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Cooks vs. Chefs


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I paid my way through college by working in restaurant kitchens.  First as a dishwasher and then prep, and so on and so forth until I was allowed to do garde manger.  One thing I noticed was that a lot of the line cooks were more skilled in execution and technique than the formally trained "chefs".  

Even though a lowly line cook would perfectly saute a veal scallopini, the chef would go out into the dining room to take credit.  The chef always said, "I am the creative one, I invent the dishes."  But, I always thought, "hey dumbass, you didn't invent veal pounded thin and sauteed quickly."

I am not trying to diss trained chefs, and I realize that you are one, but just wanted to get your take on this.  Do you think cooks get overlooked for what they contribute to a killer meal?

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Goddamn right! Line cooks are, have been--and always will be overlooked, underpaid, misunderstood, semi-invisible creatures. You will notice--that most "foodies" and food writers--have no idea who actually cooks their food--and often betray a most unlovely dislike for cooks--on the rare occasions that they get to meet them or hear from them. Hesser's comment somewhere that most of the cooks she knows are college educated (if I recall the comment correctly) is a particularly good example of this. It's a class thing. Cooks..and even chefs are backstairs help. We are servers..in the "hospitality industry". We see the public at their best and worst--just like the servants in Gosford Park. And they know we do. Cooks instinctively feel this and know this--and more often then not--relish their apartness. Chefs may be flavor of the decade now..but it's probably smart to keep all this in mind when suddenly celebrityhairdressers are the thing to be again. Chefs who don't appreciate their cooks--who think they are somehow better than their cooks cause they got a nicer jacket and get to hang out at the bar have their heads hopelesly up their asses--and deserve flaying, flogging and the pillary. "Artists"? "Conceptual geniuses?" Please. Othe than a few rare examples of real artist..there is no reinventing the wheel--and nothing new under the sun--just a few new spokes now and again..as my pal Donovan says.

abourdain

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Goddamn right! Line cooks are, have been--and always will be overlooked, underpaid, misunderstood, semi-invisible creatures. You will notice--that most "foodies" and food writers--have no idea who actually cooks their food--and often betray a most unlovely dislike for cooks--on the rare occasions that they get to meet them or hear from them. Hesser's comment somewhere that most of the cooks she knows are college educated (if I recall the comment correctly) is a particularly good example of this. It's a class thing. Cooks..and even chefs are backstairs help. We are servers..in the "hospitality industry". We see the public at their best and worst--just like the servants in Gosford Park. And they know we do. Cooks instinctively feel this and know this--and more often then not--relish their apartness. Chefs may be flavor of the decade now..but it's probably smart to keep all this in mind when suddenly celebrityhairdressers are the thing to be again. Chefs who don't appreciate their cooks--who think they are somehow better than their cooks cause they got a nicer jacket and get to hang out at the bar have their heads hopelesly up their asses--and deserve flaying, flogging and the pillary. "Artists"? "Conceptual geniuses?" Please. Othe than a few rare examples of real artist..there is no reinventing the wheel--and nothing new under the sun--just a few new spokes now and again..as my pal Donovan says.

This may be a faux pas (commenting on a Q&A) but couldn't agree more and couldn't resist.  Always tell my guys: " When all is said and done, when you distill what we do.  Abstract the essence of our kitchen beings.  It comes down to one thing: We Cook For The Rich. Don't forget it." Your answer is why so many of us pro's respect you so much.  No gush jes' fact.

All the artsy fartsy stuff is illusion.

YMMV

Nick

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With nearly 20 years under my belt from dish dog to chef I just wanna to say that you are 100% correct.

Cheers,

Tim

"An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup." - H. L. Mencken

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As a line cook who never expects to make it any "higher:"  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

It's clear in your books that you feel that way, but it's heart-warming to hear it said out loud in the presence of so many.

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...."The Envelope please........."

And someone please fill umpteen ones with Mr. Bourdain's quote, address and send to all known and unknown Restaurants, their proprietors and others in command, with an additional note, that the time on the clock is set and to better wake up when it rings.

Peter
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Thanks for the question, Ron. :wink:

"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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