when can you call yourself a chef?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by frizbee, Jan 14, 2005.

  1. frizbee

    frizbee

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    I am graduating from Johnson and Wales university in May with my associates in culinary arts, and I have been working in the kitchens as a cook about 3-4 years prior to my entering school. I am on track to purchase a wedding catering business upon graduation, and I am not sure how to bill myself. Can I call myself a Chef?
    The business is in a small to mid sized southeastern town, and no other catering establishments have a "chef", so for marketing purposes it would be a edge over the competition. However I certainly wouldn't want to title myself, or bill myself as something I am not. On the other hand, I would be the owner operator, and paying all the bills, so can't I call myself anything I want but the son of god?
    Thanks,
    Frizbee
     
  2. phishstyx

    phishstyx

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    I don't know the official rules but if I own the place, pay the bills, do the cooking, write the menus, handle ordering and costs and am in charge of staffing, I'm the chef. Maybe not "a chef" by some definitions, but at that place I'm the chef. Chef is chief, chief is in charge, you're in charge, you're the chef.
     
    hitchedgibson and passthegravy like this.
  3. mikelm

    mikelm

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    Friz-

    NOT until you get one of those really tall white hats!

    Couldn't resist

    Mike :p
     
  4. dano1

    dano1

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    when your comfortable with it.....

    The people i respect most are very humble and insist they be called by their first name. The pompous a~~holes who bill themselves chefs are usually worth nothing.

    For marketing purposes it may not be a bad idea though.

    Just my opinion, danny
     
  5. phishstyx

    phishstyx

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    I don't bill myself as a chef. I don't think of myself in those terms despite the fact that that's exactly the duties I perform at the restaurant. However I do disagree with the statement that those who bill themselves as chef's are "usually worth nothing" and "pompous a~~holes". Chef is a title, a learned skillset, an earned position but has nothing to do with the kind of person behind the title. I've known some really nice people who bill themselves as chef's and some real losers who don't use that title and vice versa. Making that statement is like saying everybody who uses "Dr." as part of their title behaves a certain way... which obviously isn't true.
     
  6. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

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    I'm not a pro, but a respectful, appreciative enthusiast.

    Wanting to be a chef is not adequate reason to call yourself one. I may be remembering inaccurately, but my brother considered himself a cook before going to culinary school. After that he used the title of chef. However, I'm guessing that rigorous training, even outside of a formal school, would merit the title. Didn't we discuss this at one time? :confused:

    You may be wondering why I, a non-chef and mere enthusiast, would comment here. The reason is that as the Welcome Forum moderator, I often have new members sign up as "Chef" something or other. Then, when they describe themselves, you find out they're an accountant or something, and are avid home cooks rather than culinary pros. I am sensitive to this issue, as I hold chefs in high regard and don't wish to see their professionalism diluted or insulted in any way.

    However, short of demanding someone's credentials, I really don't know how we can police this. We do our best, though! :)
     
  7. cape chef

    cape chef

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    I totally disagree with this assessment of a chef. I actually feel a bit offended by it. Who are you to call chefs pompous a~~holes and worthless if they have earned the title of Chef. So Point, was worthless? Passard, Ducasse, Girardet, Robuchon, Bras, all pompous a~~holes? I think not. Before someone comes on a site devoted to professional chefs and "flames" the whole idea of the word chef should do his/her homework. There are a number of things in life I am very proud of, and one of them is being a chef (and not a worthless, pompous ******* one either)
     
  8. dano1

    dano1

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    guess i need to clarify ;)-the folks who insist they be addressed as Chef XXX, the next best thing since sliced bread, are the folks i am referring to. We've all worked with them, for them, or seen them on certain programs, at one time or another.

    No offense intended to anyone. As i said, call yourself chef when you are comfortable with it. I call em as i see em. People refer to me as chef. I am not worthy of the title compared to Ducasse, Girardet et al. and thus avoid referring to myself as such. It is a title that must be earned through blood, sweat, and tears so to speak. A title not to take lightly. A title i do hold utmost respect for,and worth the respect of the person using it. Unfortunately this is not always the case.

    danny
     
  9. michigan dave

    michigan dave

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    First a little business advice - the timid don't generally make it in the business world. With that said you can probably guess what my answer to your question is. By all means call yourself a chef if you feel you have earned it - and then back it up by being the best. However, I would take the advice of the dano 1 and don't make your employees or customers call you chef, you will come off as arrogant and affected. Use it in your marketing and realize that it is just that - a marketing edge. If you are humble and under-promise and over-deliver you should do well. Just a little more free advice from someone who has been where you are going (self-employed) - get a good CPA and a good lawyer in your corner and heed their advice. Yes it is expensive but it is even more expensive without them. Pay your bills and taxes on time and treat your employees well and you should be successfull. Good luck and remember that sleep is vastly overrated. BTW I really am an accountant that enjoys cooking but I am definitely not a chef.
     
