What it Really Means to be a Chef

“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!!

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