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Real vs Fake Chefs


GlorifiedRice
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Dear eGullteers,

I am by no means a CHEF, I am barely a COOK, having worked as a fry cook and waitress at a small dive in the late 80s for 4 years.

I am a FOODIE and a choosy one at that. I have more food knowledge then some average friends NOT on eGullet (I am in awe of you all)

People tend to ask me food questions...

Recently a man was invited to a social circle I am on online and upon seeing my "foodie" pics and hearing me talking about food began making

snide comments such as, "Don't you ever cook anything normal?" upon seeing my pics of Japanese Octopus and Scallion "salad" w/ miso

mustard dressing...

He claims he's a chef with a bistro in NYC but some of us know more than he does about food.

We feel he is also lying about other things as well.

Our circle is divided now, he has many admirers, but many adversaries...

The atmosphere is starting to become tense as some of us can feel that hes spitting out lie after lie and his "fans" lap it all up.

Are there any questions we can pose to him to prove he's a REAL CHEF?

Like things only CHEFS know?

We don't want to attack him or call him out cause that'd make us look bad. but maybe he will back down himself if he knows

some of us are on to him...

Signed,

Tired and Hungry

Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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Its pretty hard to pose questions online in an attempt to find truth. Sure, you could ask him how to fix the thermocouple on an oven (which most of us has done at least a hundred times), but all he would have to do is Google it. Which, by the way, is something I assume you have already done on him? Google him/his restaurant. Outside of physically investigating, Im not sure what can be done in an online forum.

- Chef Johnny

John Maher
Executive Chef/Owner
The Rogue Gentlemen

Richmond, VA

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It's entirely possible for a dedicated foodie to know more about things food related than a random chef. While a foodie is traveling around visiting culinary destinations, reading books, researching online and browsing eGullet trying to keep on top of everything food, chef might go to his/her restaurant and do what he/she does for 15 hours a day the same way he/she has been doing it for 20 years with no concern at all for what anybody else is doing. Doesn't mean he/she is a "fake" chef. Doesn't mean that a foodie with more knowledge is more a chef than he/she is. There are no things "only chefs know". Well, there is the first rule of chef club... but that's secret so I can't post it. :raz: But I will agree that "Don't you ever cook anything normal" is a pretty rude thing to say.

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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Why is it important to prove him wrong? Some people embellish things, others outright fabricate stories, and others are modest and say little about their accomplishments, etc. So what? Why do you want to discredit this person? He is who he is, he does what he does, he says what he says. Some believe him, some like his stories, and others don't.

 ... Shel


 

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This isn't so much a culinary issue as it is a social one.

If you want to keep as many friends as possible, simply tolerate it and pretend that he is the more talented and experienced one. Otherwise, you can keep going the course you're going, but there will be a rift no matter how you try to take him to the flames.

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There is no longer a universally accepted definition of chef. Since one can't define the title in black and white terms, you can't define somewone as such a person, but you can like or dislike a person by what he/says and does.

If they are a fraud, they'll eventually trip themselves up.

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Ask him where he has worked before, who he has worked for in the past. If he name drops someone, contact this person and ask them about him.

edit: spelling like a monkey without opposing digits.

Edited by Karri (log)

The perfect vichyssoise is served hot and made with equal parts of butter to potato.

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My first instinct in a situation like this is to say "don't feed the troll."

As others have said above, this is a social situation and this person is obviously being rude and divisive. No matter what his background, he will thrive by belittling others and causing divisions. It is attention seeking behaviour with a destructive twist.

If this person has you seeking to trip them up or somehow discredit them, they have achieved one of their key objectives. I'd suggest that you are starting to play their game rather than your own.

Rather than asking how you can prove if someone is a "real chef," perhaps the question should be "how do I deal with a troll in my on-line social circle?"

My advice would be to not react to them in an emotional fashion. Rather if they say something rude like "Don't you ever cook anything normal?" you could either ignore them or reply with something like "Everyone has their own preferences. My preference is to post interesting food rather than the everyday. If you choose to post what you consider normal food, please feel free to do so." This is a statement of fact with little to nothing in the way of hooks for them to escalate discussion.

Type "dealing with trolls" into Google for more advice.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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Others have said so above, there is no such thing as a "Chef" in N.America, and there is no nationally accepted certifications for a "Chef". There are ACF "Chef" certifications, many, many different ones, but these are private association certifications. There are culinary school diplomas, but this is to certify culinary school graduates. And there are many, many different culinary schools, some with 2 year courses, some with 3 mth courses, and even on-line courses.

The general opinion seems to be a "Chef" is a manager, that is, a manager in charge of the kitchen. I tend to think of it as this way:

A cook is judged by what they put on a plate

A Chef is judged by how well they manage the resources they are given.

There may be politicians you do not like or think are doing a terrible job, but as long as they hold office, they still have the title of "Mayor" or "Govenor" or what ever. Of course, if they do a terrible job, they get kicked out of office pretty darn quick. So it is with Chefs, even terrible ones are stilled called Chef, but they don't last long.........

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Agreeing with everyone who pointed out "chef" is pretty meaningless these days. In my book, it's a courtesy title for the head of a classic kitchen brigade, and anyone else who insists on it is a bit like PhD's who insist on the title "Doctor," with less justification. That said, in my social circle it's often applied to anyone with cookery pretensions, so I sometimes hear that so and so is a "home chef." Besides, as Tri2Cook said, the fact that someone is paid for something is no guarantee they're more skilled at it than someone who does it out of love. Comparisons with other professions may come to mind. :raz:

So, about this dude:

Pretty obviously he's a bit of a dick (pardon my French) and in my experience, people with serious chops very seldom are. What to do about it? If you're a saint, put up with it. If you're bullshit intolerant, don't. If you're somewhere in the middle, toleration sauced with eye-rolling and a bit of good-natured ribbing is the way to go.

