Is it strange to want to be a cook but not a chef?

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Joined Aug 11, 2003
I have been working as a short order cook now for about a year , and I really enjoy what i'm doing . I would like to get into a larger resturant where I can learn more about the buisness . The thing is that as much as I enjoy cooking professionally , I really dont think that I would enjoy it as much if I was an actual chef . Now I know it takes a long time to work your way up to the top position just like in any field , and somewhere down the line I may change my mind . I just really love the cooking end of things and dont want to have to worry about keeping track of inventory and food cost , and labor costs , and all the other things that go along with being in charge . I have been cooking as long as I can remember and have always loved the hands on experience , and the feeling of pride when others take pleasure in the things I make . I want to learn more and continue on in this field , but I just want to cook . Is it strange or wierd to feel this way ?
 

pete

Moderator
Staff member
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Joined Oct 7, 2001
No, it is not strange or weird to feel that way. Most of us got into this business to cook and many chefs I know long for the days when all they did was cook and wish all their other duties would go away so that they can "just cook" again. They wish all the headaches, the inventories, the labor problems belonged to someone else. The other side to that is, as a chef, you have more creative control than "just a cook". You have a chance to create your own food, not just replicate someone else's. And of course, there is the whole issue of pay. You can definately make a lot more money as a chef than as a cook. A strong consideration if you have or are thinking about a family. I have worked with many cooks though that didn't really care about the money. They were 45-50+ years old, had been cooking for 20+ years and would never consider taking a chef's job. They were happy cooking, glad they didn't have all that responsibility and left work "at the door" at the end of the day.
 
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Joined Jul 23, 2002
A time ago I wanted to be a Chef-Owner of an Inn/restaurant...
Then I got a job as Chef of an Inn/restaurant. I worked my butt off while watching the owners work their butts off and realized that Chef-Owsner is not what I wanted. I have stuck with Chef. The longer you cook the farther you may go, you may suprise yourself in 8 years when you realize you are a Chef after all!
 
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Joined May 26, 2001
Markface, it's not a bit strange! I've worked with some truly skilled cooks, who had amazing speed and organizational abilities, who REFUSED promotions. As Pete and Jon noted, they knew that their personalities were not suited to managing other people. But they were very highly prized by the executive chef, who knew they could be trusted to get the plates out under any circumstances.

In fine-dining restaurants, there will be chefs de partie -- also known as "lead line cooks" -- who may not have administrative responsibilities, but who do run their stations, train new staff, and keep the chef's vision in focus in the daily production. They are gold in a good kitchen.
 
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Joined Aug 11, 2003
thanks for the responses yall . i really do enjoy working in the kitchen , it gives me a feeling of acomplishment . i've learned a lot doing the short order thing , and it has done wonders for my speed working the dinner shift by myself 4 nights a week . the other 1 night and the one day shift i do a week i work directly with my boss , so i have been able to learn alot about technic(sp). what i'd like to do now is move into a larger scale operation . something like a with a full staff where i can learn the different stations on the line . where i work we dont really have a line so much as just a one man show in the kitchen most weeknights . saturday nights we do prime rib so it me and the head cook(my boss doesnt like to be called a chef) and thats as close to a line as it gets . he does all the main dishes , and i cover sides and fryers . i have no real idea what its like in a kitchen where there are 6 or 7 cooks working all at once . i would like to get into something more like that . it seems thats where the real lessons would start .
 
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Joined Aug 11, 2000
Maybe maybe not....I started out in a two man French kitchen, we made puff pastry from scratch, there were menu standards but as a whole we got to play alot, and since it was just the two of us there was alot of creative things I could do.Since running the market is a ton of administrative work, I still take in personal cheffinf...the only clients I work for now let me cook whatever I want.Catering is creative and I will pull in a bunch of stafff but with that kind of volume it is more automated than creative.....oh except for the living on the edge baking I create at the last minute....
I guess what I am trying to say is just because there are 7 people working in a kitchen it does not mean that learning starts ...you can learn in most situations.
 
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Joined Aug 11, 2003
the problem i'm running into is i dont see that there is that much more to learn at the place i'm at . i want to move on to better (doesnt nesisarily have to be bigger) opertunities . i can continue to work on my technic(sp) where i'm at , but i've pretty much got the full scope of our kitchen operations down pat . i want to learn some of the finer points in cooking that we dont really go into where i'm at .

there isnt a lot of room for creativity where i'm at . the crowd we get here tend to be very set in their ways , and new or different is not a good thing to them . because of this we are pretty much stuck with the tried and true as far as menu items and daily specials go . every time we try to introduce something new to our clientel(sp) we generally have to change the name of it to something that sounds less threatening . as a rule , if it has more than three sylables in any words in the name , they wont eat it .
 
