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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What is a Chef?

I always held the title Chef with such regard.

It meant something majestic to me; it meant that if you were called Chef, you were a master at your craft. It meant you were the loudest voice amongst a rowdy crowd. It meant intelligence, and intimidation.

The further along I got in my career, and the more popular the food network and other foodie shows got, the more bastardized the name Chef became. I got to the point in my career where my job title eventually became Executive Chef, and holy shit was I excited and proud of that distinction. BUT, I began to think about what that word had always meant to me, and then that word always made me feel uncomfortable.

I found it very bizarre that I would somehow have the same job title as Georges Perrier, or Thomas Keller, or Tony Clark, or Joel Robuchon. It didn’t make sense to me. In no shape or form should I be able to hold the same title as these iconic legends that I worshipped.

Then the food network took over, and these other cooking game shows became all the rage. Within these TV broadcasts, it became extremely clear that there was no true definition of the term Chef. Everybody and anybody was being called Chef. There is no way that the guy who runs the snack bar at your local swim club, who’s now competing on Gordon Ramsey’s game show, should hold the same title as Paul Bocuse.

It never made sense to me.

Should Chefs be like black belts and have degrees to their title? Maybe we need something to differentiate between a true master of the craft, and somebody who holds it down at Applebee’s. You know, like, Hey, I’m a 5th degree Chef, thank you very much.

What the hell is the true definition of a Chef? Well, I tried to break it down as best I could. I may have missed something along the way, but feel free to add any dimensions I may have accidentally forgotten:

The ego, the perseverance, the dedication, the conductor, the loyalty, the obsessive compulsive behavior, the alcoholism, the drive, the sex, the drugs, the beauty in chaos, the loud & beautiful music, the flavors, the textures, the sounds, the smells, the scars, the sights, the sensory overload of having too many things going on at once, the physical pain, the emotional strain, the 18 hour day + the 8 hour after party, huh?, the pushing of oneself past a nervous breakdown to come out on the other side with a poetic meal, the master of walk-in tetris, the orgasmic look on someone’s face as they taste your latest conception that you stayed up all night counting the minutes til you were in front of the stove again to make, the learning of a new technique, the learning of an old technique, the yearning for perfection only to realize perfect doesn’t exist because everything can be better somehow, the systematic cleaning of your kitchen, the spending of your rent money on cookbooks, the working for free more than being on the clock, the brotherhood, the blood, the sweat, the tears, the laughter, the love, the rage, the knowledge, the swagger, the thick skin, the soignee, the vamanos, the “MOVE YOUR DICK, SIR (thank you Chef Perrier, that’s still my favorite), the spreadsheets, the accountant, the lawyer, the peace maker, the babysitter, the master with duct tape and a screwdriver, the refrigerator repair guy, the janitor, the nutritionist/dietician, the psychic, the mentor, and the ability to shut it all out and conduct your kitchen like a goddamn Jedi Knight.

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Let's Get Cooking

Having had some amazing adventures during my 20 year career, beginning as a dishwasher all the way to Executive Chef and cooking for the James Beard Foundation, my goal now is to continue exploring food with people as passionate as I am. Whether it's to help a restaurant develop their menu, team and costs, throw a spectacular experiential dining event on the Main Line of Philadelphia or surrounding areas, or simply to experiment and cultivate a new culinary vision, I'm on a quest and looking for people to join me.

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