At what point is a person a 'Chef"?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by peachcreek, Nov 21, 2016.

  1. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    Okay, so whats in a name. When is a Chef a Chef?

    Is it with enough time working in foodservice capacities?

    Is it receiving a paper from an institute or school?

    Is it when customers decide what food a person makes rises to a certain level?

    Is it when other chefs finally decide you are one?

    Is it something where you found the hat, printed the business card and become one?

    Is it just showing up?

    I do not call myself a chef. Why? Because I do not know at what point I would have become one. And then for me to decide to take the title then it opens me up to having to defend that title.

    Then there is the issue of if I feel I want to be affiliated with that group. The only thing I share in common is inhabiting a space in a kitchen. After reading how much competition and vitriol is leveled towards who knows what and who doesn't and how good/bad they are?

    My head is spinning.

    So, what do you call yourself and why???

    Much love,

    Peachcreek

    Highly Tenured Kitchen Person
     
  2. laurenlulu

    laurenlulu

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    To me a Chef (meaning Chief) is one who does ordering of food/Chem/dishware, scheduling, adheres to food costs and other budgetary items, the one whom everyone goes to with questions or concerns because that person is responsible for the success/failure of the kitchen. This person sets the standards for the kitchen and may or may not cook. A Sous Chef (meaning under Chef) is the second in command. Everyone else is a cook.

    I am an Executive Chef because I do all of those things I listed and more. I am also a Dining Room Manager of sorts.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2016
  3. burnell shively

    burnell shively

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    Hello all, this is my first post! (rounds of applause/img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif)

    It is very helpful to have such a forum in which to discuss such things, and this very question has been in my mind too as I prepare to set up my new business here in France as Private / Personal Chef. So thank you both for addressing it!

    Self-taught, I have a fair amount of experience cooking, yet worried about calling myself a Chef.  I really appreciate the description above and shall take that as the word!
     
  4. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    So, okay. You are a Chef because you get the title with the job?

    This isn't about duties- its about the label and how one gets it.

    So, ok. The manager of the local snack shack does the same thing you mentioned- they manage the financial metrics, ordering, staffing and they sell food. They even help cook.

    That means they are a Chef?
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2016
  5. laurenlulu

    laurenlulu

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    If you are a Highly Tenured Kitchen Person than you understand the difference and are being antagonistic.
     
  6. foodpump

    foodpump

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    You really want to know?

    The answer is not romantic.

    You are officially a chef when....

    Your job hangs on your food cost and your labour cost.

    Look, a restaurant is a business, and a business needs to make money. If you are in charge of a kitchen and you are loosing money, the business wont survive.

    If you are not financially responsible for the kitchen, then you are a cook. Nothing at all wrong with that, we all love to cook.

    Hope this helps
     
  7. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    When your peers call you chef.

     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2016
  8. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Good question. I own and run my own food cart and manage all of it (ordering, recipe development, managing the few people who work for me, books, taxes, etc). People call me a chef as they say my food is amazing and from the definitions above it would be fitting but I honestly feel really weird calling myself a chef. I left the tech industry to do this and while I'm successful, I don't feel I've earned the title as I've not had to work my way into the role. My tech industry income gave me the financial freedom to go run my own business and follow my passion and it feels disrespectful to folks who've had to work their asses off for years if not decades to run/manage their own restaurants for me to just use the title nonchalantly.
     
  9. theelectricchef

    theelectricchef

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    A Chef is one who has the the highest respect in the kitchen because he or she has mastered every position. A chef is one who steps in where needed, challenged with the responsibility of the monthly P&L's, the safety and well being of the staff and overall quality of the product served. With that said, a chef is a leader, not by default, but by choice.
     
  10. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    We have had many threads on this same topic over the years.  One things for certain is, there are many opinions.  Some base their answers on some romantic notion of what a chef should be, what "ideals" a chef should embody.  Others take a more practical approach, basing their reasoning strictly on very tangible, quantifiable traits and job descriptions.  Neither approach is wrong, nor is it right, but I, personally think it is a mix of the 2.  Is it enough to be the leader of the kitchen?  The one who does the ordering, the scheduling, the hiring and firing?  No, I know kitchen managers that do that (not to disparage kitchen managers because I've known some great kitchen managers that would put many "chefs" to shame).  Is it that person with lots of knowledge, and passion, who lives food every day?  Not necessarily.  I've known many of those people that I wouldn't follow for a minute.  And it is most certainly not a title that one bestows upon one's self, at least legitimately.  To me, to truly be a Chef, the title needs to come from those under you, said with pride that you are their leader and mentor.  When that happens, then all the other stuff, that is required to be a chef, have usually fallen into place.

    I know that that is kind of an esoteric, BS answer, but after so many conversations and some many different opinions that I've read, it's about the best that I've come up with.  Sure anyone can call themselves a chef.  Any owner can call their head cook a chef.  The title gets thrown around a lot and I don't deny people that title but to truly  be a chef it needs to come from those that work under you and said with pride.
     
  11. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    Thanks everyone for the replies so far!
     
  12. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Yeah, I guess...

    Thing is, if we want a title for our trade, we're gonna need some qualifications. Then, too, culinary schools should have some kind of a national standard and qualification to base their course syllabus on. Of course, if that were to happen, employers could base a meaningful salary on the qualification.

    Just like most of the other trades..... Who are earning meaningfull salaries.....