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Joined Jan 24, 2003
Wise words mirepoix,

In reply to the threader ; you sound like you like your work but just want a bit more of a challenge. If its the style of food you cook & you want to go into fine dining , play about with it at home & for friends & family, if it inspires you then go do it for real.The management aspect is a chore but a neccessary one.
Heck none of us are in this for the ££££££££££ amen
 
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Joined Aug 11, 2003
i'm not real worried about the money side of things . what i want is to be able to learn . i've been cooking for my whole life(40 years) at home and at various parties and such . i already know that i could never get tired of it , i just have a very strong appetite for knowledge . where i'm at things are very basic , and i need more information to digest . i have been creating my own recipe's at home for many years already , and some of them are even good to eat . i get bored if there isnt some variaty and a few challenges for me to overcome . it would also be nice to work someplace where the cook is not also the dishwasher , janitor , and handyman .
 
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Joined Jan 24, 2003
You sound like you want to go & give fine dining a try, but perhaps are not convinced its for you. Give it a go & if your areas like mine then you can choose a kitchen because theres such a shortage of chefs , & take what you need to learn & be content.
Like me you aint gettin any younger !!
 
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Joined Aug 11, 2003
i know i want to do more than i am now , i guess i just havent convinced myself yet that i've honed my skills well enough to move into something like fine dining . up until a year ago i had never even considered becoming a cook . cooking had always been a hobby until i sort of fell into this job . i went in to see if my cousin needed any bartenders as that is something i have done at a few places in the past . they had no spots open for a bartender , but were in desperate need of a cook . i told them i had no exp. as a cook , but my cousin has eaten a good bit of my cooking in the past and insisted i would do fine . so now i'm a cook . i find that it is one of the most satisfying types of work i have come across . the problem is , i have no idea what to expect in a fine dining establishment . i dont know if the time i have spent cooking in my cousins small bar has prepared me to go into someplace else .
 

pete

Moderator
Staff member
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Joined Oct 7, 2001
Chefs of fine-dining restaurants are not always looking for highly experienced people. Sometimes they just want someone who knows his/her way around a kitchen, that way they can train them as they want them to be trained. I often times hire an inexperienced person over an experienced person if they have the drive and the desire to learn. Granted, they would never start out at Saute or Grill, but there are plenty of other areas in the kitchen they can start out at, such as pantry, prep, veg. station, etc. Check out a couple basic skills books such as "Professional Cooking" or "La Technique" to brush up on some terms and procedures and you should be good to go.
 
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Joined Aug 15, 2003
A couple things you could try:

Contact a cook in a restaraunt of the same caliber you would like to work at, and ask him/her for all the info they can spare. Pick their brain. Talk to chefs--even if you can't get the job then, maybe they can offer other chefs who need people, or suggest a course or something that could help you get one down the line.

Work a few shifts for free (this, I think, is a common practice). It will help you get a feel for the type of work there, and the people and skills needed, etc. If it seems "out of your league" (I don't mean that deragatorily, I suspect you have the skills or at least can learn them) that way you will know. This, of course, take a willing chef to let you into his kitchen, but it never hurts to ask.

Good luck

~Someday~
 
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Joined Aug 11, 2003
thanks everyone for your input . i guess its time to dust off the ole resume and see what happens .
 
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Joined Aug 11, 2003
well , it looks like i can put the ole resume back in its file again . last monday(couple days before we got hit with isabel) my boss called me into his office after i had closed and cleaned up the kitchen . i figured i had done something wrong and had a butt chewing coming . instead , to my great surprise and delight , i was promoted and given a nice raise . now granted there are only 4 of us doing the cooking here , but i am now the assistent head cook(my boss still dont like to be called a chef) . my boss said that i had surpassed all his expectations , and that i have a natural food sense . he also said that i am as fast and efficent on the line as he is . i was completely taken by surprise and still find it hard to believe . the other 2 cooks here have been here a good bit longer than myself (one of them over 10 years) and there has never been an assistant head cook here before . i was also told that due to the continuing growth of our food sales over the last couple years , we are going to be expanding the kitchen and the staff . we may even hire actual dishwashers . the boss is expecting to hire 2 or 3 more people (part time to start out) to work as cooks , and i am expected to help in their training . i am also expected to learn how to keep track of food costs and ordering of stock , and various other aspects of the job that i had just recently on this board questioned whether i wanted to get into . the boss wants me to be involved in menu and daily special planning too . i guess i will find out for sure if this is what i want to do or not . though i still have doubts as to my ability i am looking forward to being able to learn more about this buisness .
 
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Joined Aug 15, 2003
Lol maybe he reads ChefTalk and knew he needed to promote you :)

Anyways congrats on the promotion. Good luck.

~Someday~
 

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