  10. cape chef

    cape chef

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    Don't judge what you have never experienced.
     
  11. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    IMO, when people start calling you chef, then you're a chef.

    Edit: We might also want to ask what it is about the profession which leads people to think that some are pompous assholes like dano says, or what leads Dave to believe what he believes about the cheffin' business.

    If we want to change the way we're perceived, we need to ask some questions and be receptive to answers. We may not like some of them but we can at least give them a good listen.
     
  12. michigan dave

    michigan dave

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    I said what I said because I have experienced it- professionalism that is. Professionalism is about your attitude toward what you do and striving to be the best that you can be whether it's what you do for a living or just a passion in life. Just because I'm not an actor, a mechanic, a lawyer or an artist or anything else in life doesn't mean I can't tell a good one from a bad one. The mere fact that Frizbee cared enough to ask the question tells me that he or she likely has what it takes to be a chef. Elsewhere in this forum I read that a chef is someone who is in charge of the entire kitchen responsible for all aspects of its operation - menu choice, food costs, preparation, purchasing and all of the other things that go into running the kitchen - thats what Frizbee said he or she was going to do. From what Frizbee said he or she seems to know what they're doing and has put in the time in the kitchen and in the classroom in addition to taking on the responsibility of running a catering business - that's why I believe he or she should be able to call himself or herself a chef. I have a fairly good background in the food service and restaurant business. Although I would not call myself a chef I am a fairly good and experienced cook - in fact I've won blue ribbons in statewide comptetitions for my cooking. I still don't call myself a chef because I don't have the formal training and intimate knowledge of why ingredients do what they do etc. However, I do appreciate a good a well-prepared meal and all of the hard work and creativity that go into it and certainly know good food from bad. That's why I told Frizbee he or she could bill themselves as a chef. If you disagree that's fine, reasonable people can and often do disagree.
     
  13. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    The main characteristic of a good chef is leadership. Everything else follows from good leadership. Good food cost, consistency, quality, everything. :)

    If people do not acknowledge you as their leader then you are not their leader. Simple as that.
     
  14. dano1

    dano1

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    As one of my mentors put it quite succinctly years ago "Chef is a big word". I always try to stay out of these arguements-don't know what i was thinking this time around ;).

    hth, danny
     
  15. jim berman

    jim berman

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    You know, we have gone back and forth about the 'chef' title in the past. So, let's get constructive, eh? How about writing an objective definition of which we can all (or most of us) agree. I propose, for instance, listing the attributes of a chef and then assembling those attributes into a meanigful definition.
    Ideas?
     
  16. a la carte

    a la carte

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    ugh - why can't anyone be a chef - you cook, you love it, you're a chef. Jesus - why the snob factor?
     
  17. deltadoc

    deltadoc

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    Here are some definitions gleaned from the "Web":

    a professional cook
    www.cogsci.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/webwn


    (French) A culinary expert. The chief of the kitchen.
    www.ddc.com/cheferic/gloss.htm


    1} A very grumpy man or woman who is in charge of creating foods and food combinations. 2} One who has access to very large knives.
    lifeintheweeds.tripod.com/lifeintheweeds/Jargon.html

    doc
     
  18. mikeb

    mikeb

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    The way I see it, a Chef is kind of like a CEO. When you graduate from business school you don't become a CEO overnight, it's something earned through years of hard work... Same for a chef - when you graduate you're a professional cook, after years of hard work you might become a chef. Chef = leader of the kitchen, not just a cook with a diploma...
     
  19. mikeb

    mikeb

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    It has nothing to do with snobbery. Chef literally means leader, the chef is the leader of the kitchen. It's a title earned through years of hard work. You wouldn't call someone with a first aid certificate doctor, it's a title which requires years of education and hard work... Cooks get their education in the field, only after mastering cooking techniques (which does take years) and running a kitchen are they called Chef...
     
  20. jim berman

    jim berman

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    "ugh - why can't anyone be a chef - you cook, you love it, you're a chef. Jesus - why the snob factor?"

    Hardly worth a reply, but here goes...
    I like animals and I give them medicine when they are sick... I guess I am a vet....
    I run and I enjoy it, so I guess I am an olympian...
    I use a computer and I enjoy it, so I am a programmer...

    Like MikeB said, it has nothing to do with snobbery. I has to do with hard work, dedication, SKILL, leadership and, above all, experience. :chef: