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Jennifer Brizzi

Are you a cook or are you a chef?

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Those of us who are loony for cooking may sport an apron that says "Kiss the Cook," a pima cotton chef's jacket with our name embroidered on it, or just whatever we happen to be wearing when we enter the kitchen.

It's clear that a lot of us here on eGullet are really good cooks, from love of the sport and lots of practice, even without true chef status. Are we chefs anyway, because we make such damn good food? Or are we just good cooks?

I just explored this in my blog and wondered what my fellow food-crazy folk who don't happen to have degrees from culinary schools like to call themselves in their secret dreams...cook, chef, or... (fill in the blank)__________?


Jennifer Brizzi

Author of "Ravenous," a food column for Ulster Publishing (Woodstock Times, Kingston Times, Dutchess Beat etc.) and the food blog "Tripe Soup"

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Those of us who are loony for cooking may sport an apron that says "Kiss the Cook," a pima cotton chef's jacket with our name embroidered on it, or just whatever we happen to be wearing when we enter the kitchen.

It's clear that a lot of us here on eGullet are really good cooks, from love of the sport and lots of practice, even without true chef status. Are we chefs anyway, because we make such damn good food? Or are we just good cooks?

I just explored this in my blog and wondered what my fellow food-crazy folk who don't happen to have degrees from culinary schools like to call themselves in their secret dreams...cook, chef, or... (fill in the blank)__________?

I'd call myself a very good avocational cook. I do own a chef's jacket, which does not have my name embroidered on it, and which hangs proudly next to my favorite apron in my kitchen. I have worked with enough real chefs to know what that really entails and I am absolutely certain that I do not have the chops to put out 300 different dinners that are ordered at all different times and in all different combinations during the evening without screwing up. It's why the staff in a restaurant will call the chef "Chef" with great respect. They earned it.

Any home cook that wishes to refer to themselves as a chef need only spend one night on the sidelines of a busy restaurant kitchen and they'll understand the difference. Even for those of us that have pulled off the Gourmet magazine ready Thanksgiving dinner for 40 people. And it's not about a culinary degree. It's about just making it happen every single day.


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Semantics are always fun, aren't they?

When I only cooked at home, I jokingly referred to myself as "chef" quite often. Then I went to cooking school, and began working in a restaurant, and began to see what really went into being a chef, and I changed my tune. Now, with the majority of the industry, I consider the person running the kitchen to be "chef," and noone else (unless it be a "chef emeritus," so to speak). This has nothing to do with formal training. I work for a woman with no formal training who's run one of the city's leading fine dining restaurants for 25 years (a mathematician and industrial engineer, in fact, by trade). Is she a chef? Durn tootin'. Am I a chef? Not yet. Not nearly.

Interestingly enough, to my boss, "chef" denotes a cook who's had sufficient training or experience to be functional in a busy commercial kitchen. To her, my colleagues and I are chefs.

To each his/her own, I guess.


“What is called sound economics is very often what mirrors the needs of the respectably affluent.” - John Kenneth Galbraith

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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Interestingly enough, to my boss, "chef" denotes a cook who's had sufficient training or experience to be functional in a busy commercial kitchen.  To her, my colleagues and I are chefs.

By either definition, the knuckleheads who call themselves 'chef' because they are more comfortable in the kitchen than the stove-top-stuffing cooking people next door are still absurdly off base. Culinary school doesn't make a chef, some of the best haven't gone, and countless people who can't cook an edible meal have graduated. I'm not a bad cook, but that in no way makes me a chef.

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I attended culinary school (translate didnt finish) Worked professionally for 18 yrs mostly breakfast/lunch and catering. Only when trying to impress a stranger that I would never see again did I ever call myself a chef. I now work in Literature Resources for a pharmaceutical company

A/K/A collating sales lit in the mail room. One chef I worked for called me chef, it was nice.

tracey


The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

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I'm a cook. A very skilled cook, I'll honestly admit, but still a cook. I would in no way ever consider myself a chef without actually running a kitchen myself successfully. I'm quite comfortable calling myself a cook and often correct friends who want to bump me up a notch or two.


Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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unless you run a professional kitchen, managing other cooks, taking care of the business, in your spare time creating dishes, you are not a chef. and i know it's fun to play dress-up, but i find home cooks wearing jackets a little sad. not the wannabe aspect of it, but because home cooking is such a fine and noble tradition that it deserves to be appreciated on its own. see the paula wolfert threads.

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I'm a cook. While friends and guest may jokingly make a toast to the "chef" at the dinner table, I wouldn't dream of calling myself one. As Katie says, I don't think I've got the chops to put out 300 dinners a night, I don't have the culinary vision to match flavours and I can't plate worth a damn. Not that any of those things make a chef by themselves, but it seems that all chefs devote a significant amount of time and skill to advance all three.

I love to cook, and I think I'm reasonably good at it. I'm a home cook and proud of it. I just want to feed my family and friends.


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I always think of "Chef" the way I would a military rank: NCO or Field Marshall, the chef is the "Chief" and the person to whom the others look for leadership inspiration and a Plan. The person to whom one says"Oui, Chef" or "Yes, Sir" or "Yes, Ma'am."

In my kitchen you may certain Kiss the Cook. But I wouldn't kiss the Chef during the Saturday night rush any more than I'd kiss Sarge while we're guarding the Green Zone. I'm a cook.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I'm a cook, man. I work in a one star in nyc and I'm still a cook. Chef is chef. I am cook. When I open a place or run a brigade I'll be a chef.


does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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but i find home cooks wearing jackets a little sad.

I totally understand what you're saying and actually agree with you. My chef's jacket was a sample from a manufacturer that I paid for myself. I was considering using them at a restaurant I was managing. If I really wanted to be self-important I'd have had my name embroidered on it. To me, it's a full contact apron. :raz:


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I'm just a Mom trying to feed my family. I'd rather whip something in the kitchen than clean the bathroom. Food is love, right?

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but i find home cooks wearing jackets a little sad.

I totally understand what you're saying and actually agree with you. My chef's jacket was a sample from a manufacturer that I paid for myself. I was considering using them at a restaurant I was managing. If I really wanted to be self-important I'd have had my name embroidered on it. To me, it's a full contact apron. :raz:

I have a chef jacket too, but it's left in the dust by my vintage cross-stiched Donna Reed aprons. My mother gave it to my husband for Christmas, and as you say, it's a full-contact apron, and handy when your caterer friends want you to show up in uniform. But I wander from the topic because I am a wonk on the subject of protecting clothing from grease splatters.

The clothes don't make the chef. The job makes the chef.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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The clothes don't make the chef. The job makes the chef.

Amen, Sister Maggie.


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I think calling yourself a chef is a very dangerous thing. There is a lot of pride to those who we would all agree to be a Chef. I still get annoyed by the microwave hotdog commercial with the little boy telling his father he cooks so good he should be a chef. :blink:

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

ohwell. I personally feel that people should give more attention to what is a chef. I wouldn't call someone a doctor just because they read websters medical dictionary.

We have to remember that cooking is something that people do everyday, whether you can cook or not. The second one person cooks better than the other they may feel the need to label them as a chef :rolleyes: . Not much can be done about that.

I beleive we should set aside that title to an accomplished person who is not only enthusiastic, but very passionate about using his skills in the kitchen as his/her career, not their hobby. School is just a way to be certified. Unfortunately so many people go to culinary school and never use that knowledge in the field, so hsould they be called a chef just because of school? No. Back to what I said before, its all about the passion and accomplishment.

