Do you have to be a good line cook to be a good chef?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by burntmitts82, Oct 26, 2013.

  1. burntmitts82

    burntmitts82

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    Something Ive been thinking about lately. I know not all good line cooks make good chefs but can ok line cooks, meaning not the fastest or most efficient, be good chefs? Im probably the least skilled (most inexperienced as well) cook on the line, and though i improve or try to daily i know im 31 and will probably never fully catch up, however i feel like my ability in terms of organization, knowledge of ingredients and conceptualizing dishes are not the wordt in the kitchen. I made a huge life change to work.at becoming a chef and was wondering what your views were on someone who isnt a line rock star eventually being able to be a good head of a kitchen.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013
  2. soesje

    soesje

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    come on!! you're 31 and say your're OLD??? never fully catch up???  bullshit.

    you WILL if you WANT.

    same goes for the goal.

    do what's needed and you will get there.

    I am 47 started this year january.

    line cook now. 

    who knows whats up next year. :)

    know yourself and where your passion and your strong points are , then all the rest is relatively easy.

    go for it if thats what you want.
     
  3. debo

    debo

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    Yes I do think so. They are two completely different jobs. A chef is a manager and a teacher if you are fundamentally sound and have a knack for numbers then yes you can. But you have to be able to cook, put into action and develop the food you are making, that is completely different from being able to turn out consistent and good food night after night with tickets piling up, that's what line cooks do. The chef is there to make sure they have everything as far as product, knowledge direction that they need to be able to do their job.
    Most great chefs I have worked with have been amazing like cooks absolute animals in the line because that's what they love and how they worked there way up in the business. Its possible to be a great chef without being the best line cook, but it is defiantly a hell of alot easier to gain the respect of a veteran line cook if you can keep up on the line if you have too.
     
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  4. mikeswoods

    mikeswoods

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    Debo summed it up nicely----Organization and teaching----plus respect earned by experience---

    I was the executive chef---but I do believe my crew could out cook me----My skills were in the office and directing the gang------
     
  5. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    Yes it is possible, but the chefs that I would follow into the gates of hell if necessary were the ones that could walk the talk. I am more apt to listen to someone tell me how to be better at my job that is better at my job than me.
     
  6. jefferyahunter

    jefferyahunter

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    I'm definitely in agreement with cheflayne on this one, yes one can attain the title of chef while not being the best cook on the line but to have the loyalty of a crew (especially a smaller one) you gotta have the skills and be the go to bail my ass out if needed no matter the station guy(or gal) and 31 isn't old by any stretch.   
     
  7. jimmy lauria26

    jimmy lauria26

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    Most people have a misinterpretation of the word chef. They believe that a chef is an expert in quickness and quality of cooking. Even that may be true the real interpretation of the word chef is MANAGER, someone with strong culinary, leadership, delegation and teaching skils. if we would compare the chef to other managers in other types of companies it woud be as follows. masterchef=general manager, executive chef=regional manager, chef de cuisine=district manager and sous chef office or store manager. each level attained the more skils needed, however, it is always good to strive being the best you can be especially in the restaurant business. I changed my career at 39 now 51 and trust me am not the quickest but I do have good culinary knowledge not that of a master chef but as a production chef. So stay enthused do the best you can do and dont give up your still young.
     
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  8. burntmitts82

    burntmitts82

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    Thanks for all the encouragement and replies. I know that much of being a good chef is management skills, leadership and organization. I guess I ask because moving up from the bottom rung in a kitchen is so dependent on your performance on the line, especially when you haven't attended a culinary education program. I often find myself imagining how the thomas kellers, ferran adrias and rene redzepis managed as line cooks.
     
  9. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    Clues to one's potential for possessing or developing "management skills, leadership and organization" are shown through the job they do as a line cook. The ones that show the greatest propensity for these attributes are usually the ones selected for advancement.

    Food knowledge such as that gained through a formal culinary school education is nice if already in place, but generally lower on priority list when choosing candidates for advancement, because that can be taught. OJT. The aforementioned attributes can't be taught.

    I was your age when I finally got serious and decided upon a culinary career path. I caught up, but then it never entered my head that I might be behind.
     
  10. burntmitts82

    burntmitts82

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    Thank you for that.
     
  11. beastmasterflex

    beastmasterflex

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    I think kitchen awareness is the the key to being a good chef, thats at least what I was taught. For instance, knowing the temperature of a striploin that is being cooked by someone else on the far side of the kitchen. You have to be one with the kitchen accept it into your soul be aware of every tiny change. Speed, stamina, self discipline, and love are the key, the right way to do things is easy to find, its the way that's the biggest pain in the ass.
     
