View Full Version : What makes a chef???
08-24-2005, 12:13 AM
I am personally at a crossroads in life, I am a chef at a hotel and convention center with a full service restaurant. That being said it is only a 100 room hotel in a small town (12000 people)so some of my skills are pretty much a waste since most customers are set in there ways and dont care to try anything new! So I said to myself give them what they want just do it better than it has been done before. Hand made products fresher produce, better quality item at reasonable prices. Which is working well we have drummed up some great buisness. So what is the problem? It must be ego or pride, I feel like less of a chef, preparing simple foods instead of fine dining menus. Someday I will move to the real world but not yet I moved back only for family issues. I guess I wonder if I am the only one who thinks to be a greaat chef you have to be a CIA grad and work in a upscale white tablecloth place?? Hey thx evrybody for listing to the whiny rant!
of course everything is relative . . . but in my opinion you are a GREAT chef if you do simple things well! understated elegance is always appreciated.
to be great means to be a cia grad in an upscale white tablecloth place? ha! baa humbug!
there are many worlds within this world we live in, and you can buy into any one you wish. if you buy into the world of facadism, that's your business. I say, never judge a book by it's cover.
08-24-2005, 12:59 AM
I am very happy where I am at in my life with my career being in a chefs position with only on the job training at age of 27, but due to a freak heart problem and open heart surgery there seems to be an urgancy to obtain my goals as soon as possible. With that being said I thought my goals were to work my way through the system and someday make it on my own. I still like those goals but somedays I look at the things I am doing and wonder if it is a step back in my path of life ??
gotcha. yes, always good to question oneself.
regret is right up there with one of the worst things can happen to you.
follow your dreams.
08-24-2005, 09:47 AM
The only step back is when you are not learning anything, not trying to improve. It sure sounds like you are doing both. It's great that you are able to show what 'simple' food can be and that it has been well received by your customers.
If you want to get some credentials that will help down the line, look into the ProChef certification programs at http://www.ciaprochef.com/prochef
Chef in French means chief or head. If you manage a commercial kitchen, then you are a chef regardless of what that kitchen produces. I have a friend who is chef at a hospital. His title is actually Director of Food Service. He turns out boat loads of hospital food with a very large staff. He's also a great cook and could manage a 4 star restaurant kitchen if that became his lot in life. He loves cooking and loves his job. His daughter is enrolled at CIA. No one would question that he is a chef by any definition you care to use. So are you.
I sure like your attitude about simple dishes. Good technique and good ingredients always produce great food. I think some of the tastiest dishes are the simple ones. Good cooking.
08-24-2005, 08:02 PM
More than half a chefs job consists of purchasing product and managing people, whether in a four star or a deli. Part of the development is when you realize that the job is not as glamorous as it seemed in the begining.
I am not saying be content.
There are many roads. It may be more valuable to you to be a line cook in a hot place, or go to europe for a while, than it would be to get a degree. The pro chef certs are probably time well spent.
I don't know exactly what your situation is, but don't feel trapped.
I just participated in a coup for control of the business I work for. Now that it is time to split up the spoils, I am finding, I may not be happy here longterm.
I enjoy learning the ins and outs of a restaurant. I enjoy setting up the system. I enjoy building a team and teaching. I enjoy improving. At a certain point, the day to day bullshit wears on me. But that is the tru test of a chef. Anyone can cook dinner. It is the guy that can stay on top of things day in and day out, that has earned his hat.
I was talking to a former chef of mine last week that has been at the same place for twelve years. He opened their doors and litteraly brought them from one level to a three story facility. He is having the same fealings of wondering if it is more significant to chef a tiny white tablecloth joint.
Another chef I worked for sold his restaurant and followed his wife to Eugene and is now the exec at a hospital. It was important for him to have a day job. He is a wonderful chef and doesn't have to prove that to anyone.
Another chef I worked for used to have a little white tablecloth place. She is drinking herself to death.
Another chef I worked for had two places, one bar and one ala carte joint. He is drinking himself to death.
