articles, I would like to get more opinions, which is why I am posting here. I know that over the years, there has been an increase in public knowledge of your profession through means such as open kitchens and the Food Network. So my question to all of you chefs out there is how have these things changed your profession over the years? Have they changed your profession for the better or the worse? If you have been in this line of work for a while, how have these changes affected the public opinion or acknowledgement of your position? And lastly, what are your feelings, if any, of TV chefs? Thanks for your help and time! :)
     
  2. coolj

    coolj

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    Well for starters the food network is a great educational tool, just don't take verbatim everything on every show, some are more there for the entertainment end of the network and some are there so that you can actually learn something. Secondly, I think this is more my own personal opinion, but with a greater public knowledge of the profession, I sort of feel that sometimes the general public loses respect for the fact that being a 'chef' is an certified trade,( just like being a mill right or welder, etc...). I would have to say that Alton Brown, Bob Blumer, Christine Cushing and Jamie Oliver are my favorite chefs right now. At least in respect to the food network.
     
  3. w.debord

    w.debord

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    My view is that they've helped our profession. When I was younger, working in a kitchen was something people who "wanted to get ahead in life" never dreamed of doing. American kitchens were run by foreign chefs that scared the waitstaff and kitchen staff. But since people now have alittle insight thru these shows and tv chefs they see working in a kitchen as a chef is an art and it takes great skill. We've gained appreciation and more respect. The old world chefs that ran kitchens thru fear are gone. Now chefs must be people managers not mini dictators.

    There are t.v. chefs that are mainly entertainers and some that are greatly respected as CoolJ mentioned. Julia Childs has brought so much to our profession! So has J. Pepin and the whole "great chefs" series. I think even the entertainer chefs still bring positive attention to our field.

    The way that they've changed our profession so far....well I think we have a better educated crop of students whom want to enter this field then we used to. Some that plan on staying and making this their career instead of it just being a job until they finish school and get a "real job".
     
  4. suzanne

    suzanne

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    I disagree. Open kitchens and televisions shows are nothing but entertainment; they are not vehicles for teaching about the profession. They have increased interest, perhaps, but not knowledge.

    They have made it far more difficult for those who "have the calling" and expect to work hard, by flooding schools with those who think "This is cool! I can be a TV star!" This carries over to post-school work, in which people who have been lied to by the school salespeople believe that now they really are chefs, and know everything, and don't have to stoop to prep work or dish-washing. Actually, this is more the effect of tv; open kitchens might be something of a deterrent, since it's possible to see real work being done. But who really notices? -- to most people it's probably like watching tv for as long as it holds your interest (about 2 seconds?) and then you flip back to conversation with your companions.


    People now think it's "cool," but they still have no idea what the job entails.

    That is an oxymoron. There may be real chefs on TV (Mario Batali, Sarah Moulton, Gale Gand, for example) -- but they are performing, not being chefs. Being a chef generally means planning, organizing, teaching, dealing with lots of administrative stuff, researching, disciplining -- and if one is lucky and can find the time, creating.
     
  5. holydiver

    holydiver

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    I totally agree with Suzanne.............
     
  6. jim berman

    jim berman

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    Suazanne, you speak no false words! Open kitchens are merely another point of interest for diners. And, there are multitudes of "wannabes" that aren't even sure what it is they are 'wanting to be'... does that make sense? They are delluded by "BAM" and a line of their own cookware and sauces. Alton Brown, John Ash and Mario Batali (to name only a few) are examples of what can happen, but does not happen as a rule, only the exception; they bring their respective interests and talents to the masses, but are not necessarily executing cooking jobs, but performing for the audience.
     
  7. chrose

    chrose

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    It's difficult to add to what has already been so eloquently said already. Just to iterate my own feelings, I agree that TV is false, always has been in portraying reality, unless you're watching a documentry, or some such news show.
    What the TV doesn't show is how many marriages Emeril went through, how many 20 hour days and headaches he went through. It doesn't show that if he hadn't worked where he did we may never have known who he was. Timing and being in the right location at the right time. It doesn't show that Alton Brown was filming commercials and shows with a degree in drama before going to NECI to learn about food to further his TV interests.
    Open kitchens don't show the injuries, the ulcers, the frantic phone calls at 4:45 to replace the dishwasher or cook that didn't show. The attempt to replace the nights special that ran out after 3 servings because the responsible parties screwed up in one way or another. Food is not a pretty business, and the multitudes of purported cooking schools that have popped up with their ridiculous fees promising any idiot that they too can become an Executive Chef making well over 100K a year. They don't mention that that Exec will likely take 10 years or more to accomplish and that in the 10 years there are 87,600 hours and he/she will likely have worked 74,000 of those hours. Missing holidays with the family, birthdays, kids events etc. I am not painting a pretty picture but THAT'S reality.
    But for those of us that are in it, we complain but we love it or we wouldn't do it.
    So I guess in many respects they have hurt the business by also flooding the market with incompetent cooks making the salarys in many cases go down because of the glut of cooks and the false impressions that many have going in and coming out.
    But like anything else, the chaff blows away and the true nuggets stay and in the end we will prevail in spite of the attention.
     
