Perception of a Chef's Age: East vs. West

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by sansei ginger, Oct 25, 2013.

  1. sansei ginger

    sansei ginger

    Likes Received:
    Line Cook
    I've noticed quite a dichotomy in the school of thought on what is the "norm" for a chef's age, particularly in the classical European/French style and that of Japan. While both groups emphasize a strong apprenticeship at a young age, there appears to be a very different perception of a successful chef's longevity and career.

    With the Western style, there are many who seem to place a "ceiling" on the life of a chef, particularly here in the United States. Famous chefs such as Bourdain and Ramsay have both advocated that fledgeling chefs should open their own restaurant by age thirty in order to reach their highest potential and star power.

    Over in Japan however, up until recently they placed supreme value on an older, senior chef who had been in his trade for many decades. If you were under forty and you tried opening your own restaurant, you would be laughed at. Also, many of these old chefs tend to stay in their kitchen during that whole time, rather than leave and still attach their name as "chef" to that establishment.

    Is this contrast in opinion due to how different the typical kitchen is in these regions? Fine dining restaurants in Japan seem to be more intimate in nature and have lower cover counts than French kitchens, which usually have astronomical traffic. Is it because much Japanese dining tends to focus on simpler, colder dishes? Your body deteriorates at a much higher pace in a hot kitchen than it does behind a sushi bar, where there still remains a sort of zen even when the stress levels rise.

    What do you think? I personally understand where both camps come from -- and as a 24 year old rookie in this business, I have a liberal view on "when you can become a chef" -- but I'm curious as to what our wizened professionals here have to say on this.
  2. chefross


    Likes Received:
    Former Chef
    Since the USA is so much younger compared to Europe or Japan, I think these countries have had ample time to work these societal 

    inconsistencies through.