Biggest Problem Facing Young Chefs

pete

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Here's a question for all the chefs out there. What do you think is the biggest problem that young chefs face today. I think that one of the problems is that there is too much available out there. How can any chef become a master at something when we are expected to know a little about everything. To make it in this business now adays a chef must be well versed in all Asian cuisines, latin cuisines, American Regional cuisines, all the classic and European cuisines. Plus he/she must be a master at baking, pastries, administration, and FOH management. Where is the time to immerse yourself in one cuisine or style when the public seems to demand we cater to their every whim. Are we destined to one global fusion cuisine? Is it possible to master all this,or are we destined to produce chefs that are "jacks of all trades and masters of none"?
 
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Joined May 14, 1999
I think we ourselves are the problem; chefs get bored with "same old" and they get into fusion this and that by their own choice. Hot food, freshly prepared and attractively presented, coupled with great service are the keys to success. "Fusion everything" is like the proverbial dog barking up the wrong tree. Frankly, the bigger issue I see in this country is the deterioration of service standards. Upselling? What is that? When I do go out to eat I often have to raise both my hands like a goalie at a soccer match just to get a dinner fork.
 
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I think the biggest problem facing young chefs would be to have "cheflyone" or "Chef Jerome" as your head chef. It's time to relax just a little bit.


[This message has been edited by Nicko (edited February 04, 2000).]
 

pete

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All you young "chefs" need to get over yourselves. I too consider myself to be a young chef. I am 29 and am the PM Sous at a great restaurant in downtown Chicago that has received lots of great reviews both nationaly and locally. I have been in and out of this business since I was 8 and have been pursuing this career professionally for the better part of 10 yrs. One of the greatest lessons I have learned is humility. A lesson I think a few of you need to learn. I've worked under a number of very good chefs and could probably run my own place by now, but I feel I still have lots to learn before I am ready to open up and run a 3 star restaurant. Sorry to ruin your dreams, but cheffing is about much more than cooking. It's about running a successful kitchen and business. It's knowing 1001 things that have nothing to do with cooking, on top of being able to create foods that people will come back for time and again. No school can teach you all these things. It takes years of observing and learning to get it down right. It is also about proving to people that you are ready to take over a business that they have sunk a lot of money into. I know some young chefs who have succeded in doing this, but I know many more who have jumped before they are truly ready and have fallen flat on the faces.
You talk about respect, but you have to show respect to earn respect and the if your attitudes, that you show here, spill over into your work life its no wonder you recieve no respect from your superiors. Over the years I have found that it is the cook (or chef) who quietly goes about his job perfectly gets a lot more praise, responsibility, and offers than one who constantly tells everyone how great he/she is.

[This message has been edited by Pete (edited October 19, 1999).]
 
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Young chefs biggest problem is to wake up and smell the coffee.Don't whine about the kudos and glamour you feel you need, if you deserve it, it will come. Put your head down, shut your mouth and learn.If you think cheffen is cooken read on.......
To be a chef you must be 501 things:
1 Babysitter
2 Drill Sgnt.
3 Maid
4 Artist
5 Plumber
6 Butcher
7 Gardener
8 Accountant
9 Master of scheduals
10 Librarian
11 Pshyco analyst
12 Shop keeper
13 Dishwasher
14 Soda Jerk
15 Phone answering machine
16 Humanitarian
17 Nurse/Doctor
18 Over the age of 30 to have aquired finess on all levels of the above.
19 Teacher
20 Photographer
21-500 fill in as you go along.

501 Oh yeah, mastering the art of food is a good thing too.

If you want to edit my spelling or grammer, do so on your own time.
Sorry this isn't sweetness and light but art isn't all sweetness and light.

[This message has been edited by m brown (edited October 19, 1999).]
 

pete

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ChefTiss then you have to ask yourself, "Is this a place that I want to work?" You got fired because you did your job, did it well, and wasnt a showoff about it? If this is truly the case then you are better off out of that place. Most professional kitchens I know would die for cooks like that.
 
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extra reply, oops.

[This message has been edited by m brown (edited October 21, 1999).]
 
