Chef's and ego's?

4
10
Joined Aug 19, 2010
Hi All--

I've found this great resource and look forwarded to doing my best sponge impersonation and learning as much as I can from this incredible resource.

I have never worked near nor known any chef's etc.  But I am fascinated by food/cuisine and one of my guilty pleasures is watching any number of the reality shows on television centered around chefs (Top Chef etc.).  I fully realize that these shows are for entertainment value and give a "dramatic" twist on things but even then it seems to me there are a higher proportion of huge egos in the culinary world then in the other industry's i'm exposed to.

Am I correct or seeing a hugely skewed (or skewered) view of the industry?

Thanks!
 
107
11
Joined Aug 9, 2010
Don't know a whole lot of chef's but doctors, for the most part I find they're just people. Well except orthopaedists and cardio-thoracic surgeons, I think they're some other life form altogether. And not entirely interested in human life except as it demonstrates their aptitude for cutting it open and putting it back together better than they found it. One thing is for certain if TV chefs are to real chefs as TV doctors are to real doctors... well let's just say very well educated, well behaved, polite people don't sell commercial time slots.
 
1,593
44
Joined Jun 27, 2006
To be a Chef, one has to have a certain amount of ego or more appropriately an unwavering confidence in ones ability to lead while simultaneously being creative. This can sometimes be mistaken for Ego. Although....like most fields..... we have those that can be full of themselves more than others and that is almost a majority. Hehehe Unfortunately, there are way to many points to hit on regarding this subject for this post so I won't even be able to scratch the surface. But like anything, where an actual talent and or art is involved, discretion should be used..... but that is not always the case. Ego is like vanity. Yet...... We all have our moments. Some more than others and more publicly as well. Personally I don't get how some gain in stature the way they do but there's always someone with way more money and influence than sense so that is probably a major point. There's just a fine line between eccentricity and idiocy and the biggest egos seem to follow the idiocy.

Bottom line is enjoy the shows that are out there for what they really are..........make-believe situations and controlled and edited reality. Chef's are also learning how to be good actors and are not what they appear to be on the boob tube. Then again...........Wow! Not everything that happens is meant to educate you and the true reality is that the business is very repetitive, and extremely taxing on every aspect of your life while at the same time is probably the most rewarding profession I've ever experienced. It is the epitome of an oxymoron.
 
Last edited:
7,375
69
Joined Aug 11, 2000
I've given many talks (generally aimed at farmers) on how to work with chefs.....it starts out with:

these are people that work long hours in very hot environments with sharp knives.....get to the point quickly.  

Respect their business and don't show up during service, respect their time and have information readily available, if you want their business accomidate their communication patterns (email, phone, fax, text)......

Through the years I've worked with Tall white hat country club master chefs, independant chef/owners, caterers, pastry chefs, national media chefs, cookbook writer/chefs, top tier guys, etc...

hundreds of newbies too....there have only been a handful that were total pricks, cocky only thinking of themselves etc...

Most surprising sweetheart of a guy was Tony Bourdain....
 
11
10
Joined Aug 28, 2010
I would say that seems to be the general consensus of the people I have talked to. I went to a local "bistro" a couple of months ago and noticed there was no salt or pepper on any of the tables. I asked the waitress about it and she leaned over and whispered, "The chef would be insulted if anyone used it." I would say that's presumptuous and egotistical. Certainly not all are like that though.
 
8,550
207
Joined Feb 13, 2008
Taking umbrage at "pass the salt" has to be the acme of ego fragility. 

BDL
 
Last edited:
248
17
Joined Oct 28, 2008
I find the whole salt and pepper thing crap. Everyone does not have the same palate and so maybe some people need more salt and pepper on their food. When the cook seasons a dish it is being seasoned according to how his/her palate feels the food should balance.
 
Last edited:
67
13
Joined Aug 3, 2010
Better to aim low and let people "adjust" their own seasoning, than offend someone with a lower tolerance for sodium.  At least that's the American Diner method, which seems reasonable enough to me.  Still, it seems awfully presumptuous when someone at the dinner table begins dumping salt on a meal before tasting it.
 
Last edited:
15
10
Joined Aug 25, 2010
I rarely use any salt in the kitchen...I do salt and pepper the tomatoes on a BLT..which I'm told is very odd. There is S&P on the tables.  And yes, I have a HUGE ego.
 
3,005
539
Joined May 5, 2010
There's a story about salt and "The French Laundry" In Napa:

Waiter comes into the kitchen and is visibly shaken and distraught. Expeditor asks what's up. The waiter whispers in his ear. "One of my guests just asked for salt."

The expeditor gently asks which table, then asks which course the table is on.

All the Sous Chefs descend on the Chef who sent out that course, tasting all the ingredients at his station. Sous Chef turns to Thomas Keller (The Chef) and says there's nothing wrong with the food and that everything is seasoned correctly.

Keller has 3 little Limoge salt cellars sitting on the counter "just in case"

He allows the waiter to fill one with Sea Salt before going out to the table.

The Chef at the station in question is, of course, sh___g bullets at this point, when Keller turns to him and says......."You're fine don't worry......"
 
