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Home Cook vs. Professional Chef


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Aside from space and therefore some equipment, what is the major difference between a professional chef and a serious home cook?

Since access to commercial quality ingredients is now possible, I don't believe that's a major factor anymore.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Rich, I hope you are able to duck way, way down. I'll bet you'll have lots of nice, ripe, juicy tomatoes thrown at you! (As you can guess, I disagree with your opinion.)

Let's see, what are some of the differences?

Speed

Accuracy

Consistency

Repeatable, teachable recipes

Adaptability

Ability to handle VOLUME while keeping quality consistent

Ability to manage others (e.g., prep and line cooks, dishwashers, etc. who are vitally necessary in the professional kitchen)

and, yes, Access to ingredients -- for example, a few years ago when there was a foie gras shortage, you can bet it all went to folks like Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Eric Ripert, and not to Jo Shmoe, however "serious" s/he might have been.

Now I'll get out of the way while others start flinging responses.

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Aside from space and therefore some equipment, what is the major difference between a professional chef and a serious home cook?

Since access to commercial quality ingredients is now possible, I don't believe that's a major factor anymore.

Cooking for 2 vs. cooking for 20. Or 60. Or 80. Or 300.

One set of dishes vs. 40 or 50 items.

"Oh, it's hot in here. Open a window." vs. the air is 130 F.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Rich, I hope you are able to duck way, way down.  I'll bet you'll have lots of nice, ripe, juicy tomatoes thrown at you!  (As you can guess, I disagree with your opinion.)

.

Suzanne - I wasn't expressing an opinion at all - I know better. :laugh::laugh:

I'm just asking for members' thoughts on differences.

I hope no one throws tomatoes - I just put on a clean shirt. :unsure::unsure:

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Access to ingredients -- for example, a few years ago when there was a foie gras shortage, you can bet it all went to folks like Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Eric Ripert, and not to Jo Shmoe, however "serious" s/he might have been.

That might depend on how much Jo is willing to pay.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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That might depend on how much Jo is willing to pay.

Hm. There can be more to it than that, such as contacts. Some items have quotas on them because the supplier can only get so much. I have ongoing tussles with various folk around town for who gets the goods by getting to the guy first. Once the goods are got, tough luck until next week. And it never reaches the civilian public.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Since access to commercial quality ingredients is now possible, I don't believe that's a major factor anymore.

Believe what you like.

I guess spending 23 years honing my craft doesn't mean anything anymore!

Oh well, maybe I should be an lawyer, I should be able to bullshit my way onto a case.

Turnip Greens are Better than Nothing. Ask the people who have tried both.

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A professional chef usually has some idea about the difference between the two. A serious home cook is usually clueless about the differences. :laugh:

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I guess spending 23 years honing my craft doesn't mean anything anymore!

Of course it does! Experience is a key in any profession.

But you may be right about that lawyer thing. :laugh::laugh:

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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A serious home cook is usually clueless about the differences.  :laugh:

Thankfully, I'm not a serious home cook, but I've been clueless since 1973. :wacko::wacko::wacko:

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Adam, you're reading the wrong books :biggrin:

or eating in the wrong homes. :laugh:

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I just thought that chefs were all hip and bohemian?

Maybe that's the biggest difference!!!!

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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There are plenty of differences between a home cook and a chef. It is unnecessary to insult the home cook. I am a home cook with 25 years of experience. At present, I regularly cook for 7 people. Home cooks do not have a support staff, I do everything from beginning to end, from marketing to dishwashing. No, I am not paid, but, the people who I cook for can't pick what they want from a menu, I decide what thet get to eat. No, I can't cook for 100 people, but I can coordinate everything so that all the food is on the table at the same time. I don't do too many fancy garnishes, thats part of what you pay for in a restaurant. Presentation at home is completely different - but not unimportant. There are also some similarities. The home cook has to be creative and adaptable to work with what is available and affordable - so does a chef. A home cook and a chef are not the same, but the differences do not mean that a home cook lacks creativity, presentation, or consistency.

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No, I can't cook for 100 people, but I can coordinate everything so that all the food is on the table at the same time.

I'll bet you could if you had a sous chef.

Timing is key. I've eaten at home where the food is put out at the same time and I've eaten in some very upscale restaurants where it wasn't. Cooking for seven and getting it out on time is a major accomplishmen.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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I can and do regularly feed anywhere between 20 to 40 on my own, with the assistance of a commis and a KP. I have also worked on teams and catered for 800 at butchers hall, (800 portions of baron of beef for visiting americans) I am probably plastered across more photo albums in the US than soft mick!

Aside from experience, flair, lightning reactions, equipment, heat, sweat, blood toil and tears and a nice cool temper I cannot think of any differences to a home kitchen.

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SLEEP!

Your right on the money. When my father ran a small restaurant in Long Island City, he worked too many hours and too many days.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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As many have mentioned on this thread, of course there are differences. It depends how you define the question and what aspect(s) you want to zero on. Since ingredients were mentioned, I might as well chime in with a contrary opinion--and state that in many cases a home cook has access not only to comparable quality ingredients of a professional chef--but in reality a home cook could use clearly superior ingredients to most working professional chefs.

Sounds idiotic, right?

Look at it this way--many working chefs in restaurants, hotels, country clubs, commercial bakeries etc--are under pressure to use inexpensive ingredients, inferior commercial ingredients because their F&B director or chef does not allow the best quality ingredients to be brought in. They're too expensive. Why do you think there is a Sysco? In some cases chefs are aware of the differences in quality and in some cases they aren't--but it's naive to think the situation is otherwise. The vast majority of professional kitchens in foodservice make compromises--and try to overcome this disparity between what they know to be the best and what they have at their disposal. They buy in bulk--and very often have large amounts of ingredients stored, in essence losing flavor--whereas a home cook can more easily buy smaller amounts of superior ingredients--think spices, teas, espresso blends--and can have fresh nuts stored in the freezer whereas in a professional kitchen freezer space may be at a premium so bulk nuts are stored at room temperature, near the flourescent light fixture going rancid.

As a home cook you do have the luxury not to compromise.

You think all restaurants get wonderful produce delivered? The stuff at Whole Foods market is either of similar quality--can you say mesclun mix?-- or frequently, superior quality. As a home cook you do have access to farmer's markets, most chefs don't have that option even if they did have the time off, you can just as easily outsource artisinal cheeses and wonderful breads as professional chefs do, you can use the best versions of Valrhona chocolate or Cluizel or SharffenBerger--if you are willing to pay the price and as an amateur home cook you could create simple better tasting chocolate desserts than the bakery on the corner who is using a chocolate which costs $1.00 a pound or worse, might not be using real chocolate at all, for their simple chocolate desserts. In some product categories, a home cook can buy the very same gelatin sheets, French frozen fruit puree, almond flour, heavy cream, yogurt, butter, cheese, whatever--as the very best restaurants are using.

Yes, the most high end restaurants and most elite chefs have access and suppliers which provide them with a percentage of ingredients undeniably superior to other restaurants and to home cooks. But this is a rarity in the grander foodservice scheme of things--and in that scheme, I propose home cooks have greater freedom to use better ingredients than the vast majority of working professionals.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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