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chefTiss
Don't freak out and don't blame the last place you worked, look for a place better suited to your talents. Ask yourself "What did they do right", hold that and bring it to your next job. (remember what they did wrong and don't do that.)
I have been fired by idiots and gods alike. The best part is I have taken a part of each establishment as I went along.
The point of working under a chef is to take, assimilate and move on when it's time. Don't jump in try to change things and takeover cause nothing is worse than someone trying to fix something that's not broken.
*there is more than one way to skin a cat.*

My last post was to no one in particular, just needed to vent and I guess stir things up for a passionate discussion.
 
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Hey, I think some of you guys are taking yourselves way too seriously! The biggest problem facing young chefs? Developing a sense of humor. I mean, ain't nobody getting out of this (life) alive you know!

King Solomon said something in Ecclesiastes (that's in the B-I-B-L-E) I shall never forget: "The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all."

No matter how hard you work and study, no matter how many sacrifices you make, no matter how earnestly you prepare, your competitior just might be luckier than you. The object here is not to take ourselves so seriously we end up with ulcers.

-Peace :0)
 
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It's an opinion. A "Master Chef" is a title given or self proclaimed title that either comes from tradition or arrogance. I've worked for 5 of the 50 French Masters in the States, all great cooks, managers and bosses. I wouldn't say that the other 45 contain these qualities though. I think a chef is a chef. Some know about cooking, managing, and being a good person to the guys on the line. Most, however contain a combo of the three in a lesser fashion if they're lucky. A "Master" is not one titled by his peers but by the students who hold them on that pedestal.
 
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I get squeamish when the word "Chef" is bantered about, and downright nasty when the word "Masterchef" is used. Though I am Canadian, I take the European attitude to my profession. I apprenticed in Switzerland, and the apprenticeship was for three years. Upon completion of the apprenticeship, I was allowed to use the title "Cook"--not "Chef". Those who do not complete an apprenticeship, or even start one, can not call themselves "cook", but "hobbycook". After three or four years working as commis and then Chef de partie postions, you might then call yourself a "Chef". The Swiss have their highest degree the Culinary postion allows: Eidgenoische Diplomierte. A Federal Gov't recognized degree that requires 1) the apprenticeship, 2) minimum of 5 years work after the apprenticeship in 4 or 5 star houses, 3) Completed course that enables you to train apprentices, and 4) The Eid. Dip. course itself, which takes two years and has a 50% failure rate. This is the Swiss version of "Masterchef" and most of the Europeans have their versions.

As you can see, the apprenticeship is the leveler, the benchmark. All Chefs must originate with an apprenticeship, and employers can and will ask you to show this document. Because of this, there is very little abuse to the word "Chef", those who call themselves this usually deserve it, and those who don't are "found out" very quickly.

N.America IS a breeding ground for cooks who call themselves "Chefs" for the simple fact that there is no Federal Gov't benchmark. One school might pump out cooks every 6 mths, one might do it in two years, but there is no consistancy in the structure of the training, the depth of knowldege imparted, or even that all 14 methods of cooking are fully comprehended. It's wild west here, anything goes, anyone can call themselves "Chef" because there is no Gov't regulated criteria. Now, take other trades, plumbers/gasfitters or electricians. These tradespeople have to take Gov't approved classes and take Gov't approved tests before they get their tickets. A benchmark, a level playing field. If the guy has his electrician's ticket, you'd feel comfortable with him wiring your house. But a cook, just ties on an apron and he's a "cook".

If you have passion in this business, you will find the time to learn. I run my own business, which takes up most of my time, a family, yet I still find time to trot off to the library or bookstores to catch up on new and interesting stuff. But I remain focused in what I do, I don't jump to the next wunder-fad or ingrdient, I stick to what I feel has the maximum amount of flavour, presentation, and from the best ingredients I can afford. I comprehend and execute the 14 methods of cooking and never slouch on technique.
 
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I agree with this somewhat. The word 'chef' is definitely abused around here. I disagree however that you need 'official' credentials to be a 'chef'. IMO a chef is someone who is THE boss in a kitchen cooking at a high level. Anything less is just a cook (or apprentices below cooks). I personally don't have any papers, however I have been an apprentice, and a chef de partie at the highest level restaurants around here (even worked for a few French chefs).

BTW, in Canada there 'are' government certifications for the cooking profession, however only hotels seem to care about papers. I've also worked with 'certified' cooks who couldn't make a mayonnaise, and non-certified chefs who are incredibly skilled.
 