Not sure what I am trying to say. If you want to do something do it. It is almost a generic dream to have a little white tablecloth place. The people that have reached that goal are some of the least happy I have ever met.
08-24-2005, 08:51 PM
That about sums it up. Do what makes ya happy without killing yourself over it.
08-26-2005, 01:08 AM
When you are running a kitchen top to bottom,(hiring, firing, food cost, inventory, menu. sanitation, etc.), then you are considered the chef.
When a member of the waitstaff approaches you with complaints of the food, you know you are the chef.
After twenty years of cooking, I will always remember the customer who told me that I made the best BLT he ever had. So much for the glace de viande I had spent the two previous days making. But I still remember that BLT.
08-26-2005, 01:21 AM
I know what you mean. It's the simplest things you make that someone raves over stick in your head the most. I had an 80 some year old man tell me I made the best BLT he ever had and he's been eating them his whole life. I also had Mario Batali's Dad Armondino tell me I made the best roasted chicken he had ever had. I basically crapped my pants at the table when he said that. Simple perfection wins people over every time.
08-26-2005, 01:40 AM
Coming from Mario's dad, that is quite a compliment.
No matter what I think of Mario.
And this was probably before the KD. No?
08-26-2005, 12:21 PM
"No matter what I think of Mario."
I think he is amazing. I always learn something when I see him on TV, and I have never said that about any celeb chef before except for Pepin many years ago. He deserves everything he is earning right now as far as I'm concerned.
08-26-2005, 07:23 PM
[ QUOTE ]
And this was probably before the KD. No?
[/ QUOTE ]
A $1200 knife is going to allow you to roast a better chicken /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/confused.gif
08-26-2005, 09:42 PM
I have probably told this story before but...
Six months ago, I had a new cook and a dinner for fifty at big fancy non-profit. He had probably made salad dressings more times than he could count. Regardless of his ability to make a dressing, I spent the time to make it with him. We nailed it. We had three compliments on the dressing.
You know someone is not just saying "hey, the food is good". They mean it if they compliment something as simple as the dressing.
Ever since then, this cook spends the energy to nail every dressing or cold sauce that I give him. Hell, now I have about fifteen vinegars sitting on the rack that I brought in just for him. He made a roasted shallot, sherry vingret the other day that knocked me down. It was so good that I put it on a menu with a fish. The simple things are very important. It is imposible to watch over every cooks shoulder at all times. They key is to instill that pride and motivation in them, that allows you to cut them loose on projects.
I don't have problems motivating myself, but sometimes I catch myself asking myself, "What if my old chef walked in the door?....What if the chef from down the street walked in?.....hell, what if Mario walked in? What would they think of my kitchen?" It keeps you honest.
08-28-2005, 01:06 AM
Hey, good to hear from some of the chefs on the board. While I'm not working in the food service industry, I'm an aspirating hobby gourmet, and I really admire the dedication of chefs and other food service professionals to their craft. As an outsider, I don't understand and am a bit irked by the huge pay disparity between the kitchen staff and the service staff (mainly due to the tips) in popular restaurants.
All you chefs all there be sure to fill in your city location in your profile, so if by chance other forum members are travelling, they can contact you and come visit your restaurant!
Hey John, it was good to hear your story. Personally, I thought it was inspirational. Hope you keep honing your craft and that you achieve success on your own terms! Don't let others define it for you ("you have to be a CIA grad and work in a upscale white tablecloth place").
P.S. Hope the Shun chef knife is serving you well.
P.P.S. Good luck in continuing to try to expand the culinary horizons of your fellow Dakotans a little! /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif
08-29-2005, 04:32 PM
Life is sort of funny, after the last few weeks of soul searching about my career direction I have been presented with the oppurtunity to move back to Omaha to take over a resturaunt in the old market (very trendy) any how as much as it is confusing it is exciting plus how can anyone turn down a 30.000 dollar raise !!!
Congratulations. Now you can answer the question "What makes a trendy chef?"
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