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


Stone
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Legally use the title - nope. At least not down here, and to the best of my knowledge not in the USA. The use of the title is limited to those who have passed the criteria (bar exam) and have not been disbarred. Once disbarred, you are not entitled to use the title.

This is how I see it.

Which takes me once again to: comparing the use of titles in regulated licensed professions (as to the use of said title) to the use of titles in unregulated unlicensed professions (as to the use of said title) is about as productive as asking how many angels fit on the head of a pin.

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Thus, title comes down to schooling.  Go to school, get the education, get the title.  In this sense the culinary arts are lagging behind other professions.

Your first two sentences are not universally true and if they were, your third sentence would be untrue.

I know of no chef schools. I am aware of culinary schools and cooking schools. A graduate of a cooking school is probably entitled to call himself a cook. At any rate I would not bother to argue with him if he did so. Understand that simply stated, a "chef" is a head cook. He is in charge of kitchen brigade by definition. Now the graduate of a medical college may well be entitled to call himself a doctor, but perhaps not a surgeon. Is there a school of surgery from which one can graduate as a surgeon? I suspect not, but if there was one, the graduate would only be entitled to call himself a surgeon and not a head surgeon. To earn the latter title, he would actually have to be appointed to the head of a team of surgeons at a hospital or other surgical unit. Thus you miss the distinction between chef, which signifies command of others and cook which signifies command of a lore of professional knowledge.

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.

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Thus you miss the distinction between chef, which signifies command of others and cook which signifies command of a lore of professional knowledge

Perhaps you miss the distinction that your definition only holds good within the profession. And even then only loosely so. The griller who command two sub-grillers (?) would therefore be a chef? Right? From outside the profession, a chef is anybody who cooks well, professionally or not. By all means, apply whatever esoteric criteria you 'insiders' want - in the bigger scheme of things it really matters very little.

Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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I know of no chef schools. I am aware of culinary schools and cooking schools. A graduate of a cooking school is probably entitled to call himself a cook. At any rate I would not bother to argue with him if he did so. Understand that simply stated, a "chef" is a head cook. He is in charge of kitchen brigade by definition.

So, the head of the kitchen at Quiznos and Pizzaria Unos and McDonalds is a "Chef"?

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So, the head of the kitchen at Quiznos and Pizzaria Unos and McDonalds is a "Chef"?

Stone,

If we came to universal agreement on the legitimate use of the title "chef," what difference would it make? :unsure:

None.

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Understand that simply stated, a "chef" is a head cook. He is in charge of kitchen brigade by definition. ... Thus you miss the distinction between chef, which signifies command of others and cook which signifies command of a lore of professional knowledge.

This is exactly the point I made earlier in the thread about the hypothetical possibility that one could be a "chef" without being a good cook. Since the person in charge of the kitchen is, by the very definitition of the word, the "chef," then it stands to reason that it is possible for one to be a chef and at the same time not a very good cook.

As others have pointed out, some like Spencer want to endow the word "chef" with certain romantic notions... make it something special, something "earned," something spiritually meaningful to them. Quickly and predictably this has degenerated into a semantic argument similar to asking "what is a pianist? is it someone who plays the piano, or is it someone who earns a living playing the piano, or is it someone who creates music and Art at the piano?" with the latter definition requiring some kind of subjective judgment of artistic merit and perhaps the "paying of dues." There is no way to answer these questions and no way the two sides can ever be reconciled. Obviously, someone who has poured heart and soul into the piano or the professional kitchen is going to have a rather proprietary and personal view that will incline them more towards the romantic, spiritual and "earned" definition.

But still, that does not change the fact that "chef" is French for "boss" and that the boss of a professional kitchen operation is de facto a chef. Maybe not a very good chef, but a chef nevertheless.

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gsquared, Do I miss the distinction that your definition only holds good within the profession? In a world where every suburban housewife refers to her husband and the backyard chef, I see no reason to account for the popular definition of a word that has lost all meaning when used outside the profession. In the example I offer, the term chef is reserved for the person who does the weekend cooking and whose talents may be limited to one dish cooked one way, while the person dispensing the title does all the real cooking. The term "chef" is so misused outside the profession that it has no meaning there at all. Needless to say, all the posts to which I've replied, have been about what to call a cook who has had formal training or is the head of a trained kitchen brigade. The use of "chef" as a term meaning talented cook is particularly unfortunate one in my opinion, but I recognize its existence. I've had barbers and shoemakers that were artists.

Stone, the head of the kitchen at Quiznos and Pizzaria Unos and McDonalds is a "Chef" if he manages a team of cooks. He's at least technically a chef assuming you have any respect for his team as cooks. Would the head of the army of some tiny island republic be a general even if his army had seventeen soldiers and no weapons? Actually my arguement in this thread was more about who wasn't a chef -- e.g. a graduate cook -- than about who was, but thanks for the other side of this issue. There may be more qualifications necessary. The base qualification is that one heads, or headed, a kitchen brigade. Once a chef always a chef, like a mayor, governor or president.

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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slkinsey, one could be a "chef" without being a good cook, but it's unlikely. It's possible that one could be a great chef and not a great cook, but I think one would have to be a good cook at least to understand the job of chef. I've also found that it can be hard to get excellent performance from many workers unless you can show them exactly what you mean by excellence. So, in a sense, chefdom is something that has to be earned, but of course a graduate cook can have enough money to buy a restaurant and pay a staff of cooks and call himself a chef without earning the respect of his staff. His staff may sneer when he uses the title and he may not have any respect in his field, but still, as you note "that does not change the fact that "chef" is French for "boss" and that the boss of a professional kitchen operation is de facto a chef. Maybe not a very good chef, but a chef nevertheless."

