Yes Chef or Cook?

Now before I start I could be talking completely out of turn on this and do you know I hope I am.

These days when I talk to people about the catering industry and all that goes with it like being a Chef, Waiter or any member of the catering team I refer to my Father.

My Dad although not a Carpenter in his career did do the 7 year apprenticeship in order to call himself a Carpenter or as he and all others would proudly call themselves “Chippies”. These are the people that can make beautiful things out of wood with their hands forged from an image in their heads, using awesome things like dove tail joints. Those days are gone for a lot of people the art of building something for the most natural wood and handing over a piece of the Carpenters soul to the customer. No now we have cabinet makers that like to make flat pack units in your house and then call themselves “Chippies”. Now my Dad is a very calm man who has patients and kindness in his blood but if you put a 19 year old cabinet maker in front of him and then call them a “Chippie”, or “Carpenter”, I would suggest you run and fast. Back in the day you did those 7 years and at the end of it you were proud and wanted to make the best product from the best produce. This would then give the customer a massive smile.

Now I would hope by now that you would understand where this is going, the fact that people do an NVQ and then call themselves Chefs and are instantly wanting to go for Head Chef positions. How can they know how to use the best produce and what skills to get the best from them. Do they really care about if the customer is happy with the end result if in all honesty they really don’t know what the end result should look or taste like.

Now you may think from reading the above that I am being down against the Chef of this day and age and that would simply not be true. What I am saying is the term “Chef”, as the term “Chippie”, need to be thought about. The Commis/Trainee that has just started his or her journey in the finest restaurant in London, France or Switzerland will understand the pride in years to come when their Sous Chef calls them Chef. Then you have the Chef or Cook as I like to call them that work for a chain, the person that has a spec to follow that did 6 months at college but already know they were better than Gordon and thought their big break would be cooking in a high turnover pub. Yet again you could think I am against these positions and you would be very wrong, I can’t afford to eat in such amazing restaurants all the time and I like to take my wife and 2 young children out and it’s great if there is a play area for the kids. My issue is the person in the kitchen 9 times out of 10 has not a clue about being a chef even though they tell the word they are. All the things that the stages of being a chef teach like bring back a split sauce or why you roast some bones for a stock and not others or what flavours go together and how to get the best from them and the seasons they are available. But the most important thing is the want and passion for the customer to have the very best they can give and if it’s not then not serving it.

I will happily call every person working in a chain restaurant Chef if they know and understand the food they are cooking and will make every dish that is sent as good as the first. There are regional managers and executive chefs (cooks), above these people who are not instilling such basic standards and skills.

If you really want to be serve the best food you can every time and want to understand food because you have a passion for it. Well then it doesn’t matter if you have 3 stars or a play area you can hold your head high and I will be the first to call you Chef. But if you stand on that carvery with a stupid baseball cap on insisting that meat should fall apart like that, Broccoli should be brown and mash potato comes in frozen you should think of a different name other than Chef.

Let’s bring back classic training in our collages and get schools interested in cooking again.

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