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Mike, at least we're on the same wavelength. Sometimes I'll take a bucket with me when I go over resumes because everyone calls themselves "chef"; sandwich chef, prep chef, day chef, salad chef, and even use the word chef as a verb: "" I've been "Cheffing" for..."

I, too, have worked with "qualified" Chefs who made Hollandaise with a commercial mayo base because they couldn't do it otherwise, who had no idea how to calculate foodcost, couldn't portion a steak to save their lives and as a result got screwed royally by every butcher...I've "trained" red seal Chefs how to put a simple Hobart meat grinder attachment together (and again, and again...) how to make a simple chicken stock with (gasp!) chicken bones, how not to dump raw chicken into a finshed chicken noodle soup just before service.

In order for me to respect my boss, the Chef, he has to know as much or more than I do about cooking. How many times have I walked into a new kitchen to find cooks slapping a raw chix brst into a cold pan, drizzle it with oil, and THEN turn on the flame? The Chef never bothered to instruct, probably because he doesn't know how. This is where I get frustrated, the man is in charge, but doesn't know diddly-squat, and even worse, pretends he does and hates anyone who knows more than he, and will ultimately try to get them out of their kitchen. This is not the usal scene in Europe, for not only do you need money to operate a restaurant, which is the only criteria in N.America, but you also have to have a Restauranteur's license, which is no mean feat. As a result, most kitchens in Europe are professionally run, and not some dream about running a place on a shoe string because you've got a great meatloaf or carrot cake recipie, and with no experience in the hospitality biz.

N.America has no standard for cooking instruction. Some schools offer excellent courses, with great instructors, and some are commercial enterprises, run on a profit basis, with the bulk of their students from foreign countries, offering an easy way to get a student visa with out the hassle of full-time University. Most employers, including myslef, refuse to look at paper credentials for cook applicants, it means nothing. The first 4 hours on the job will tell me everything I need to know.

But an apprenticehip is different, it is a benchmark. If you've passed it, then you know how to make a Bearnaise, a fumet de poission, a decent stew, know how to put a meatgrinder together, know how to walk through the kitchen without causeing a wake of destruction behind you. As an employer in Europe you have a very good chance when hiring an apprenticed cook, that he/she actually knows how to cook, and the rest of the brigade know that too.
 
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In my oppinion the biggest problem facing young chefs today is in the realization that the money sucks.What i mean by that is being prepared either to hone your craft while being paid little or to jump in when your not ready for a dollar more.
 
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this isint europe,maybe its time to set our own standards.I believe the ranking of cec has started to be used correctly here.An apprinticeship is f
eudal,you may as well call it free help in a lot of circumstances.What i like to do is not eat at places that are not good,who cares if the guy out back using the microwave calls himself a chef.When you mention plumbers and electricians does this also mean that the pay is going to be structured as so also(you ever hired a plumber and paid the bill?)when you get down to it it is the public,the demand that has been created.the more restaurants that open the more underqualified people you will have in the kitchens.should the government be able to tell me i cant open a restaurant because they think i cant cook.Also look at the scandals that have come out about the michelin guide and the beard house.on hiring someone that has been an apprentice or not,just have them cook something for you,pick up a knife and chop something or actually call a reference,4 hours isnt even needed.Im happy with myself as a chef that really is what being a chef is
 
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Some good points there. What's that saying?..."The blind leading the blind?"... There are very few THOROUGHLY trained cooks here in N. America that it's downright embarrassing. You can get your training through the school of hard knocks, but it will be 5 or 10 times longer than a proper apprenticeship, with no guarantees that the education will be complete. So if the Chef isn't throughly trained, he can't possibly thoroughly train his cooks. Which is how you get the cold chicken breast in a cold pan and then turn on the heat scenerio, or removing a baron of beef from a roasting pan and throwing out the drippings because the chef has absolutely no idea how to convert those drippings into a decent sauce, or throwing dry pasta into tepid water, turning on the heat, and as an afterthought, throwing in some salt. This problem is intesified by suppliers who supply ready made sauces, entrees, etc, so that very little skill is needed to open a package and heat it.

