There are quite literally as many different personalities and working styles within the restaurant world as there are chefs out there, although TV’s celebrity chef obsession would have us believe that the pan-throwing, ranting Ramsay-alike is the cookie-cutter default!
Most chefs, whatever their speciality, go through years of culinary school before they are able to seek proper remuneration for their employment, and this does not come cheap – as well as playing havoc with trying to maintain any kind of a social life outside of work with friends and family who keep more regular hours!
One bugbear within the food world is the oft-asked question about the difference between a chef and a cook, as any chef will tell you! A chef is a trained professional who has paid their dues, studied and worked their way up through the ranks to the stage where they can envision and create dishes of their own. A cook is simply someone who produces food, generally as a job rather than a vocation, and rarely with innovation and creativity involved.
There are a whole range of different types of chefs too, all with their own unique skills and talents.
• The head chef, more formally known as an executive chef or the chef de cuisine is at the head of the totem pole, and is likely to be the person who creates the menu and designs the dishes, while largely overseeing the actual preparation work. Today’s head chef is much more than just a food perfectionist; they are also expected to be managers, PR reps and figureheads for their restaurant, HR specialists, administrators, and much more!
• A sous chef is the head chef’s right hand man (or woman), who does plenty of cooking as well as helping to manage and organise the kitchen.
• A station chef is responsible for one particular dish, or aspect of food preparation, such as the hors d’oeuvres, or the side dishes.
• A pastry chef is a specialist in all things baking, and is able to create beautiful, delicious pastries and desserts as part of their repertoire.
• Larger and more formal dining establishments are also likely to employ a whole range of other specialists too, including a saucier, fish cook, line cook, and also commis chefs, the bottom rung or entry level to the profession.
Whatever area of the catering trade you work in and whatever type of chef role appeals to you, long, unsociable hours, split shifts, hard physical work and the odd battle scar are all part of the job!
Whilst becoming a chef is a labour of love that is highly unlikely to make anyone other than those at the very top of their field rich and famous, being a chef is also a hugely rewarding job for those looking to make their living from their love of cooking.