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"Chef" -- Who is? Who ain't?


Stone
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The next Food Network Game Show: "Chef or Not a Chef!" With your host, Wink Bourdain, and an all-star panel including Baby-Faced Bobby, Baby-Faced Jamie, and Baby-Faced Rachel. On with the first round . . . .

The guy grilling pizzas at Otto? Chef or not a Chef, Wink?

The guy that develops Quiznos's new subs? What you say, contestants, Chef or not a Chef?

The guy running Blue Smoke's bbq pit (or whatever)?

The guy tending Arthur Bryant's great wall of Que?

Leonard Nimoy? He's a Jew, Wink.

I don't really have an opinion on this one, but I've spoken with people that do. They think the title "Chef" requires a certain level of training, expertise, responsibility and a certain stature of restaurant (or past restaurant). They think that calling someone who devlops food for a fast food restaurant a Chef is comprable to calling Bob Cobb "Maestro."

Edited by Stone (log)
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And another thing: when is something cuisine, and when is it just plain cooking? According to the dictionary, "cuisine" is a characteristic method or approach to cooking, but that somehow doesn't capture it.

Perhaps my biases are showing, but "cuisine" sounds right when paired with, say, French or Italian, but not with, say, Greek or southern.

And every jumped-up fry cook in existence can be heard spouting off about his own (rarely her own) "cuisine."

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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The guy that develops Quiznos's new subs?  What you say, contestants, Chef or not a Chef?

Chef, in fact a very smart chef - coming up with a 9-5 corporate gig, megabucks, full benefits, company car and fat expense account.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

Twitter

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Anyone who jets around the country telling minimum wages monkeys to add more of packet number six to the ranch dressing is not a chef.

Anyone who is holed up in a " food lab" somewhere with a flip chart denoting demographical preferences and sports a name tag that reads "TGIFriday's Corporate Chef" is not a chef.

Anyone who throws killer Colin Cowie style dinner parties, is not a chef.

Anyone who has schmoozed his/her way around the brigade system but makes "the best biscuits this side of the Mason/Dixon line and finds it necessary to curse the maker when something is spilled on his/her 105 dollar piped and monogrammed Bragard chef coat is not a chef.

Anyone who has paid the dues, worked years on end breakinig his/her back with the ultimate desire to produce quality food, that has great organizational skills, a fatherly demeanor and a passion for perfection is, in my humble opinion qualified for the title. It's not about schooling, or intellect. It's about loving the heat, the hours, the deprivation, about late night discussions concerning vegetables over beers....

It's about the passion for food. If you're the biscuit king you ain't worthy.

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Anyone who has paid the dues, worked years on end breakinig his/her back with the ultimate desire to produce quality food, that has great organizational skills, a fatherly demeanor and a passion for perfection is, in my humble opinion qualified for the title.  It's not about schooling, or intellect.  It's about loving the heat, the hours, the deprivation, about late night discussions concerning vegetables over beers....

It's about the passion for food.

Well stated.

Perhaps a wee peek into the heart and soul of Chef Spencer?

:cool:

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I like Spencer's response, but tend to agree with Gordon. Everybody's a chef these days...whatever makes you feel better about yourself. My criteria is somewhere between I guess. If I don't know you and your wearing the uniform, it's "chef". If you really are the chef and your a hack, it's "Bob".

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Anyone who has paid the dues, worked years on end breakinig his/her back with the ultimate desire to produce quality food, that has great organizational skills, a fatherly demeanor and a passion for perfection is, in my humble opinion qualified for the title.  It's not about schooling, or intellect.  It's about loving the heat, the hours, the deprivation, about late night discussions concerning vegetables over beers....

What about someone who spends more time in front of a computer than a stove ? :laugh:

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Anyone who has paid the dues, worked years on end breakinig his/her back with the ultimate desire to produce quality food, that has great organizational skills, a fatherly demeanor and a passion for perfection is, in my humble opinion qualified for the title.  It's not about schooling, or intellect.  It's about loving the heat, the hours, the deprivation, about late night discussions concerning vegetables over beers....

It's about the passion for food.  If you're the biscuit king you ain't worthy.

I think the title also includes respect,and the ability to manage a team. A person like you described can meander from job to job, flit in and flit out, and never get respect from his cooks. Unless that's what you meant by fatherly demeanor..though that sounds less professional than just being a straghtforward, fair kitchen manager.

Edited by Kim WB (log)
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I'm adamant about this. They're turning "chefs" out at culinary schools with alarming regularity. It's like a factory...watch the Snicker's pass through the enrober, get air dried, wrapped in plastic, and chunked into a box. The pop culturing of food has lead the way to making it appear that being a chef is akin to being a rockstar. You gotta know how to play a fucking instrument to be able to make music, otherwise you're as cheap and disposable as an N'Sync or a 50 cent.

No, being a chef, a true cusinier, is a highly admirable thing. Sometimes when I have a bad day, don't give a fuck about food, or pump out crap that I know isn't worth the price of the ingredients (like yesterday) and then someone calls me CHEF, I don't think it's right. You've got to be vigilant all the time. Chef isn't a title perse but a state of mind. I can't stand doing these events with other "chefs" who serve fucking jambolaya that tastes like a Zatarain train wreck.

You've got to be able to walk many fine lines...

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I give up to differenciate. It's too ingrained in John Q Public: any"thing" that cooks is a Chef.

Am I one? Read my BIO.

I am much more concerned with everything today called "Gourmet".

What the he.. are Gourmet Jelly Beans?

Sauerkraut? and what else there is out there?

Read the press releases, every food manufacturer has a Gourmet line, even when it comes to spices, I don't get it.

Peter
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Anyone who has paid the dues, worked years on end breakinig his/her back with the ultimate desire to produce quality food, that has great organizational skills, a fatherly demeanor and a passion for perfection is, in my humble opinion qualified for the title.  It's not about schooling, or intellect.  It's about loving the heat, the hours, the deprivation, about late night discussions concerning vegetables over beers....

It's about the passion for food.  If you're the biscuit king you ain't worthy.

I think the title also includes respect,and the ability to manage a team. A person like you described can meander from job to job, flit in and flit out, and never get respect from his cooks. Unless that's what you meant by fatherly demeanor..though that sounds less professional than just being a straghtforward, fair kitchen manager.

most chefs do meander around. the riperts and keller's are rare. if you're getting awesome press and great reviews there's no need to go elsewhere. but if you're like me, you exhaust every opportunity a gig can offer and then move on in your search. eventually you want to get to a place that meets your lofty criteria. i haven't found my Yountville, unfortunately.

And Gordon touche my friend. Though my computer is ten paces away from my 10 burner blodgett. :smile:

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The chef is the cook who is in charge of a large kitchen.(staff)

Exactly. The word "chef" is French for "chief," not for "cook" or "professional." The title comes with the job, it doesn't come with a diploma from a school. Once you get the title, like president, senator, governor, and the like, you get to keep the title. Those of you who insist on using your subjective standards are free to do so, but recognize them as prejudices. Spencer, you could read Pepin's book and learn something new about your profession.

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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most chefs do meander around.  the riperts and keller's are rare.  if you're getting awesome press and great reviews there's no need to go elsewhere.  but if you're like me, you exhaust every opportunity a gig can offer and then move on in your search.  eventually you want to get to a place that meets your lofty criteria.  i haven't found my Yountville, unfortunately. 

I don't agree..in point, I think its the "I wanna be a superstar" kinda cooks that mvoe from place to place. lasting 6 mo here and a year there...unwilling or unable to work with an owner , a staff or a system patiently enough for the establishment to be what he /she wants it to be... It takes fortitude, loyalty, and patience to create high caliber food...there are many talanted chefs who have the passion you describe, but not the people skills or management skills to contribute to an environment that appreciates his talent.

I've seen assholes with plenty of passion take over a kitchen, and in 6 months the place is either downhill, or on cruise control...both harmful IMHO. A chef needs to be a manager, a leader, and a creator.

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Though my computer is ten paces away from my 10 burner blodgett.  :smile:

I am 4 paces from my 6 burner imperial :biggrin:

In my heart i'm a chef, even though i don't cook as much as i want too.But then again,bigger kitchens than mine (ie 99%) have head chefs that manage the kitchen, not actually cooking that much.I,m just cranky that my Sunday on the stove was taken from me by the waitress ending up in A+E an hour before her shift started :sad: But i get to handle food everyday, even if its just prepping a bit of fish in the afternoon

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[spencer, you could read Pepin's book and learn something new about your profession.

In total agreement. I know only what I've learned and nothing more.

Pepin worked as chef for Howard Johnson's and is proud of what he accomplished there.

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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[spencer, you could read Pepin's book and learn something new about your profession.

In total agreement. I know only what I've learned and nothing more.

Pepin worked as chef for Howard Johnson's and is proud of what he accomplished there.

Keller was a lowly breakfast cook... preparing hollandaise was Godlike. Next.

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I have always thought of the title "Chef" in the cooking world being kind of like the title "Maestro" in my profession.

In general, they are the titles from a classical tradition used in a professional setting to refer to the person in charge of the proceedings -- the person who has ultimate creative control and responsibility. In my experience, these titles are only "mandatory" while the person in charge is exercising his/her capacity as the person in charge. This is to say that I always refer to the conductor as "Maestro" while in rehearsals, but do not necessarily feel obligated to call him/her by that title outside of rehearsal. I would imagine that similar things are true for people in the professional kitchen.

While I don't think that the quality of the music or food impacts whether one deserves the title "Chef" or "Maestro," I do think it is important that the context in which it is used is within the parameters of the respective classical traditions and cultures. The leader of a rock band is not a "Maestro" -- neither is the manager of a Burritoville a "Chef."

After a while some conductors attain such a level of respect/prominence/political influence that they are always referred to as "Maestro" -- this is the case with Maestro Alberto Zedda, for instance. Historically, this has also been the case with composers (e.g., "Maestro Rossini"), but it was also commonplace in those days that composers conducted and/or otherwise supervised performances of their music. I assume that similar things are true for people in the restaurant profession. One may be referred to as a "Chef" or "Maestro" as a reference to one's usual job or as a token of respect for past/current accomplishments in that capacity.

It is also the case that people in the classical music business are often wrongly called "Maestro" by people who don't really know any better. It is never appropriate to say "Maestro Luciano Pavarotti." Furthermore, no one outside the context of professional classical music should be called "Maestro." One does not call an amateur pianist or guitarist "Maestro So-and-so." It is quite clear that similar misapplications happen with "Chef" on a regular basis as well. A home cook, no matter how accomplished or celebrated, is not a "Chef." Nothing pains me more than to have a well-meaning friend introduce me to someone in the food profession as "a great chef." Similar mistakes are consistently made with "diva" and "prima donna" but that is rather outside the scope of this comparison. I guess it has something to do with these terms entering the popular vocabulary. No one goes around wrongly calling people "Concertmaster" or "Garde Manger."

--

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I can't stand doing these events with other "chefs" who serve fucking jambolaya that tastes like a Zatarain train wreck. 

You crack me up.

Noise is music. All else is food.

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