Beware! There are a growing number of online characters out there (some sellers of food, some sellers of kitchen supplies) who use the word chef in front of their names in order to appear credible so that people will buy their products. In short, it’s a scam.
The problem with phony chefs is that they tend to lack adequate knowledge of safe food handling principles, which means they are more likely to sell food and spread ideas that endanger the health of consumers. Phony chefs often publish impractical techniques advertising specific ingredients or newfangled gadgets because their objective is for you to buy said ingredients or gadgets. Out of the mistaken belief that these types of recipes or tutorials come from a legitimate source, laypeople are subsequently more inclined to share and copy those ideas online. Thus, the phony chef’s lie becomes more abundant than the real chef’s truth.
It doesn’t help that the U.S. is without a rule system for recognizing professional chefs. Whereas there are clear guidelines for earning the title of electrician, pharmacist, or lawyer, there are no regulations on who qualifies as a chef. Most laypeople probably misuse the title without even meaning to.
Within the U.S. food industry, there exists no such confusion. The chef is the boss – the leader in charge of the kitchen. Everybody else is called a cook, baker, or assistant.
About Professional Chefs
Definition of “chef”
A title used to identify the person in charge of a commercial food operation.
A chef is the manager of the following
- Leadership in the kitchen
- Food production or manufacturing operations
- Food safety according to HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points)
- Packaging and presentation of all food products
- Analysis of food costs
- Ordering of ingredients and equipment
- Development of menus and product lines
- Hiring & firing of kitchen staff
- Training of kitchen staff
- Scheduling of kitchen staff
- Delegating all tasks within the kitchen, including cleaning
A chef is also responsible for the following type of knowledge/experience
- Many years of commercial employment working under one or more professional chefs
- A culinary degree (not required but is a considerable asset)
- The scientific or applied knowledge of how ingredients interact
* NEW *
The Independent Chef
There is one more category of chef that is on the rise in the age of cottage laws and the internet. That is the “Independent Chef,” in other words, a chef who operates solely out of a licensed home kitchen. There is no hard and fast rule here but it’s fair to say that an individual who’s already worked as a chef in the commercial food industry is also entitled to call him/herself chef of a home business.
With zero prior commercial chef experience, the best way for a home cook or baker to earn the title of chef is to complete ALL of the following tasks:
- Earn a legitimate culinary degree or certificate (this does not include Wilton courses)
- Acquire a food handler’s card (such as ServeSafe)
- Develop a unique menu or product line with cost analysis
- Operate a properly licensed and insured home-based business, ideally for 2 years or more
* CHEF *
The Unofficial Job Description
Here are some of the unofficial aspects of the job of chef, including the nitty-gritty, not-so-pretty parts.
- Pounding out orders during busy shifts
- Wolfing down food
- Standing, stooping, lifting, & bending on the job
- Sacrificing nights, weekends, and holidays in order feed the masses
- Working occasional seven-day work weeks with no day off
- Laboring for a straight month with no day off (common when opening a new kitchen)
- Sizzling skin wounds and scars on the forearms from handling hot pans and hot racks
- Nursing knife wounds on the hands (then covering them with finger condoms)
- Bristling from heat rash due to working in a hot kitchen
- De-crusting the treads of kitchen clogs or no-slip shoes with a toothpick and a hose, because old kitchen sludge is kind of like dog poop
- Gagging from the putrid smell of an open grease trap
- Cringing when customers or friends casually ask for recipes that were earned via blood, sweat, and many years of all of the above
- Raging over ludicrous customer requests
- Abandoning all delusions that being a chef is an easy or glamorous profession
- Enduring the hard parts because that’s your job
- Never losing the joy of the challenge
- Feeding & Nourishing people as a way of life
- Preserving the integrity of scratch cooking and baking
- Relishing in the art of it
If you’re not a chef, what do call yourself? Titles that are up for grabs are cook, baker, culinary artist, cake decorator, or kitchen goddess. If you can’t come up with something juicy enough, you can always spin the Chef Name Generator wheel for a pseudonym. When I tried it, I got “Missy Mix-It.”
If you have something to add to this discussion, feel free to leave your comment below!
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