Did you know that there is a difference between a chef and a cook? People who work in restaurants know that there is a distinct difference. Many other people don’t realize this and some still don’t agree that there is a difference at all.
When I worked in the restaurant business, I was both a cook and a head cook (as well as the other positions I held), but I was never a chef. What can make it especially confusing is the definition from the dictionary. You read that right; the dictionary actually doesn’t contain the correct definition, as it is used in the foodservice industry.
Here is the definition of “chef” from Miriam-Webster’s dictionary:
1: a skilled cook who manages the kitchen (as of a restaurant) 2: COOK
Quite a few other dictionaries give a similar definition. A few dictionaries state that a chef is someone who cooks professionally. I cooked professionally and as the head cook, I managed the kitchen and the kitchen staff, yet I was not a chef. Here is why.
Although there is no one organization that determines who is a chef and who isn’t, in the restaurant business, a chef is not only someone who is highly trained, cooks professionally, and manages the kitchen, (all of that was true of me) but also a chef is someone who has graduated a school of culinary arts after a two or four-year period of formal education. As I said, I was highly trained, cooked professionally, and managed the kitchen and staff, but I never went to a culinary school, so I never graduated from such a school, therefore, I was never a chef. I don’t have a college degree in cooking.
I often will acknowledge that I was a professional cook, but never say that I was a chef. To me, there is a substantial difference. To many other people, though, they are the same thing.
Which definition do you normally agree with, in regard to “Chef”?
Anyone who cooks
Someone who cooks for a living (professional cook)
A professional cook who also manages the kitchen
A professional cook who manages the kitchen and has a two-year or four-year college degree in cooking