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

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Whenever we try and lump a guy like Thomas Keller and Bobby Flay in the same category as "Chef", tensions will run high.

Hey Electrolux, even I lump Keller and Flay together. Come on bro. They're both quality chefs. Maybe Keller could cook Flay into ash but that's a question of metier...Compare Keller to, oh I don't know, Keith Famie and I'll sit on your jury bench with a load of tnt.

Wow, CWS, looks like I agree with you on something! (sort of) - Keller and Flay both qualify. However, asumming it's true (as another thread here on eG attests to), Kieth Famie, has culinary training and was one of the '89 Food & Wine 10 best new Chefs. Hence no TNT needed.

-Eric

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Whenever we try and lump a guy like Thomas Keller and Bobby Flay in the same category as "Chef", tensions will run high. Youre dealing with a profession that encompasses artistry, respect, dignity and passion. Most chefs will never fit that bill like  TK. So in comparing you begin to water down the beauty of the meaning. Its like comparing Van Gogh to a company that produces thousands of Monet reprints.

Hey Electrolux, even I lump Keller and Flay together. Come on bro. They're both quality chefs. Maybe Keller could cook Flay into ash but that's a question of metier...Compare Keller to, oh I don't know, Keith Famie and I'll sit on your jury bench with a load of tnt.

Again, the mistake you make is that people aren't lumping these people together in terms of talent, just in terms of their job description. You want to make the title "chef" into some kind of metaphysical/spiritual/philosophical badge of honor earned only through the paying of dues and the attainment of talent and expertise -- both up to some nebulous, personally defined level. That's just not the way things work. I think we can all agree that a vast disparity of talent, expertise and artistry (among other things) exists bewteen Yitzhak Perlman and the guy scratching on the violin for spare change in the Times Square subway station. Nevertheless, they are both violinists.


--

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Are we talking Keller's quality, or Flay's quality?

I don't think quality has anything to do with it. It's possible to hold a title and be flat out bad at the profession. IMO Keller is a better chef, but I don't think Flay is a bad chef by any stretch, however.

-Eric

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Maybe, but when I stayed up until midnight at the age of nine just to watch my favorite wrestler, no one could convince me it wasn't real. On the other hand when I watched Iron Chef, no one could convince me this had much to do with real restaurant cooking. It's all relative.

why do you keep suggesting that iron chef has nothing to do with "real cooking"? is it all just smoke and mirrors? are these not talented chefs created dishes that actually taste good? or are the guests on the "panel" forcing down crap just for the "theatre"?

I don't keep suggesting that Iron Chef has nothing to do with real cooking. What I said was that I didn't think it had much to do with real "restaurant" cooking. There are two distinctions I made. One was that it was more about entertainment than about cooking, in my opinion. The more important distinction was that it was not about what goes on in a restaurant where a real chef works as a leader of the team. Restaurant cooking is not spur of the minute creation for the most part. Very little of a chef's fame rests on creating dishes under the strictures of a competitive Iron Chef show. A restaurant chef works with a team he's selected and trained. Iron Chef is an interesting and entertaining show, but it is a very artificial kitchen in terms of where a restaurant chef does his business.

We're off topic, but Iron Chef has more to do with cooking than it does with being a chef. Although the effect is to confuse creative cooking with being a chef, all of the contestants are chefs however.


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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Yes dear, you're a muff magnet.  Or at least your puppy is.

We're both muff magnets.

Now we can move to the next question . . .

Which would you rather be when you grow up: a chef or a muff magnet? (You can be both but which would you rather be known as?)

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The non-chef doers must be cast into hades and watch cooking demos from Andre Soltner and The Trois Gros brothers for eternity.........

Sorry about that, Im better now. Where were we?


Future Food - our new television show airing 3/30 @ 9pm cst:

http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tv/future-food/

Hope you enjoy the show! Homaro Cantu

Chef/Owner of Moto Restaurant

www.motorestaurant.com

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Are we talking Keller's quality, or Flay's quality?

I don't think quality has anything to do with it. It's possible to hold a title and be flat out bad at the profession. IMO Keller is a better chef, but I don't think Flay is a bad chef by any stretch, however.

-Eric

Exactly...I may scoff at blue corn crusted lobster with ancho-lime blah blah blah, but I bet it's tasty. Flay's a chef, Keller's a chef. They both attempt to put forth their best effort to create "quality" food and they manage brigades, though in Flay's instance they may be called "kitchen bitches." That makes them chefs, end of story. The creator of the McDonald's salad shaker...not chef.

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Which would you rather be when you grow up:  a chef or a muff magnet?  (You can be both but which would you rather be known as?)

Wouldn't being known as a chef enhance your chances as a muff magnet?


I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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Where were we?

Answer my question.

Im not sure I understand the question.

Which would you rather be when you grow up: a chef or a muff magnet? (You can be both but which would you rather be known as?)

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Which would you rather be when you grow up:  a chef or a muff magnet?  (You can be both but which would you rather be known as?)

Wouldn't being known as a chef enhance your chances as a muff magnet?