On the other side, I have a very very strong passion for culinary and would never call myself a chef/pastrychef ( I quiver at the sound of someone labeling me) simply because I just haven't accomplished enough to feel comfortable with that title. Who knows, I may never feel comfortable no matter what I do. Thats how sensitive the issue is. And I dont think its sensitive because of chefs with big egos, I think its sensitive because the average person is so ignorant (I use that word loosely, not meaning to be mean just the meaning of the word) towards the culinary field and what really goes on, and or what a true chef puts themself through to actually deserve to be called a "chef"


Dean Anthony Anderson

"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This

Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

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I use the word "chef" to describe myself when I am catering or teaching cooking. I also used it when I cooked for 34 girls at a sorority for a year and a half, even though I had no staff and worked entirely independently when I was there. In all of these cases, I use the word as a shorthand to explain that:

a. I am in charge of the job. The buck stops with me in all cases, in all the good and bad ways that can be true.

b. I have creative control/responsibility for the situation.

c. I have budgetary control/responsibility for the situation.

I do not use it to imply that I am a superior person or that any staff I have don't deserve credit. I do have a culinary degree but I didn't call myself a chef upon graduation. I do not use the word "chef" to describe myself when I trail in a kitchen, help out on somebody else's special event, or in other cooking non-managerial contexts. I also try hard not to create an implication that I'm a restaurant chef in the classical sense, with a brigade and long-term responsibilities. My chef work is not like that and I recognize that I would need more skills to handle that on an ongoing basis...I would not apply for such a position.

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As one of my children said several years ago when she was about 3 years old, "My mommy is a doctor and my daddy is a cooker."

I've always liked that comment. I'm a cooker.


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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As one of my children said several years ago when she was about 3 years old, "My mommy is a doctor and my daddy is a cooker."

I've always liked that comment.  I'm a cooker.

Thats funny, same thing my daughter tells people when they ask.

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Semantics can be fun for sure. I have a friend that is a Personal Chef (anyone care to tackle that one?) who did go to culinary school. I asked her about the "chef" label and her answer was, "I had an instructor that said, you are a chef when people start to call you a chef." My bio info says that my husband calls me his chef. Does that mean I'm trying to be something I'm not? I don't work in a professional kitchen, nor do I have any desire to do so. And when asked, I do make the correct statement, "No, I'm not a chef, I'm just like to cook." But surely many words in our language hold variant meanings. I can get a "Rug Doctor" and my garbage collector is a "Sanitation Engineer" so what is wrong with "Home Chef" (which, by the way is a trademarked corporation which sells housewares and gives culinary classes.) The question is: Does "chef" only have one meaning?

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The question is: Does "chef" only have one meaning?

Yes. The personal chef title exists purely so that cooks can market their services. A personal chef may be a spectacular cook, but rarely is that person actually a chef.

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I'm interning at a Danny Meyer establishment right now. Everyone wears chef's jackets and trousers, but only one person gets called "Chef," and that's the chef. Even the Chef de Cuisine gets called by his first name.

One of the instructors at culinary school said it took her 15 years in the business before she was comfortable calling herself a chef.

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Ok, I guess I have to get involved here. I have a personal chef service, therefore I am a personal chef. For 4 years, people have been paying me to cook for them in their homes, sometimes a couple of week's worth of meals that I cook in a day, sometimes big parties that I plan for weeks.

For big jobs I hire staff, kitchen help and servers. Small jobs I do myself. In all cases I create the menu, balance the costs so that I make a profit, purchase the food, and prepare it fresh, on site, to order. I cook food from any of the world's cuisines, and use any ingredient available to me locally or online. The buck always stops with me, whether or not I have people working with me on any given day. If I do, I organize their work, make sure they're on track, and oversee all aspects of the food preparation and service.

When people have special dietary needs or requests, I research the requirements and ensure that all the food meets those specifications. I create new recipes for clients whenever that's an asset to the event, or whenever a client asks me for something original, so I test and execute new recipes on an almost daily basis.

I hesitate to call myself a chef, but I think that hesitation is actually silly. I'm not a restaurant chef, and don't know how to do what they do. But I also think that few restaurant chefs could do what I do, without having to learn the business, just as I did.

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