Throwing a thought out there...

Joined Jan 29, 2013
Hi all. Joined a while back but this is my first post. (I think).

One day someone asked me "at what point do you call yourself a Chef?" Thought about it and said "when you are in charge of your own kitchen". Ok, all good and well. But aren't there people out there running a kitchen but not really a chef?

So, it came to me one day, and don't be scared to blast me, that Chef is a title you should not bestow upon yourself. I think the privilege of being deemed "Chef" should come from your peers. Does this make sense?
Joined Aug 14, 2013
Those that have earned it don't want it, those that use it are usually unworthy of it in my experience. I always liked "maker of food and decisions" personally.
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Joined May 5, 2010
Funny......I have been cooking for 45 years and still call myself a cook.

I've always entertained the notion that one is a Chef when one has kitchen with a staff.

The word Chef means the one in charge anyway
Joined Jan 30, 2012
You are either the Chef or you are not.

There are many things that a Chef might or might not do... the secret is ...  If the Chef is not doing them, they are telling someone else to do it for them.
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
Ah the "Chef' business....

Almost as much ink has been spilled on this subject as "what is the "Best" knife?"

My take?

I come from a planet far, far away... There were no cooking shows on TV that glamorized cooking back then, and cooking wasn't really all that interesting anyway.

Funny thing was, back then, at every place I worked at, the only person you called "Chef" was the guy who hired you, the guy who handed you your paycheck, and the guy who gave you orders.  Everyone else were "cooks" and there was no shame in calling yourself a cook.

Then I went to Europe and worked under some really big shots, highly decorated Chefs, in charge of Brigades of over 40 cooks, multiple F & B outlets.  But we never addressed the Chef as "Chef".  If and when we talked to him, it was "Herr" (Mr.) so-and-so. In France it was"Msr." so-and-so.  Even the owners of the hotel would address the Chef as "Herr".  And even back then, the custom in Europe was to list your profession next to your name and address in the phone book, and every big shot Chef--the guys in charge of brigades of over 40 cooks, the 5 star hotels glamorized by Hollywood,  would list their profession every year in the phone book as "Koch" or "cook", even though these guys were well over 50 and earning some mighty big bucks.

So for me, the whole "Chef" thing isn't about the title, or what your co-workers or employers call you, it is how you are judged:

-A cook is judged by what they put on a plate.  If it's good, they stay and put out good plates.  If it's bad, they go.

A Chef is judged by how well s/he runs the kitchen.  If the kitchen makes money, the Chef usually* stays.  If the Chef can't keep the kitchen above water, they never stay for longer than a month and they go.  Sometimes less than a week.

Harsh judgement, but very realistic.  We are in the business to feed people.  If we can't make money, the employer turfs us, and you really can't blame the employer for doing so.  It's a business, not a charity.

And that is the true meaning of a "Chef", a "Chief" in any other language.  The person who is tasked with making a profit for his employer, with food, labour, and overhead costs provided by the employer.  This model fits in with a sandwich shop or a taco stand as much as it does with a fine dining establishment.

I am proud to call myself a cook.  I did a classical apprenticeship as a cook, sweated my privates off for three years working double split shifts and going 1 day per week in trade school and getting paid half of what the dishwashers were getting. Hard to buy uniforms, books, and knives with that salary but I did it.  When I finished and got my "papers",  my profession was listed on the documents as "Cook" in all three of Switzerland's official languages, so there was no doubt in anyone's mind that I was and still am a Cook.

*Just because the Chef can make money doesn't guarantee that s/he will stay.  The employer can get greedy and turf the Chef out, give his Sous a new embroidered jacket and a stack of business cards that say "Chef", pay him a buck an hour more, and when that guy fails or asks for more money, turf HIM out and give the next guy an embroidered jacket.........
Joined Dec 23, 2004
I don't get too worked up over titles.  "Chef" just means you're in charge of the kitchen, or at least that's my definition.
Joined Mar 1, 2011
I too don't get worked up about the titles. I guess the easiest way for me to look at it, is what were you hired as. If your hired as the chef, your the chef right? If your hired as the sous your the sous right? If your hired as a line Cook your a like cook? So on and so forth. Isn't this the easiest way of explaining it? Its a position to me. No different than being a customer service rep, customer service manager, supervised, shift leader etc. To me its job title.

One of my pet peeves is when people use chef as a verb. We do not "chef", we cook.
Joined Oct 15, 2012
To elaborate on what foodpump has already said, over here in Germany my profession is "Koch" (cook), even though I own and operate my own restaurant, and any line cook/sous chef would be called the same.

If I headed a brigade, my hierarchical title would be "Chefkoch" (chief cook), which is the direct equivalent of the French "chef", a word that has been borrowed into the English language.

So, Tuesdays to Thursdays, when I run the kitchen on my own, I'm the cook. When the KP comes in on Friday, I am elevated to chef... /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif
Joined Apr 6, 2014
 I am a Chef de Cuisine, ( I work in France) which means I am in charge of all the food that we put out ( three outlets serving food and a couple doing snacks,  all in one resort). I  call my self a cook.

 Chef just means in charge of.

 The only time a staff member call me chef is if we are really busy and they need to get my attention.

 civilians ( those not in the biz) call me Chef as a mark of respect for the position, not for me. 

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