Are you a Chef, or a Cook?

Posted by yasmin on April 28, 2013

Chefs vs. Cooks

Chefs vs. Cooks

Well, I just set myself up for a very controversial topic, didn't I? But, it has to be addressed. There are just too many confused people out there, and it's time to set the record straight.

A whole lot of us love food. Not just because we like to eat it. We love the ingredients. We need the rush of creation, of knowing exactly how an ingredient goes together with another, and the variations those combinations bring in flavors, textures, colors. We also love the actual cooking. Transforming those combinations into something even tastier by applying a myriad of techniques. And then there's the reaction of the person who tastes our creations. Oh boy, there's no better fix for a cooking addict than a guest's expression of pure bliss after tasting our food. Right?

That said, here's where the similarities between a Cook and a Chef end. The Cook, using his or her talents, go on to develop themselves in the kitchen by any means possible, except for formal, complete training. That means a Cook can become great by imitating a mentor, by experimenting, by reading and gathering as much information as possible, and such.

A Chef earns the title either by acquiring a formal training from a certifiable Culinary School, and actually finishing his or her degree, or by becoming an apprentice to a Chef and sweating it in the kitchen for free for a long time. Then, and only then, they can go on to experiment, gather more information and continue their education process.

That degree, or that long apprenticeship, marks the difference between a Cook and a Chef, and contains a wealth of knowledge of all things culinary. No amount of remote-mentoring, information gathering, or experimenting on one's own can bring a person to know and understand so many details about food, technique, business administration, marketing, and so forth. Culinary School and/or apprenticeship is a starting point, yes, but it is chock full of valuable secrets, supervised experiences, and knowledge-sharing opportunities.

By no means I wish to disrespect the work of a good Cook. Their expertise is unique, and they always bring new and interesting touches to whatever they happen to create. I have many good friends that are Cooks, and I consider them my colleagues. I call upon them to share my kitchen, and take their advice to heart.

However, when I hear of a Cook advertising as a Chef, it hurts. The years of blood (literally) and sweat (plenty) that me and my fellow Chefs have shed in the long years of formal training call for this rant. We worked hard for the title. We can share the kitchen, we can share the satisfaction of a meal well executed, but we are not willing to let go of that title. It has meaning. It has value. And it is earned.

So the next time you say: Thank you Chef, think about it. That word may have only four letters, but it packs a wealth of emotions, knowledge, and experiences. And all of those get reflected in the food we present you with.

The word “Chef” means more than just to be able to cook good food. It sets a standard. And we are all proud to live up to it.

M.

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