My 2c worth.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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Ignore him and he'll go away.

There are liars all 'round the internet. A guy on another forum I frequent, he's flown every jet fighter ever invented. Taught paramedics how to drive. Run companies. Been in meetings with numerous US presidents. Has killed and shagged more people than James Bond has even fantasised about killing and shagging. He's full of shit, yes. And you know what calling him out, trying to pull on all the little threads in his flimsy stories achieves? Nothing. Post your photos. Ignore him. He'll either go away or settle down. Maybe this guy is full of shit. Or maybe he's a 'real' chef with conservative tastes. Or maybe just the belief that if you're not doing it his way, you're doing it wrong.

I mean, all of us, on some level, want to be that beautiful extra special pretty snowflake everyone admires. It's just that some of us put in that extra bit of effort.

Edited by ChrisTaylor (log)

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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There is no longer a universally accepted definition of chef. Since one can't define the title in black and white terms, you can't define somewone as such a person, but you can like or dislike a person by what he/says and does.

If they are a fraud, they'll eventually trip themselves up.

Isnt a CHEF a person who has gone through CHEFS School and graduated?

Like my cousin went to the CIA and spent time at the Cordon Bleu (I cant recall the extent)

A Cook is someone who has cooked at restaurants but hasnt had formal training.

Rachael Ray is a COOK.

Edited by GlorifiedRice (log)

Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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If we use this definition Heston Blumenthal, who has no formal training but has had his restaurant voted the best in the world a number of times, is not a chef. Somehow I don't think the definition works.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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it is a bit like PhD's who insist on the title "Doctor," with less justification.

A minor point....PhDs are quite legitimately called "Doctor". A PhD who insists on it is an ass of course, but so is an MD who insists.

Agree w the rest of your post.

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Isnt a CHEF a person who has gone through CHEFS School and graduated?

Like my cousin went to the CIA and spent time at the Cordon Bleu (I cant recall the extent)

A Cook is someone who has cooked at restaurants but hasnt had formal training.

No. Cooking School produces cooks. You are not a chef when you walk out the door of CIA or Cordon Bleu with your certificate(s) and you can be a chef without ever attending any of those schools. Culinary schools are primarily producing line cooks, it's up to the individual to have the drive and determination to go beyond that. I was trying to make the point that "chef" is a term that has been bastardized to the point of being meaningless outside of the restaurant environment with my tongue-in-cheek reference to the rules of chef club but I guess I didn't do a good job with it. Chef is chef to his/her subordinates in the restaurant. Once you step outside that environment, anybody with a chef's coat and the ability to talk the talk can claim the title and there's no line of questioning that can prove otherwise.

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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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James Beard would bridle at being called a chef. At one time the title Chef was bestowed only on graduates from the Cordon Bleu in France. Now days some people think of themselves as a chef if they have graduated from any cooking school even if they haven't got a job in a kitchen yet. Others insist you have to have experience in a restaurant kitchen. Some people consider calling any masterful cook a chef regardless of formal training. Some people consider themselves chefs if they teach cooking. It is conceivable that someone with a hotel-restaurant management degree who runs a restaurant in a hotel, has the title executive chef, yet may not ever do any actual cooking. The term is so loosely applied now days in this country as to be too nebulous to pin down to a specific person.

Edited by Norm Matthews (log)
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I realize the focus of this discussion is on what constitutes a "real chef" but I'm surprised more people aren't getting their hackles up over the term "normal food". Having a category of food he considers "normal" would be much more offensive to me than claiming to be a chef (assuming he's not). Even if it were possible to categorize food as "normal", what that category contained would have to vary so much based on location, tradition, personal preference, etc. that it would require thousands of sub-categories. Instead of trying to drill him on whether or not he's a chef, I'd be drilling him on what he considers "normal food". I think that may tell you all you need to know about his actual experience and knowledge.

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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Chef is a job title, and its pretty self explanatory. Lots of masturbating around the topic, but a chef is somebody who has run a brigade, large or small. It has nothing to do with certification, training, skill, whatever. Hope this clears up a not very difficult question for you all.

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Chef is a job title, and its pretty self explanatory. Lots of masturbating around the topic, but a chef is somebody who has run a brigade, large or small. It has nothing to do with certification, training, skill, whatever. Hope this clears up a not very difficult question for you all.

I'm pretty sure that's what a few of us have already said, but thanks for bestowing your wisdom upon us. I disagree that simply saying the word "chef" to most people is self explanatory though. Most people associate that word with cooking skill, not leadership ability. Whether or not that's the case is irrelevant, most think it's true and will continue to think that way. Try to convince a room full of non-restaurant, not foodie, non-eGullet people that there are chefs out there that never cook at all and see what kind of reaction you get. It very frequently requires explaining if one considers it worth the bother. I don't as a general rule.

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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My first instinct in a situation like this is to say "don't feed the troll."

I've got to agree with Nick on this: definitely don't approach this as a problem of finding some question you can ask him that will "prove" he's not a "real chef" (whatever that means). Ignore him.

Alternately, since I am in fact a fake chef, I can vet your potential questions to see if you can tell me from the real thing :smile:.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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