5,516
183
Joined Apr 3, 2010
Why don't we add catsup or mustard in the kitchen?  Same reason we put s&p on table. Everyone has own taste,likes and dislikes. If a chef does not like this and it upsets his ego,let him make an appointment with a shrink.!
 
2,311
628
Joined Feb 8, 2009
Very seldom does the expectation of the customer exceed a higher level than a Chef expects of themselves. Don't confuse a high level of confidence, pride and passion as ego............................ChefBillyB
 
3,599
45
Joined Aug 13, 2006
Very seldom does the expectation of the customer exceed a higher level than a Chef expects of themselves. Don't confuse a high level of confidence, pride and passion as ego............................ChefBillyB
Confidence is one thing, but how can one person have confidence that he knows the tastes of another?  How, in fact, can anyone expect that everyone has the same need, desire, or taste for something like salt??? 

If chefs knew what was Right or Perfect, then there should be no menu, no accounting for taste preferences and everyone would enjoy the exact same thing as everyone else (and of course the chef).  Why bother to put choices on the menu, Someone (no doubt far superior to other mortals) knows best. 

The pretension that all people's taste is the same and that someone knows what that universal taste is, is a perfect example of egocentrism (and i'm being kind). 

I doubt, BillyB, that you think you know how much salt I, or anyone else, likes. 

High level of confidence, pride and passion are great qualities.  They are qualities that are within the person. People with these qualities tend to be quiet about them, because only the insecure have to brag all the time about how great they are or impose their superior knowledge on others. 
 

nicko

Founder of Cheftalk.com
Staff member
4,184
210
Joined Oct 5, 2001
Very seldom does the expectation of the customer exceed a higher level than a Chef expects of themselves. Don't confuse a high level of confidence, pride and passion as ego............................ChefBillyB
Well said ChefBilly. I do think though some chefs are completely arrogant and should temper their passion with humility. Especially given how so many are examples of how to carry yourself in the kitchen to younger chefs. 

As for how skewered the tv shows are? I think they are spot on, sadly there are no shortage of idiots and ego maniacs in the business.
 
2,311
628
Joined Feb 8, 2009
Confidence is one thing, but how can one person have confidence that he knows the tastes of another?  How, in fact, can anyone expect that everyone has the same need, desire, or taste for something like salt??? 

If chefs knew what was Right or Perfect, then there should be no menu, no accounting for taste preferences and everyone would enjoy the exact same thing as everyone else (and of course the chef).  Why bother to put choices on the menu, Someone (no doubt far superior to other mortals) knows best. 

The pretension that all people's taste is the same and that someone knows what that universal taste is, is a perfect example of egocentrism (and i'm being kind). 

I doubt, BillyB, that you think you know how much salt I, or anyone else, likes. 

High level of confidence, pride and passion are great qualities.  They are qualities that are within the person. People with these qualities tend to be quiet about them, because only the insecure have to brag all the time about how great they are or impose their superior knowledge on others. 
The amount of salt that you like or anyone likes has nothing to do with it, its the amount of salt the Chef feels it takes to bring the meal together to a point of taste and balance he desires. That's why they put salt and pepper on the table and have more than one restaurant in town.  ................ChefBillyB............( Its must be raining in Rome )

 
 
3,599
45
Joined Aug 13, 2006
Yeah, exactly.  But the thread was about egocentric chefs freaking out if someone wanted more salt. 
 
2,311
628
Joined Feb 8, 2009
Well said ChefBilly. I do think though some chefs are completely arrogant and should temper their passion with humility. Especially given how so many are examples of how to carry yourself in the kitchen to younger chefs. 

As for how skewered the tv shows are? I think they are spot on, sadly there are no shortage of idiots and ego maniacs in the business.
Nicko, very true. I always walked my dining room, one day my hostess asked me, do I walk the dinning room so I can get all the compliments, I told her no, I make sure there are no complaints. I can't correct a problem, unless my customer knows I am out for their best interests and approachable to correct their concerns.
 
 
119
12
Joined Jan 18, 2007
The amount of salt that you like or anyone likes has nothing to do with it, its the amount of salt the Chef feels it takes to bring the meal together to a point of taste and balance he desires. That's why they put salt and pepper on the table and have more than one restaurant in town.  ................ChefBillyB............( Its must be raining in Rome )

 
I find the whole salt and pepper thing crap. Everyone does not have the same palate and so maybe some people need more salt and pepper on their food. When the cook seasons a dish it is being seasoned according to how his/her palate feels the food should balance.
The amount of salt people prefer depends on the amount of salt they've been eating:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0031-9384(86)90155-1 Even within the same person, the preferred salt level changes over time.

Same thing goes for the rest of the flavor profile. Just because someone wants sriracha or tabasco doesn't mean the chef screwed up, it might mean that the customer has a sinus problem and can can't taste anything without a little "wake up call"

FWIW, if I think my food needs something and the chef give me attitude, I'll leave. Live is too short to waste time on a-holes. I certainly don't want anybody in the kitchen beaten or fired because I wanted to add something to my food, but in the end, it's my food and I'll do what I want with it.

Terry
 

Latest posts

Top Bottom