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joesan

Yes Chef? No Chef!

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Although I live in the UK I've worked predominantly for American companies. And something I love about this is the refreshing meritocracy and lack of formality compared to more traditional British companies.

So I find very perplexing the pretension of prefixing the name of just about any cook or chef in these forums with the moniker "Chef". It's alway Chef Keller or Chef Achatz why not Thomas, or Grant Achatz? Why do some people, and civilians at that, feel the need to stick "Chef" in front of it?

I can understand a brigade member in a traditional French kitchen saying "Oui Chef" but a member of the public using it seems a little pretentious to me and well, un-americanly formal. Can anyone enlighten me how this came about? Obviously it's a respect thing but it seems so awkward. We Brits have no problems calling our chefs plain old Heston or Gordon and we're normally painfully uptight and formal!

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If I were to post "so I made up a batch of Mike's chocolate ice cream last night" would you have any clue that I was referring to Michael Laiskonis? Even using "Michael" wouldn't make that distinction. If I were referring to Grant Achatz or Wylie Dufresne or Homaro Cantu or Thomas Keller or a few other celebrity-status names, most may assume they were who I was talking about based simply on the given name but I'm not sure that's the case for every chef I may decide to talk about. Also, for me, it is a respect thing. I don't have to be in their kitchen or on their payroll to respect what they do.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I see your point but why not say "I made a batch of Michael Laiskonis's chocolate ice cream last night". I'm not saying just use the first name I'm saying why add Chef in front of it. After all you wouldn't say I got a great haircut from Hairdresser Barbara last night or bought a lovely painting by Artist Picasso...

And shouldn't your signature quote be attributed to Chef Heston Blumenthal? :biggrin:

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no offense to anyone, but a "chef" is hardly on the level or Dr or Prof or President...

Usually prefixes like that are used for academic respect, to be a great "chef" is more an art is it not?

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It's a title of respect for the level of skill and experience. I can't see it as odd or awkward in any way.

I'm also not at all sure that a chef is any less deserving of respect than a professor!


"Life itself is the proper binge" Julia Child

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If you don't work for the person and don't happen to respect them, you're free to leave it off. I think it was Oscar Wilde who said, "a gentleman is someone who never insults anybody ... by mistake."


Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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If you don't work for the person and don't happen to respect them, you're free to leave it off. I think it was Oscar Wilde who said, "a gentleman is someone who never insults anybody ... by mistake."

Extremely good point! As in "Gordon" vs "Chef Ramsey."

Just saying.


"Life itself is the proper binge" Julia Child

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Nobody in this country would say Chef Ramsey. I knew a woman who was head of pastry in one of his kitchens. She called him Gordon, as did the rest of the brigade although sometimes they'd use just "Chef" alone, and I assure you there was plenty of respect there.

I call my boss, and my bosses boss by their first name and I respect them immensely. It just sounds odd to me to add the sobriquet "Chef" in front of their actual name. I can't think off all that many instances were we do that type of thing in modern society anymore.

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Seems to me that the general public using the term "Chef" in addressing a chef is a relatively new tradition. I started to encounter it in the 90's. Don't remember it outside the kitchen before then. Could it tie into the evolution of foodie-ism to a near religion and the resultant need for deities?


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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As long as the person actually IS a chef I don't see what's wrong with it. It's a title of respect like any other. It's the calling everyone from Rachael Ray to every last damned person who likes to cook at home "chef" that I don't get and find irritating. You haven't run a kitchen, you're not a chef.

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I don't get the respect angle. I don't call the chairman or president of the company I work for Mr. Chairman or Mr. President, nor do the vast majority of people who work in business. Does that mean none of these people are respected?

I think the usage is a holdover from Continental European custom and has percolated from the kitchen into general usage.

I remember years ago seeing a Julia Child series with guest chefs, and she appended "Chef" to each of their first names, so it was "Chef Michael" "Chef Susan", etc. I thought it seemed a bit affected at the time.


Edited by rickster (log)

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Blogger Holly that's spot on...

And Rickster I completely agree on the respect angle. I'm talking to people I respect enormously, and have accomplished plenty, and I don't feel the need, or the social obligation, to preface their name with a title.

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If I'm actually tally talking to a chef, I'll often address them as "chef". There was a time when it seemed to indicate you'd been around a restaurant kitchen (though on the wrong side of the line, in my case) and also that you recognized the chef as more than "the help." Nowadays, of course, everyone's seen Hell's Kitchen and calls all chefs "chef" and I continue to do it because I think titles are fun (I was once enough of an old hand that I could address a Cabinet Secretary but by his given name, but I preferred to use the title) and I err on the side of formality.

On the other hand, in writing, referring to someone as Chef So-and-so here seems a little stiff, if not actually pretentious. Keller, Ripert, Ducasse, EZ and RJ here in Washington, Obama, Tiger, Scalia...no need to follow the New York Times style book.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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And Rickster I completely agree on the respect angle. I'm talking to people I respect enormously, and have accomplished plenty, and I don't feel the need, or the social obligation, to preface their name with a title.

