How To Become A Chef

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So.

I want to be able to live up to the title "chef". But unfortunately I do not really have a good option as far as attending school for a degree/certificate and balancing that with working seven days a week and paying bills etc.

I have been told that if you train under a chef it makes you a chef. Is there any validity to this?

I live in south central PA and there really aren't any options for well known chefs here.

I've been given the title sous chef. But I almost feel like that is something my restaurant uses to be able to say they have chefs and not cooks.

Any help???
 
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First, a "chef" is a manager, a "sous chef" is a deputy manager, the titles have little, if anything, to do with cooking ability and everything to do with managing a commercial kitchen.

Sometimes a great cook who learns
  • Business finance, and
  • Business law, and
  • Personnel management, and
  • Marketing and advertising, and
  • How to hold it together when the world is falling apart
becomes a chef.

A great majority of culinary schools can teach you the trade of cooking, some will even teach you some of the other skills that will be helpful.

Working under a chef, that is someone who actually runs a commercial food operation not just a wearer of the title, is, IMHO, probably the fastest, cheapest, and most effective way to prepare yourself to run a kitchen when someone else gives you the opportunity or you gamble your own money and open your own place.

Oh wait! The definition in the first paragraph is MY impression as to how the world operates in the USA, the terms are occasionally used in a different manner in other countries
 
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A chef is a professional cook who is in charge of a kitchen. The type and quality of kitchen does not enter into the definition. There are many paths to becoming a chef. Thomas Keller did not go to culinary school but he certainly qualifies as a chef in my judgement.
 
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Thanks guys. This is reassuring and helpful. Feel free to give more replies guys!
 
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I never went to school, just started washing dishes when i was 16 and moving around different kitchens from there. Was officially granted the title "Line cook" in my early 20's even though I had experience frying, prepping, ect but was always a dishwasher/busser until then. Bounced a round from a few different places, corperate to local. I was even a Line cook at a shitty chain "Village Inn" for a little while. Built up my resume as a line cook. I am now 23 (jan 15th) and work at a Botique Hotel associated with the Mariot Corporation, Chef de partie or line cook. My goal is to become a sous chef by the time I'm 24, so about a year left and on the right track. Was just promoted Line Supervisor, next step is Sous. 

So you don't need school, but you do need experience. Keep working in kitchens, keep cooking, keep learning. It does not always have to be under Chefs, just being there cooking and expanding your knowledge about food and staying open minded to knew ideas and techniques. 

Good luck
 
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A chef is a professional cook who is in charge of a kitchen. The type and quality of kitchen does not enter into the definition. There are many paths to becoming a chef. Thomas Keller did not go to culinary school but he certainly qualifies as a chef in my judgement.
In everyone's book. Widely agreed upon to be the best living chef and "The French Laundry" widely agree'd upon being one of the best restaurants in the world. Keller don't play games. 
 
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In everyone's book. Widely agreed upon to be the best living chef and "The French Laundry" widely agree'd upon being one of the best restaurants in the world. Keller don't play games.
Careful there...

I have never worshiped at the alter of The French Laundry but have enjoyed (albeit in print and on the small screen) watching Thomas Keller's rise (and holding on at that lofty altitude) to the top of the "food chain".

Best living chef is a statement that leaves no room for all the other "best living chefs" of which there are many.

I believe Chef Keller would heartily agree with me on this point.

Of course just IMHO.

mimi
 

kuan

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There are plenty of chefs who cook as well as Keller.  The difference is Keller has absolute control over everything in his kitchens.  The chefs I'm talking about are those in the back rooms of hotels, clubs, and less visible places.  They're also the ones who choose to adopt a different style, live in a different place, and have different clientele.  In fact, take a look at what @cape chef does.  I would put him up against Keller anytime.
 
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You said it kuan. 

Im sure CT has plently of great veterans that could match Keller. 

Regardless i agree that to become a chef, talent is needed i still believe its something thats in the blood...

But you need to know how to manage, lead, supervise, cook, etc...

That never ending hunger to learn more, and experience everything from different foods to culture. 

You are tired go to bed at 2am only to wake up at 7am to eat your breakfast, wash some dishes, clean the house, walk the dog, pay the bills and be back at work by 2pm work your a** off all over again. You may lose a lot being in the industry but you also gain a lot as well. 

You HAVE to love this business.../img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif  

Ill state the famous Mayhem (cheftalk member that i miss right now):

Kitchens are not classrooms- they are high functioning sociopaths that produce beautiful moments at dinner tables you never see, for people you never meet.
 
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I am from central PA as well my friend. Luckily my mom owns a restaurant where ive been for a long time but eventually i will move to Philly and NYC after college to expand my knowledge. Move to the big cities and hopefully you will catch a break. 
 
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Defining "chef" is like asking an Italian for a recipe for lasagne.  You're going to get a lot of definitions, and none of them necessarily incorrect.  I feel like the title chef is something that you eventually earn by being a little bit of everything.  I'm not the best cook, I'm not the best manager, I'm not the best organizer, but I'm pretty good at all 3.  Yes, I think there are way too many out there throwing the 'chef' title around.  Just because you went to culinary school, does that make you a chef?  Just because you cook in a restaurant, are you a chef?  Just because you manage a food establishment, are you a chef?  I would forget about the title, and go search for what gets you off in the food world.  Is it having face time with all your guests in a food truck?  Is it working 14 hours a day in a Michelin spot?  Is it learning charcuterie or cheese making?  Go out and find what gets you off.  Worry about the titles later.  They'll come if your passionate about what you do. 
 
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I too am looking for some Cook-to-Chef type advice.

I got my first management position today (I start Thursday) at a nice little gourmet-taco-and-bar place uptown. I've been a Line Cook for 6 years, with 2 years of Culinary school before that. The official position is "Night Manager", so I don't think I'll be calling myself a Chef, still though it entails cook/management duties... some of which I'm still a little fuzzy.

In previous jobs the Chef's visible duties, other than cooking, seemed to be through my limited observation: Inventory, ordering (and dealing with incoming truck orders), making the schedule, discovering new specials to put on the menu, the night/morning count, interacting with FOH management, and babysitting us cooks. Math, communication, organizational, people skills all very helpful.

This is just what I've noticed anyway.

So, wha I missing? What do the Chef's and FOH managers go on about? I was rarely privy to those conversations. I'm just not entirely sure what these folks are going to expect from me as I've always been more the fast Line guy and not necessarily management of any type.

Cheers!
 
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I feel like cacioepepe sounds about as right as everything I've ever heard. I find that in any field, especially ours, that a blend of reality and technicality seems to make one the most qualified. (Training and experience.) but all in all. My whole debate here is do I bother with culinary school or do I just continue working 7days a week in two restaurants. Because the work schedule makes school impossible. So unfortunately I am forced to decide between one or the other.
 
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