Think of an apprenticeship as a boot camp for the army. Almost every army in the world demands that EVERYONE goes through the bootcamp, future officers, I-corp, etc, are then later creamed off after completion. It is a common leveler, everyone starts off knowing the same thing, and then it's up to their own ambition to learn more, but if they've gone through the course, you're guaranteed that they know the minimum. My point is that if a Chef finaly gets his CEC/ Red Seal/ ACF/whatever "papers", how many cooks has he improperly trained before he realises that his knowlege on the subject is incomplete and needs more work? Most of these "papers" require the Chef to be in a supervisory postion BEFORE he applies to write them, and now they test him after he's (improperly) trained X amount of cooks?! The damage is done.

Restaurants in N.America have a bad failure rate. No knowledge or experience is needed to run one, and as a result they are poorly run. Since the 1800's, immigrants have come to this country, and not being able to find work in their field, scraped cash together to open up a restaurant. This is as true today as it was 150 years ago. By looking at the small businesses for sale website in this city, I cans see no fewer than 11 places up for sale, all with ethnic cooking, and most shut down due to poor management, or health, WCB, or Fire code violations. Yet these places operate, and they need staff. When the owner, who has forked out $60 for a S/S pot, burns it dry, and then freaks out and rushes to fill it with cold water, it warps and ruins it, but since it costs $60 the owner insists that the staff continue using it. So either you learn that cold water in a dry burned pot ruins it, or you learn that its allright to use a warped rock & roll pot to cook with. No teacher there to tell you what's right or wrong. Same with applying vegetable oil to the meat slicer. Owner/Chef doesn't know any better and is confused when the slicer is so gummed up that you can't move the carriage. Or how to properly clean out a deep fryer, how to poach an egg properly, how to braise, how to roast.

Alot of the smaller places, especially those with immigrant owners know nothing about heath codes, WCB or fire codes. For most, their line of logic is that these inspectors are looking for bribes or out to make their lives miserable. I've worked at one place where the hood was so choked with grease, that the owner would put a 1/4 bolt through the fire extinguisher on the suppresion system and use a small cheap portable extinguisher to put the fire out that would appear regularly every week. Simply refused to get the hood cleaned because it " Cost so much moneys!"

Ditto for payrolling. "I 'll pay you when I have the money, maybe next week" Heard that one before? How are you supposed to pay your rent or gas? And then the owner gets ready to kill when someone calls the labour board when he/she hasn't been paid in almost 6 weeks .

Ditto for health codes too. A Restauranteurs course would ensure that owners are at least AWARE of the codes and laws in place, how to use them to their advantage. And maybe so many mistakes wouldn't happen due to ignorance, and these mistakes not be perpetuated because they were allowed to happen in the first place.
 
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I attempted to read between the lines of verbal posturing and still I didnt read one actual problem facing a young chef. Although I do think its an oxymoron to say young chef, like jumbo shrimp. As things stand now, the title chef is just the guy in charge, now can he cook? that's the real question.

How amazing to be only 23 and be exec chef! holy cow! you lucky dog. Why the whining? Respect is earned and here it was handed to you. Now you have this tool you can use, that's wonderful. Its not a problem, its a blessing. I wish I was so lucky.
 
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amen!
Reading all of this it sounds not just like a young boy pissing contest but a pissing contest of all ages. Why are you people in this industry? Do you love the kitchen? Do you love food? Do you love the history, the culture the science of food? If not then maybe you should re - exam your priorities. That's why we have so many arses out there, running kitchens and they don't have a clue what they are doing. They are young, they are old, they are skinny and they are fat!!! What we should really be talking about is what is required as a chef. We can't put a formula to that, meaning you can't say 3 years at garde manager, another 2 at entremet and hold a sous position for another 5. We all work at different speeds. What we need to look at is what is the attitude, where is the passion and what has the person done to fill that passion.
I've worked for young and old chefs. They both had positive and negitive points. I never worked for a chef that I felt I knew more than because that would be a waste of my time! I still have a tremendous amount to learn and will not take a chef position until I have fulfilled all that I have set out for myself. Trust me, the goals will keep me going for a long time.
Who wants to be a chef before they are ready anyways. I watch my chef now, work 12 hour days 6 days a week. Always screaming and viens popping out of his neck. I don't want that right now and probably don't want to be like that when I get there. I couldn't do his job right now. That's that.
 

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