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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Stone, the head of the kitchen at Quiznos and Pizzaria Unos and McDonalds is a "Chef" if he manages a team of cooks. He's at least technically a chef assuming you have any respect for his team as cooks. Would the head of the army of some tiny island republic be a general even if his army had seventeen soldiers and no weapons? Actually my arguement in this thread was more about who wasn't a chef -- e.g. a graduate cook -- than about who was, but thanks for the other side of this issue. There may be more qualifications necessary. The base qualification is that one heads, or headed, a kitchen brigade. Once a chef always a chef, like a mayor, governor or president.

This is one of the most reasonable things anyone has said yet on this thread. Thank you for that.

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Once a chef, always a chef?????????

When I cease to exist as one who practices the transfer of heat to edible food products, I am no longer a chef. Merely an observer.

(I was never a chef to begin with, but thats another story.)

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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Once a chef, always a chef?????????

When I cease to exist as one who practices the transfer of heat to edible food products, I am no longer a chef. Merely an observer.

(I was never a chef to begin with, but thats another story.)

Does this mean that someone who runs a professional kitchen but who may not have the health to work the line is no longer a "Chef?" What about Joel Robuchon during his hiatus?

I would suggest that when you "cease to exist as one who practices the transfer of heat to edible food products," you are no longer a cook.

Edit = last para added.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Once a chef, always a chef?????????

When I cease to exist as one who practices the transfer of heat to edible food products, I am no longer a chef. Merely an observer.

(I was never a chef to begin with, but thats another story.)

I'm sure Jommy Carter feels much the same way about being president now that he's escaped the heat of the kitchen. :biggrin: The nature of the world is such that few of us have much control over what others call us. :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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Once a chef, always a chef?????????

When I cease to exist as one who practices the transfer of heat to edible food products, I am no longer a chef. Merely an observer.

(I was never a chef to begin with, but thats another story.)

Just a quick one before I commence banging my head against the brick wall next to me . . .

Isn't the transfer of heat to edible food products known as "cooking" rather than "chefing"?

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Next time I go to Mickey D's I'm going to insist that the "chef" douce my fucking Big Mac with special sauce...then I'm going home to suffocate myself with it, leaving a note that reads "I did it for the confit de canard."

I think calling a kitchen manager a chef is shitty...yes, I'm highly emotional, psychotically so perhaps, but this reeks of politcal correctness. Better not offend Mr. Burgerhead manager dude by calling him a kitchen manager. Perhaps I'm the Bill Mahr of the culinary world, sadly unafraid to assert stanky feet into tight asses but we need to move away from the semantic discussion if, like we all agree, there is no clear cut rite of passage that makes one a chef. Perhaps I will be fired from my own show...though if I were a betting man I'd risk a prediction that my opinion is important in the industry. But this discussion cuts right to the heart of what I'm all about.

Bux will easily shoot me down with his ability to draw straight lines between two distinctly ambiguous ideologies but I simply won't die a Big Mac death without getting my point across. Chef is an earned title, obtainable in a variety of ways but earned none the less. And I assert for all of the guys who are actually commanding the great worried brigades of the recession based purple sage, who are burning limbs, working the hours, who are creating magical ephinanies for the minority foodie that can't be duplicated at the acned fast food/corporate junkets that a chef is a person to be respected for his contributions to the future and his utter regard for the traditions that brought him forth into his chosen occupation. A kitchen manager a chef? Hogwash.

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One must cook to chef.

OK... but where and how? Do you think Alain Ducasse really does much professional cooking these days? Would a chef who had "paid his dues" on the line but who had stepped back from that activity for many years to run the kitchen and was perhaps physically unable to perform in that capacity due to the ravages of the aforementioned dues-paying not be a "chef" in your book? I mean, look... almost everyone can do some cooking. Is a chef who has not done any physical restaurant line-type cooking for many years but who can still come up with good dishes and occasionally whips up a perfect omelet when the kitchen isn't busy a chef or not a chef?

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Next time I go to Mickey D's I'm going to insist that the "chef" douce my fucking Big Mac with special sauce...then I'm going home to suffocate myself with it, leaving a note that reads "I did it for the confit de canard." 

Promise? :blink:

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A kitchen manager a chef?

Depends on whose kitchen it is.

The legitimization of an individual's use of the title of "chef" is based on said title being conferred by their community.

So, it all depends on the community.

In other words, it's relative.

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A kitchen manager a chef?  Hogwash.

Personally, and as I said before, for me I think the term has the most meaning if it is confined to the boss of the kitchen within the context of the "classical" restaurant kitchen concept. This would more or less rule out people who run fast food joints and diners, and put "chef" more in an elevated context I think you would appreciate.

I am a little curious about one thing with respect to your "dues-paying" requirement, however... how would this account for extraordinary and precocious talent? Might one such person (a "Mozart of the kitchen," if you will) be able to jump up to being a "chef" in a relatively short period of time without necessarily investing a great deal of blood, sweat, toil and tears?

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All definitions boil down to technicalities. Perhaps there is a lawyer surfing this forum that could elaborate on the strange world of law making. One thing is for certain, blanket definitions rarely fit every mold.

In my world a chef is a cook and hardly ever reaches chef status. For a culinary school grad who just landed a job as Spencer's "grill guy", he may already have it in his mind that he/she is a chef.

If the blanket title defining worked, then why do we have problems with doctors who lose malpractice suits?(another thread on another web site perhaps?) Was this doctor not continuing to further his education while practicing? The list of questions are many. Bottom line: when a title is taken for granted, it loses its meaning and respect for the title is eventually lost. It would be unfair to place Ferran Adria and some cooking school grad or even a guy like Bobby Flay in the same league.

Edited by inventolux (log)

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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