What separates a good chef from a great chef?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by chef brah, Apr 29, 2017.

  1. chef brah

    chef brah

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    As tickets get fired and adrenaline kicks in, I can feel a certain level of addiction in this job...but i am very new and i have a lot to learn..i am getting faster and more efficient but i want to ask this..

    at what point will exec chef start to see a good chef from a great chef who is worth investing time in and worth mentoring?

    my goals in this industry are simple: work next 4 years mastering my skills in high end dining and then get into fast casual business but by then i want to learn all about managing costs, inventory, relationship with suppliers, marketing of a restaurant....but what personality and core traits that separate a good chef who does satisfactory job from someone who stands out ?
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2017
  2. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    A good chef does things well.  A great chef influences the whole kitchen every level down to the overnight cleaners in the dining room even though they have zero contact.
     
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  3. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    This is an interesting and complex question.  The way you're using the term it sounds like you mean 'line cook'?  The ones I take under my wing are the ones that obviously have a work ethic.  That really is first and foremost.  I did once have a very hardworking fellow that worked me that, sadly, was a shoemaker- he tried for years but just didn't have any ability to cook at all.  But for most people simply showing up every day and working harder than the cook next to you will put you in rare air.

    When it comes to cooks and chefs I think you need to be reasonably bright.  Not a rocket surgeon but possessing practical intelligence.  You need to be able to face the fire without  getting rattled (although this takes time to attain for most people).  A good chef needs to have a combination of humility and curiousity as well.  Humility because no matter how much you know someone else will always know more, and there will always be more to learn- you need to be open to it.  You need to be curious because no one will walk into the kitchen and explain it all to you.  You need a good work ethic because this is hard work and the rewards are not seen right away, if ever. 

    Compassion and emotional intelligence is also a requirement to really be good at this job.  About 90% of the problems you face as a chef are people problems, and if you dig deep enough most of the other 10% are on some level too.  You need EQ to understand your staff for lots of reasons. The first, I suppose, is the simple mercenary need to understand how to motivate them.  Some will want to grow and learn while others just want a paycheck.  Some want more responsibility and to advance in their craft while others appreciate the flexibility to pursue their passions outside of work.  

    And you better have those, passions outside of work.  It's easy to make your whole life about the job but that is the quickest path to burnout and dissatisfaction.

    Last is probably skills and palette.  To a great degree you can and will learn those things as you go along.  There are lots of guys and gals that have a lot of technical skills yet drag down the kitchen they work in.  After 25+ years in the kitchen I'd say cooking is the easy part.
     
  4. hookedcook

    hookedcook Banned

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    Your mind and how much people are willing to pay for your food. There's a lot of hacks and really talented chefs out there. It's a fine line between the two.
     
  5. bonnj

    bonnj

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    Very good thread...thank you to everyone who posted.
     
  6. zeppo shanski

    zeppo shanski

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    "Not a rocket surgeon ..."

    That's funny. 
     
  7. recky

    recky

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    Phaedrus has hit the nail on the head. I have nothing to add, except perhaps that you will also need the ability to concentrate extremely hard, almost like the aforementioned 'rocket surgeon'.

    Cheers,

    Recky
     
  8. hookedcook

    hookedcook Banned

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    I kind of beg to differ. Some of the most respected chefs that I have ever worked for were bullshit artists. I respected them because they found a way to make it. And convince people they knew what they were doing. I worked under a couple of truly talented, gifted chefs but they gave up their life to cook food. Not for me. Cooking is art, they sell paintings for 10 dollars and 10 million dollars. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
     
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  9. chefross

    chefross

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    But..............These B.S. artists were smart enough to pull it off right?

    As you said they found a way to make it work.

    To you, it may seem that these Chefs gave up their life for work, but try looking at it from the point of view, that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.
     