Well, I have had "Chef, you're a muff magnet" whispered in my ear by some very beautiful women.

I have always replied, "I'm not a chef. But we can flow with the rest. Need that drink freshed up?"

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Iron Chef has been mentioned a few times and the little back and forth between Bux and Tommy is interesting. Misperceptions of what it means to be called "chef" even get in the way of discussing Iron Chef! Bux--I tend to agree entirely with your last post:

"One was that it was more about entertainment than about cooking, in my opinion. The more important distinction was that it was not about what goes on in a restaurant where a real chef works as a leader of the team. Restaurant cooking is not spur of the minute creation for the most part. Very little of a chef's fame rests on creating dishes under the strictures of a competitive Iron Chef show. A restaurant chef works with a team he's selected and trained. Iron Chef is an interesting and entertaining show, but it is a very artificial kitchen in terms of where a restaurant chef does his business.

We're off topic, but Iron Chef has more to do with cooking than it does with being a chef. Although the effect is to confuse creative cooking with being a chef, all of the contestants are chefs however."

However--I'd take it a little further. From my perspective when I watch that show I see chefs--chefs who run their own restaurants, ran their own restaurants, or could most likely run their own restaurants if they chose to--and I usually see very talented chefs working, their speed and bench skills are displayed well and they, to an extent, do lead their team of assistants all the way through the broadcast, delegating tasks as any restaurant chef would, to accomplish their goal efficiently. This may be entertaining to watch but it is very much about being a chef, about creation and about cooking. And that cooking is not, necessarily, "spur of the moment creation." The chefs know in advance what the three possible main ingredients are--and they are fully aware of the equipment and pantry of ingredients available to them. If they are smart they have their entire menus planned for each of the possible three main ingredients and have planned their prep order and plating sequence for themselves and their assistants. Depending on how seriously they might want to prepare--there's no reason why they couldn't develop and test all their dishes (3 main ingredient options x 5 = 15 dishes) beforehand and even "practice" making their dishes in the timeframe of an hour. I am not the most total junkie of the show but I'd suspect the chefs only need to make adjustments on the fly (during taping) based on mistakes, equipment error or errant electrocution.


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Are we at a point where we might say that whomever chooses to call themselves a chef is a chef?

And if you disagree with the above, please explain the actual effects that would be had from this.

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Are we at a point where we might say that whomever chooses to call themselves a chef is a chef?

And if you disagree with the above, please explain the actual effects that would be had from this.

No. A chef is someone who works in a professional kitchen in which he/she manages the kitchen staff, over which he/she has some creative control and for which he/she is primarily responsibility for the quality and qualities of the output.


--

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Are we at a point where we might say that whomever chooses to call themselves a chef is a chef?

And if you disagree with the above, please explain the actual effects that would be had from this.

No. A chef is someone who works in a professional kitchen in which he/she manages the kitchen staff, over which he/she has some creative control and for which he/she is primarily responsibility for the quality and qualities of the output.

But what is the difference that makes a difference?

Why care about who calls themselves a chef?

What would be the ill effects?

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invento, where did you obtain that figure?


"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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But what is the difference that makes a difference?

IMO, all the things I said make a difference.

Why care about who calls themselves a chef?

Because words have meanings, and it makes sense to use them appropriately. This is the same reason I would not call Andrea Bocelli an "opera singer" even though he does sing some operatic pieces.

What would be the ill effects?

Well, certainly there won't be a plague of locusts or a rain of frogs, but I think it comes down to what I said before about words having meanings -- and I can certainly understand why people who pursue professional restaurant cooking would not want the title to which they aspire co-opted by weekend charcoal briquette grillers who like their steaks medium-well with KC Masterpiece burnt on the outside. I also think it is important to distinguish between professionals and amateurs. Chef, in my understanding of the word as it applies to cooking, is a professional term. Now, you might have someone who directs the volunteer "staff" every Sunday in turning out meals at the local church... and that guy might be an amateur chef, but he's not a chef. It is interesting that the professional titles from some professions have been co-opted by amateurs while others have not.


--

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Are we at a point where we might say that whomever chooses to call themselves a chef is a chef?

And if you disagree with the above, please explain the actual effects that would be had from this.

No. A chef is someone who works in a professional kitchen in which he/she manages the kitchen staff, over which he/she has some creative control and for which he/she is primarily responsibility for the quality and qualities of the output.

But what is the difference that makes a difference?

Why care about who calls themselves a chef?

What would be the ill effects?

The distinction here is that whoever chooses to call themselves a chef, may call themselves a chef, but that calling yourself a chef doesn't make you a chef. Neither Duke Ellington not Duke Snyder were dukes. Doctor J was not a doctor. So if the local TV channel wants to dress some idiot up in a white hat and jacket, have him give cooking tips for the sponsor's products and call him chef, they can and we may refer to him by his TV name, but he's not a chef. The title is unprotected by law, but the job description remains. It is a waste if time to get offended every time someone misuses the word, because of the way it is used in popular terms, but that doesn't mean it loses it's professional meaning. On the other hand it's not a protected term and we're all free to use it as we may if we can't agree on a common meaning.


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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