I frequently get referred to as a chef and I always sort of cringe when I hear the word applied to me. To me, a chef is a very specific career and description and what I try do is simply not the same.
I asked the question “What makes you a chef?” to my Twitter friends and the answers were really interesting so I thought I would share them with you all and try to flesh out why I don’t love being called one.
What is a Chef?
I sent a tweet out over the weekend asking my followers what they think defines a chef. The answers were pretty much inline with what I thought which is that while chefs have to cook, they also have to do many other tasks.
Porchettanyc was quick to point out that chef is just French for chief so it implies some sort of leadership.
Ruhlman, one of my favorite food writers out there, says that a chef is “someone who leads a professional kitchen.”
MissTanya went a step further and says that a chef needs a restaurant with a chef designed menu. In other words, if you are a line cook at McDonalds, you aren’t a chef.
To me, a chef is someone who is in charge of a professional kitchen. I don’t really care so much about the menu they are cooking. If they make their own menu, and it is good, then maybe they are a better chef, but it’s not a requirement.
Chefs go to school to learn not only how to cook, but how to manage. They learn how to manage food costs, staff, and various other things. In other words, they do much more than simply cook.
To be honest, that’s why I have no desire to be a chef. When asked why, I generally reply that I like to cook, not run restaurants. Chefs run restaurants.
I’m much more interested in what happens in home kitchens than in professional kitchens.
Chefs Are Not Necessarily Good Cooks
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but I really think that roughly 90% of restaurants in the United States are horrible. Actually, if you count fast food shops, that’s probably being pretty generous.
I think many restaurants are over-priced and focus more on quantity than quality.
All of these bad restaurants have at least one chef leading them into the abyss. These chefs lead a restaurant. They make purchasing decisions, make sure orders come out on time, and run a kitchen. A lot of them suck at cooking though.
Now, of course, there are thousands of chefs out there that are amazing cooks and are passionate about cooking and serving great dishes. But just because someone is a chef doesn’t mean they can cook better than your microwave.
I’m a Home Cook
Ok. Actually, I would like to think I’m many things including web guru, photographer, writer and that dude with pool-party abs.
But at the bare minimum, I’m a home cook. Besides one crazy venture into the world of catering, I’ve never fed more than a handful of people at a time. I never have to worry about filling seats or Yelp ratings.
All I worry about is feeding the people immediately around me good meals and showing others how to do the same.
I agree with him and I’m totally happy with being that and nothing more.
Awesome wok photo by liber.