  12. smurf

    smurf

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    I'm sorry but some of u guys live on a different planet. To be a chef requires a few things the most is common sense ( lacking in a great number of wan a bees. The next is experience ( needed to pull the shit out of the fan when it hits as it will) next the ability to do the work and not vear from YOUR vision of the dish.(every one thinks they can improve yours) the most important build a team of chefs that you can trust implicitly as they carry your job and rep every service. As no one cares how good the last service was if this one just f####d up. Do the job you want to do. Rewards come either way. Want the money go get it but you need to be good and produce results. Go freelance get the high hourly rate ,you need to be good to get it. Go for the accolade you need to be good to get it.
    Their are too many run of the mill cooks who think they are chefs and can't cook or just out of collage and know it all. IF you can cook. And can get through a service with awesome results , make budget, and run everybody with precision. You can then call yourself the chef till then you are still learning. Whether you are 20 of 50 it depends on whether your common sense says I know enough or not.
     
  13. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Ummm Smurf?  You're forgetting one thing.

    The employer.

    You actually think the employer is gonna take some kid with no working experience fresh out of culinary school and put him in charge of a kitchen with employees and, ultimately responsible for feeding a dining room full of guests and waiters?

    I'm with most of the others on this question, and my answer is no, you don't have to be an excellent, piss-lemonade-good--cook to become a Chef.  Take Wayne Gretzky for example--the great one, don't have to tell you how great a hockey player he was, but he made a (deleted) coach.  Terrible.  And that is what a Chef is, a coach. 

    And yet, you can't be a good coach unless you are a decent player--not great, but decent.  
     
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  14. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    A chef needs to know food, but s/he doesn't necessarily have to be a great line great cook.  Heck, maybe not even a good one.  Kitchens by and large though are set up in a such a way that it takes a bit of bravado and macho bluster to run them.  It would be hard to imagine a real shoemaker having the respect of the staff, even if they had some great creative ideas.  At some point the average kitchen crew is like a pack of stray dogs; the Alpha does have to nip at the mongrels occasionally to keep the respect of the pack.
     
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  15. chefross

    chefross

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    Finally a bit of reality here.  

    Experiences have shown me that the person in charge does not necessarily have to know everything about the job.

    Doesn't matter what industry.

    We seem to think (collectively) that our industry is special.

    IT IS NOT!!!

    In every job you're going to find individuals in charge that have little or no experience but are good enough managers that it doesn't matter.

    IMPOSSIBLE......NOT IN A RESTAURANT?????  

    Yeah right.

    Also....there are many shoemakers out there in charge of kitchens and the crew walk all over them. Your right...how can you have respect for the leader of the pack when that leader lacks all the traits and knowledge nor has one creative bone in their body?
     
  16. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    If you are supposed to be running a single outlet restaurant then you probably have to be a decent line cook.  Not great, decent enough to not get stepped on by the staff.
     
  17. guts

    guts

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    Might be hard to get the respect of your cooks if you can't jump on any one of their stations and work it faster, cleaner, and with more accuracy and efficiency than them. 
     
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  18. kaiquekuisine

    kaiquekuisine

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    Well im basically with the others on this one. 

    But im agreeing more with Foodpump , Phaedrus , and Guts on this one. 

    You can be a good chef , and just be a decent cook or be a great cook and be a horrible chef. 

    The chef at the restaurant im working at now is a great cook , but she cant lead at all.... ( first head chef job and she has less then 3 yrs cooking exp )

    4 days ago during service we were packed with tickets on the window , and she wasnt feeling that great. She spent all of service in the bathroom , one cook we dont know where the eff was and me and one other line cook did the whole service. Dont get me wrong she cooks great , but in no way does she lead. When she finally came out fo the bathroom we had tickets in the window , and one less person on the line , she was so lost i just told her to let us handle it , and well she did..... left the kitchen to do idk what , and we finished service early without delaying one ticket. 

    Im also one of those who believes that a great chef has to at least be able to get ont he line when a cook flakes being able to do at least a decent to good job without messing up the synergy. 
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013
  19. soesje

    soesje

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    interesting discussion.

    the points kaiquecuisine mentioned, with the example of the chef not being a lead, gave me a lightbulb moment.

    found myself nodding and suddenly a coin dropped.

    also can say this situation happens in more restaurants than we honestly want to know.

    pity, isn't it.

    so, when we come to conclusions, what makes a great chef?

    someone you want to follow through the gates of hell

    someone who can jump into your place and do it all better and faster

    but which SAME someone doesn't forget that even in the kitchen team, we all are human beings

    someone who can lead no matter whats going on in the kitchen and how high the tickets piling up

    someone who has lots of knowledge about what he's doing food and technique wise and wanting to share eventually

    others?
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013
  20. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    Who would I follow?

    The one who:
    • Is aware of what is happening and
    • Knows what needs to be done and in what order and
    • Knows who can best handle the task and
    • Sees to it that everything else is getting done without getting lost doing something.
    The Chef's job is managing the kitchen and making the decisions necessary to accomplish the task at hand.

    When a Chef steps onto the line, it better be VERY temporary because whenever the Chef is "doing something", his/her attention is distracted away from where it should be directed, seeing to it that the kitchen is running smoothly and every task is being handled well.