One of the most widely argued aspects of the culinary world is the use of the words ‘chef’ and ‘cook’. While there is no clear agreement on who gets labeled with which term, there does seem to be a consensus that it doesn’t always matter. A chef and a cook are only as good as their products, so no matter the terminology success is determined by the individual.
Generally speaking, there are a few mostly agreed upon criteria that differentiate these two culinary artists.
- Have some formal training whether it be formal education, apprenticeships, or extensive experience in the industry.
- Are managers who oversee staff, create menus, and manage budgets.
- Have been paid to cook or run a restaurant in some capacity.
- Wears a chef coat.
- Have little to no training and are self-taught.
- Have never been paid to cook.
- Make food for friends and family or work under a chef.
- Wears an apron or kitchen shirt.
When you see it this way, it seems pretty clear cut. However, there are many that would argue this case. For some, the title matters for the sake of pride or marketing. For others, the title matters because of the hard work and dedication put into it. Then there are those who could care less what you call them, they let their food speak to their culinary ideals and talents.
By definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a chef is “a skilled cook who manages the kitchen.” A cook is defined as “a person who prepares food for eating.”
It seems the answer to this age-old debate is left up to professionals and consumers to decide for themselves. Does the title matter to you, why or why not? If the food sounds, looks, and tastes good, does it really matter what the person who made it is called? This instance is one of few professional examples where a designated title does not necessarily require the acquisition of specific criteria.