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What it Really Means to be a Chef
Published July 30, 2014. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
“Oh you’re a chef?” she asks. “Well…. Ummm.. Ya See… I try to be..” I hesitate. I realize I’ve just confused the heck out of her by my odd answer, but let me explain. The term “chef” is very near and dear to my heart and I was only deemed “Chef Billy Parisi” by one of the people who was helping to promote a food concept I was doing, FixMyRecipe.com. That was 7 years ago and still to this day I cringe when people call me chef… While there are certain tests and qualifications one can take to be considered a certified executive chef, or master chef even, but there is no amount of schooling, TV or time in the business that just deems you a chef.
People always say, “You’re a chef, you went to culinary school.” That’s the same thing as saying, “you’re a good decorator, you’re an interior designer right?” Exactly my point. Having a little bit of passion and a limited skill set in a field where no one can possibly come close to knowing everything there is to know does not make you a chef by any means. Let me try to define what it really means to be a chef…
A chef is a friend, a chef is a teacher, a chef is a plumber, electrician, wood worker, miracle maker. A chef will give you advice about your relationships, a chef will bail your ass out of jail at 2 in the morning… You catchin my drift yet? It’s so much more than just going to school or working in the industry for a few years, it’s a term of respect that is given by people that work alongside you in the restaurant industry. Just because you can cook a little bit, or have a killer food blog, or heck even appear on ABC or NBC in the mornings, does not make you a chef. Being a chef comes with age and wisdom. Don’t get me wrong knowing food is a part of it, but with out all these other attributes you’re just a line cook. Your mom, friend, or peers can call you a chef, but only people from the restaurant industry can validate that you truly are.
I feel that I have a decent food knowledge and can even cook a little in the kitchen, but even after working for 15 years in the restaurant industry I never once heard any of my peers call me chef, even though I had become the executive chef of a few restaurants when I was 22. I know why though, it’s because I was 22, it’s because I didn’t have all of those intricate attributes that contain the makeup for someone as respectable as a “chef.” I’m sure this all sounds a bit weird to everyone, but it’s hard for me to see people on local TV, or in a food blog, or see some folks on social media that say they are a chef. Let’s just call you (including me) what you are, a great cook with a few good ideas :-). It’s more than just a marketing piece, it’s a way of life! I’d change my social media names if I could, trust me!!