  10. flipflopgirl

    flipflopgirl

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    So true...

    mimi
     
  11. jvkolich

    jvkolich

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    This level of advice, and knowledge you are able to pass on gives me all the more love and respect for this craft.

    People like you, and the knowledge you have to share, inspire me beyond words.

    Thank you!
     
  12. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    Attitude and teachability are the primary traits that I look for. Skills, knowledge, experience, etc will constantly be growing and expanding if attitude and teachability are solidly entrenched; if not, it is an uphill battle.

    Simple math...an uphill battle...or a malleable journey...which do I choose when looking for candidates?
     
  13. chefappleby

    chefappleby

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    By far and away, IMO, it's how you treat people. And I mean EVERYBODY. A know it all Cook/Chef who makes world class food will get his or her glory no doubt, but a person who has the respect of the crew I feel counts for more. That mean you jump in anywhere needed, dishes, prep, cleaning, you name it. You work hard, and listen and get to know what your crews strengths are. Being a professional to me, is no different than the difference between boss and leader.

    Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk
     
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  14. heidicookssuppe

    heidicookssuppe

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    I am a food consumer, a restaurant customer if you will, and to me being a great chef means first of all having the love of food.  Yes, you can fail even if you have a love of food by being a lousy employee/employer/worker/manager/service provider, etc.  Do any of those things wrong and you are less likely to achieve the success that provides you with the freedom that allows the exercise of your food genius.  But, fundamentally, you cannot be a great chef if your food is pedestrian.  You cannot be a great chef if your flights of food fancy appeal only to you.  You cannot be a great chef unless you make food that is marvelous and beloved by those who eat it.  You must respect the food and those who eat it by applying your genius to it.
     
  15. chefonfire

    chefonfire

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    Lets keep this thread to professionals working in food service please.
     
  16. the apostate

    the apostate

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    Thanks
     
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  17. sweetrub

    sweetrub

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    A good chef can cook his ass off..... A great chef can cook his ass off AND manage to turn a profit for his restaurant while doing it.
     
  18. meezenplaz

    meezenplaz

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    I'd offer off the top of my head that a single important trait of a great chef is the ability to set a good example for others to follow, but most importantly that they actually ARE following it. They're a leader who actually leads, and those who  follow them are doing so willingly and with complete confidence in their Chef.

    With that now definitively stated, in practice it's actually more a matter of perception. Perception by those he or she interacts with--cooks, management, owners, clients, and at a certain level even the media. And in my experience, aside from obviously basic (and I do mean basic) knowledge and skills, the aforementioned BS factor plays a significant part in this. Again, this is based on my personal experience, which is moderate, but certainly no where near as extensive as some other respected veteran pros in here.

    Consider that last sentence a disclaimer. I have worked with respected, trained, veteran Chefs, some  of which have been on "the tube". Upon meeting them, their reputations preceded them and I therefore issued them the appropriate respect and courtesy, and conveyed my sense of honor in working with them. However, UPON working with them, the pewter beneath the silver inevitably exposes itself. A reputable chef can strut around the Kitchen like they invented the concept, but they really can't hide in it. The work is the work, the skills (or lack thereof) are the skills, the judgement and decisions and multitasking and delegation skills are what they are. And the larger the discrepancy between the level of all that, and the "reputation" as a great Chef, the greater the BS factor present to bridge that gap.

    I have seen great chefs who couldnt make Bernaise, frequently burned sauces, bread and everything else, cant multitask or delegate, or problem solve, yet still remain "great."

    Conversely,  Ive seen cooks who decidedly exceeded that Chef's level of competence and somehow did not achieve that great Chef status. Why? Well IMO one reason is they were honest and hardworking, but stlil failed to master that all important skill of all Great Chef skills.... the BS factor, and the resulting elevated ego. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/rolleyes.gif
     
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  19. icanburnanythin

    icanburnanythin

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    my lower back and feet disagree.. 
     
  20. chefross

    chefross

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    SPOT ON!!!!