  8. panini

    panini

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    "Secondly, I think this is more my own personal opinion, but with a greater public knowledge of the profession, I sort of feel that sometimes the general public loses respect for the fact that being a 'chef' is an certified trade,( just like being a mill right or welder, "

    Actually, this is the very reason that this profession/trade is so antiquated and is just now coming into the 19th century. This is not a certified trade with qualified apprenticeships. I know, off topic :p


    I'm "entertained" by TV chefs and shows. Iron Chef last night was the dessert competition. What a joke! But I was stimulated.
     
  9. suzanne

    suzanne

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    Kimbal -- you may have noticed that you get more answers here (however negative) than elsewhere. THIS is where you find more real, everyday, working chefs. Steve Klc is one, too, but he tends to be less tolerant than we are here of people with legitimate questions. But for some REAL firey responses, post your question on On the Rail, which is frequented almost exclusively by restaurant professionals.

    But to follow up on what Steve K. said, and your reply: try looking also at Nation's Restaurant News; National Culinary Review (put out by the American Culinary Federation); Becoming a Chef by Andrew Dornenberg and Karen Page; "A Woman's Place Is in the Kitchen" by Ann Cooper; The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman; and even (although this is the least of all of these) If You Can Stand the Heat by Dawn Davis. And, yes, Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.

    Dig for your information, as a pig does for a truffle. The reward will be that much greater. ;)
     
  10. nick.shu

    nick.shu

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    heh, i love these kind of questions.

    1) recognition and reward for your job is one of the reasons that you do it (marslows theory). The shift in public perception of the chefs work acts in two ways:

    a) traditionally, "oh your a chef, you must make and eat interesting food", answer being: "yes i make interesting food and no, i dont always eat interesting stuff", so the interest and intrigue is still there. I think on the level, we mystify and intrigue people because they have skills to a certain level and chefs have skills that surpass that.

    b) the other effect that increased knowledge about the profession could be the fact that better educated palates require higher skill sets and increased technical knowledge. While the best can remain the best, quality requirements are going to be higher.

    Due to the higher visibility of chefs in restaurants, tv shows etc, the actual vocation itself increases in popularity, with many passing through with false perceptions of the industry.

    However, due to the australian system being based on the recognised trade and apprenticeship system, many do not complete the training, and therefore the qualifications, being the process of weeding out. Even after gaining qualifications, many do not stay in the industry. to most, it is simply too hard.

    from the labour point of view, popularity of a vocation isnt a bad thing given that it provides an excess of labour. However, on the flipside of the coin, this can render itself void due to the fact that even though there is a glut of labour, the quality of work that this labour provides can be questionable.

    Meanwhile even if public perception or acknowledgement of our trade increases, the recognition of the sheer amount of labour required to get anywhere is nowhere to be seen. Reason: people tend to focus on the glamour of what is and tend not to see the background.

    Take for instance tv chefs. For each tv chef there is, a veritable battalion of support for these guys. Technical advising chefs, researchers, food stylists, preparation chefs, food technicians. If these TV chefs were that good, why do they need this sort of back up?. It has been proven that Jamie Oliver's tv and cookbook recipes have a 58% probability of working. hmm, a smidgen over 1/2 chance of having a edible dish - yummo.

    With TV chefs, you have to bear in mind that they are a visual along with the food. How many people think that because a model is cruising down a catwalk wearing a fashion piece, that they must of designed that particular piece?
     
  11. leo r.

    leo r.

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    TV chefs over here have had a mixed reaction. A few "names" have come across as foul-mouthed tyrants. There are other "names",like Paul Gaylor,Gary Rhodes,etc are still inspiring people to become chefs.
    At the moment,Jamie Oliver has a programme on tv where he takes on a group of novices. The plan is for him to train them and find out they genuinely want to be chefs.
    He is shown using some expletives in moments of sheer frustration. One or two of the trainees seem to lack motivation,the choice is theirs.

    I can remember people who became chefs because they wanted to be accomplished cooks.The rules have been changed,most of them have management qualifications,degrees,etc. I "climbed over the fence" five years ago and still love cooking!!
    Leo.:chef:
     
  12. kimbal

    kimbal

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    Hey guys! Thanks for all the responses so far; you've helped me out more than you know! Your help has allowed me to get a greater perspective on my topic, and added significantly to my paper. If anyone else has anything further to add, please feel free, for the more opinions the better! Thanks again for all the assistance!:smiles:
     
  13. chefboy2160

    chefboy2160

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    Well kimbal , so much has been said in response to your questions I really dont have much to add . You have recieved some top notch advice from many great chefs . One thing I will add is that the period leading up to becoming an executive chef
    is a test of character and stamina . You must be an excellent manager as well as a people person to train and motivate
    your staff . You must also be able to walk the talk as we say in this biz , for without the ability to demonstrate at times all functions in the kitchen you lose respect and controll . One of the questions I have been asked during interviews is what is the most important thing needed in being a professional chef ? My awnser is two fold , one is you need to have a good strong culinary background , and the other is you need to be like the coach of a sports team , a true leader and motivator of people .
    My other suggestion is good health and a great work ethic .
    I myself have worked for up to 4 months without a day off , and the days were always 12 + hours .
    As far as TV chefs are concerned I am truely gratefull for the added awareness in food and it has done nothing but make our jobs more glamorouse from the publics perspective . To the chefs who have made it on TV I say hats off to all of you and I wish I would have seen it coming as I would have enjoyed Playing in front of a camera also . Of course this is just my opinion ............................... Doug