    'Course, most of continental Europe has been doing this for cooks (and all of the other trades) for a few centuries now...

    Not gonna happen anytime soon though, eh?
     
  13. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    I'm walking out of the kitchen and the clouds part... the golden hand of Escoffier manifests in the glowing beams of sunshine and proceeds to smack me up longside the Buff.....thats just my dream.

    Foodpump, I completely agree with you. And yes Pete, this is an ongoing conversation. I struggle with the label because honestly the definition is so vague. And seeing how food television and social media has somehow inserted itself into that mix. I guess now another parameter of whether a person is a Chef or not can be taken as likes or followers or page views. Or whether the person has television appeal.

    Would a nation wide or world wide standard be possible?
     
  14. chefross

    chefross

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    "Would a nation wide or world wide standard be possible?"

    Never..............in our lifetime.

    We have discussed this as well a few times.

    Setting standards with rules to abide by would cause many places to shut down.

    We all know a restaurant that shouldn't be open and running.

    So all of a sudden the "Food Nazis" are at their back door ready to close them down because the cook made the Bearnaise Sauce wrong.

    People, this goes far beyond a health department inspection.

    And pray tell, WHO would lead the standardization process?  The government?
     
  15. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    I still think the closest we have is the ACF process.  A series of practical and written exams, with required ongoing education, and years of experience with number of employees supervised.
     
  16. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    Long long ago. There were two guys walking on the prairie. They came upon a person with a club in one hand and their foot up on the Tyrannosaurus Rex they just killed. The two guys looked at him and told him about this person that had "fire" along with a group of hungry people. The Person with the club thought the two guys could help him drag the beast over to the cave where the fire and hungry people were. The person with the club organized all the people in the cave to break down the different parts of the beast so it could be cooked. The people in the cave were “ Prep People” all working together for a common cause. The person with the fire would be the “Restaurant owner” and the two guys that helped the person with the club would have been the “ Sous Chef and Kitchen Manager” There were also some of the faster prep people "Cooks" that helped turn the beast while cooking over the fire under the direction of the person with the club. After all was done and everyone was fed they all realized they needed a leader who knew how to get the food, organize the people to process the food and train some to help cook the food. The person with the club became the leader of the cave because they had all the answers on how to keep them alive. That being said, when you think you have all the answers to be the “Person with the club" leader of the cave, then you can call yourself the Chef……..ChefBillyB
     
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  17. theelectricchef

    theelectricchef

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    That put things in perspective ChefBillyB!
     
  18. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    I do some side work for a caterer in another county, maybe once or twice a month. When I do, I am strictly another set of hired hands. I am not in charge in any shape nor fashion. Just a worker bee. For example, one day my job for the day was grilling chicken. Nothing else. I did a torrent of grilled chicken for around 8 hours.

    There are several culinary school grads working there and a hierarchy of the kitchen brigade. Whenever anyone on staff (FOH/BOH) addresses me, they always start off by calling me Chef Layne. I did not insist on nor initiate the practice, it just happened of it's own accord. I have never heard anyone else in the kitchen being addressed as Chef.

    I derive far more satisfaction from this salutation than any piece of paper on the wall or business card that has ever been in my pocket.
     
  19. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Ah ys, the food police.

    At the moment, there are no qualifications for our trade. None. Keine, Nada. Because of this, countless culinary schools pump out "chefs" every 11 mths, there is noqualications to design the curriculum on. Because there is no benchmark or qualification, the wages in our profession suck--royaly. Because the money sucks, we aren't attracting and more importantly retaining the people we need. Because of this there is an enormous amount of convienience food being used.

    So let me ask you something. You need to get your brakes on your car replaced. If you do this yourself, or get a backyard mechanic it will be cheaper. If you ever get into an accident, and the insurance co. fnds out, its over. Same thing if you need to rewire your house, or install a major gas appliance, with the added bonus of fines and having the work ripped out and redone by a qualified tradesman.

    So my question to you is, are you comfortable with this? Do you find the scene I descibe practical, or do wish for no regulations whatsoever.

    A union in the trades acknowledges new materials, new techniques respective to their trades. They (unions) have tremendous influence with the trade schools, who adapt new technology into their curriculum and in turn this curriculm becomes part of a municipalities building code, which is in turn adapted by insurance companies. Quite a system, eh? It also explains why a plumber is paid $40/ hr by their employer and the customer is charged $80/hr. The basis for this system is a benchmark or qualification. And there is none for the hospitality industry.

    It is not the gov'ts job to develop qualifications. It is, however the gov'ts job to provide a support nework for the qualification process, as it has for so many of the other trades. The content of the qualification i(what the person should know and be capable of) is left up to the schools, the employers, and the unions.

    At this moment there is no infrastructure in the hospitality industry to develop such a qualification. The schhols are too busy churning out "chefs", the unions have no desire to do anything other than garnishee paychecks, and the employers have such low profit margins that they can't or won't do anything anyway.

    Food police? Or a way for the hospitality industry to continue into the 21st century that can attract and retain cooks?
     
  20. chefross

    chefross

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    Exactly Foodpump, but, but, but..........

    Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and their ilk are looked at as a far cry from the world of cooking.

    The evolution of cooking came about as totally different than any other trade. 

    "Whoever heard of a professional Chef?" Who would pay $80.00 per hour to have someone cook for them?

    (All tongue in cheek here,,,,,)