If it's not customary in that industry or profession then of course you don't just make up a title, but we do as a society use various titles - like Dr., Senator, Father/Rabbi/Reverend or Professor. I don't think calling an actual chef (not a "tv food personality") "Chef" is outrageous.

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Blogger Holly that's spot on...

I am not a blogger, not that there is anything wrong with that. Just that HollyEats is not intended as a blog.

I was a chef for exactly two days, so perhaps Chef Holly, emeritus, could work.


Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

Twitter

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Outrageous - no, necessary - doubtful...

To be clear I make a distinction between the use of the simple noun "Chef", especially by professionals in a kitchen situation, and the to me artifice of some non-kitchen professional using the clumsy combination of the word "Chef" and then the Chef's name in the manner of Chef XXX or Chef YYY in a post or article.

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I am not a blogger, not that there is anything wrong with that. Just that HollyEats is not intended as a blog.

I was a chef for exactly two days, so perhaps Chef Holly, emeritus, could work.

Sorry Holly I was only joking by prefacing your name with Blogger.

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It's an ego thing. People think the moniker chef is cool. Which is why you have tons of people who refer to themselves as chefs when they don't deserve the title or even have a restaurant. If you work for someone and they want to be called chef then you do it. I worked for a long time in yes chef kitchens and now I work for a chef who just wants to be called by his first name. It's much better, in a kitchen with good cooks eliminating a divide between the cooks and chefs makes the food better. My opinion if you don't have a restaurant then you're not a chef, if you are a sous chef you're not a chef, and even if your a chef you're a cook first.

Here in Portland Oregon there is a movement in a lot of new restaurants for everyone to wear T-shirts and be more casual (less ego maybe) about cooking. I don't know how I feel about cooking in a thin cotton t-shirt, but the image does make me feel like those kitchens are taking themselves less seriously. I think that if you want to take yourself seriously you should become a doctor and cure cancer, if you are a cook you feed people who have money for your profit, there's more to it than that but when you boil it down it's only food.

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I think the usage is a holdover from Continental European custom and has percolated from the kitchen into general usage.

I agree. The American kitchen has been more directly influenced by continental habits both more recently and more directly than most other businesses and industries in the US, and furthermore culinary schools continue to train this habit. At university I was allowed to call professors by their first names, but at culinary school everything was "yes chef" and "chef fisher said...". I think that while things may be moving towards a more casual atmosphere in the kitchen (as someone else mentioned), this habit comes from the stuffy Europeans who trained us Americans in cooking.


“Ruling a great state is like cooking a small fish.”

Those who favor leniency say [it means] “do not disturb it too much”; those who favor strictness say “give it salt and vinegar, that’s it.”

~Huainanzi, ch. 11

http://ladolcejenny.blogspot.com

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On the other hand, in writing, referring to someone as Chef So-and-so here seems a little stiff, if not actually pretentious. Keller, Ripert, Ducasse, EZ and RJ here in Washington, Obama, Tiger, Scalia...no need to follow the New York Times style book.

And I don't think that even the NYT uses "chef" as a title. Generally NYT style is to use the full name at the first mention, then Mr./Ms./Dr. and the last name. I don't even think they use "Prof." typically.

American academics who have doctorates don't generally make much of a show of it, unless they are in medicine, psychology, or in certain institutions where that has historically been the norm. Generally the more exclusive the university, the more informal the faculty are about titles in the U.S. In certain European universities, it may be that only the most senior faculty of the highest rank use the title of "Professor," whereas students in the U.S. generally address faculty of all ranks as "Professor."

When referring in writing to a chef, I generally use the last name without title, as I would for the author of a book or just about any other situation.

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Cooking has recently become cool and worthy of respect. Not so long ago the idea of a chef walking out of the kitchen was ridiculous. I think lay people say chef because they think it's like wearing ripped jeans and makes them seem more in the know. Outside of the working environment it is not necessary. I would sooner say "A Grant Achatz recipe" If the don't know who that is I will add (he's a chef)--not "Chef Achatz". In fact even if I worked for him it would just be "Chef" or perhaps "Grant", not both.

Chef Matt.

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I sort of got into the habit when I was working at a culinary school. I was just in a support staff position, but eventually I started calling the chefs "chef" just because everyone else was doing it. Though it did seem weird at first. A the school, there was a big emphasis on instilling a sense of discipline and hierarchy into the students. But the chefs called each other chef, too.


"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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So I find very perplexing the pretension of prefixing the name of just about any cook or chef in these forums with the moniker "Chef". It's alway Chef Keller or Chef Achatz why not Thomas, or Grant Achatz?

I don't buy your premise. A quick Google search reveals 6000 hits for "Thomas Keller" vs 600 hits for "Chef Keller

9000 hits for "Grant Achatz" vs 1200 hits for "Chef Achatz


PS: I am a guy.

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