The Great Hall
Chef? The Great Hall: Chef?
By Rick on Monday, June 04, 2001 - 05:08 pm: Edit

Very simple, my question is to all. I have been cooking for people for over 10 years and have impressed just about everyone whith what I can do. I have even created a few dishes that I take much pride in setting before others. I do hope that one day soon I can open my own establishment, and even carry over into the catering business. What I would like to know, because I have no formal training or education in the kitchen (but do have a BA in business) do I call myself a Chef or am I just a cook? This is something that I have been trying to find out for some time now and would like any input you might have. Thanks, Chef/Cook Rick?

By peachcreek on Monday, June 04, 2001 - 11:11 pm: Edit

Man, this is a topic close to me. I've been in foodservice for over 25 years. I've seen a lot, done a lot. At this point in my life, I think food. I write recipes all the time. The latest being a "Cream of carrot and roasted fennel soup".
Yum. Or, "Calamata olive and artichoke cookies". You should try them with the soup!
But I have no formal training, only a high school education. So, I guess that makes me a Very Tenured Cook. I prefer "Culinary Curmudgeon". But a Chef? No way.

By Grwall (Grwall) on Tuesday, June 05, 2001 - 02:14 pm: Edit

In Canada, there is no "legal" designation for Chef like there is for say a doctor. I suspect it's the same in the US. I would dearly like to see that change. The Certified Chef de Cusine designation (CCC) in Canada is the closest thing we have to qualifications or certification as chef. It would be great if that were required in order to use the title.

Not that there is anything wrong with being a VTC or culinary curmudgeon.

By Chris on Tuesday, June 05, 2001 - 02:40 pm: Edit

What makes a chef is a person that can organize and get 15 or 20 people that may or may not be more qualified in their perspective areas to do what the chef wants them to do in a timely manner while not compromising quality.

By Panini (Panini) on Tuesday, June 05, 2001 - 09:44 pm: Edit

I was in culinary school over 25 yrs. ago. Even back then the march was , act like a chef, think like a chef, create like a chef, train and learn like a chef, be a chef.
A very good question!
My grandmother operated a small eatery, she could produce a meal for 8 from an empty frig., made all the things she learned from her mother who was very well known for her food in her country. Was she a Chef?

By annie on Sunday, June 10, 2001 - 02:27 am: Edit

Cook...chef...who cares? certification is still just a piece of paper. If you are hired or hire yourself to run a are a chef. Paninini- your grandma was a chef. Sorry, I am breaking out Webster's New World dictionary. 1. a cook in charge of a kitchen, as of a restaurant:head cook 2. any cook. Whether one is a good chef or not is another matter entirely. And certification or "formal" training is not a proper litmus test for a good chef.

By annie on Sunday, June 10, 2001 - 02:29 am: Edit

Cook...chef...who cares? certification is still just a piece of paper. If you are hired or hire yourself to run a are a chef. Paninini- your grandma was a chef. Sorry, I am breaking out Webster's New World dictionary. 1. a cook in charge of a kitchen, as of a restaurant:head cook 2. any cook. Whether one is a good chef or not is another matter entirely. And certification or "formal" training is not a proper litmus test for a good chef.

By Yankee on Sunday, June 10, 2001 - 03:35 am: Edit


Certification shows that you went through the process of gaining formal recognition for your accomplishments. No, it doesn't mean that you can cook at all, it just means that you have the knowledge, skill set to pass certain tests, and the right punches on your card.

But, there is something to be said for those who complete the process and they should recieve some sort of recognition for it. Personally, I don't think it should just be cast aside, formal training either.

Many great and talented chefs go down in flames because they have no business sense or formal education.

Sorry, but to me, what defines a "chef" goes way beyong Webster's. "Chef of what?" is the real question.

By happy on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 12:17 am: Edit

The ACF and the whole cert program is the biggest pile of bull$hit I've ever heard of. Just about every CCC,CEC,CWC and any other letter wearing person I've met or worked for was either an A$$hole and or completely oblivious to what makes a kitchen really work. Sorry but it's the truth, I've been doing this for thirty years I know!! But it would be nice to be a CMC and sit around and do nothing for 7 digits a year

By Yankee on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 04:23 pm: Edit


Sitting around doing nothing while pulling down seven figures sounds great to me. Where can I sign up for that gig? Sure beats slinging hash everyday.

You also mentioned that you either met these people or worked for THEM. But, I guess they never worked for YOU.

I understand exactly what you are saying: letters on a jacket don't always mean practical skills, knowledge or leadership. But, if having those letter after my name means pulling down more cash and having more opportunites, what is wrong with that?

Sure, I have always thought of the ACF as a group of over-the-hill hotel guys. But honestly, you sound a bit bitter, not "happy."

By Panini (Panini) on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 07:10 pm: Edit

I think you are exagerrating. If not, you are working in the wrong part of the country. I happen to be pro-certification, it brings us closer to becoming a recognized profession.
I'm confussed, you dislike the program or you dislike the people involved. You probably have enough experience to cert. easily. If your judging the program on the people you've meet, then maybe you should check it out and help the program move forward. No one will force you to use any kind of letters or symbols to identify yourself.
my 2 cents

By togganut on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 09:04 pm: Edit

I am finishing up my certification, CEC, and at first I was only doing it because the hotel where I am employeed now requires it for all department heads. I too have met so scary certified chefs.But after a year of school and ACF I have changed my mind , I have met some jerks but some really cool people who have helped me to become better at what I do and if it helps our profession
get more recognition even better. The letters certainly dont make the chef but can they hurt?


By Doug Allen CEC on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 09:18 pm: Edit

Here is more 3 cents worth of opinion. I too have been in the PROFESSION of food service for 30 years and am still learning every day! I saw that my experience and education only told part of the story to a prospective employer. The ACF has at least set some standards that companies can compare your level of expertise with other cooks. No it does not mean that you know it all but those horse's rear-ends are getting fewer and fewer as I see it. I love the profession and challenge any one that is not happy to go find something else to do! Signed by a proud certified executive chef!

By Chris on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 11:01 pm: Edit

I have to agree with happy. All I've gotten out of the ACF is the monthly mag NCR. As a former chef once said to me "why would you want to join a club that would let YOU be a member?"

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - 12:01 am: Edit

Just as you only get out what you put into culinary school, You only get out what you put into ACF.

Sure there are problems, significant problems, but I am so tired of hearing "I get nothing out of ACF". When did you last Help in planning an ACF function, hell when did you last attend a meeting, how about help in a fund raiser, write a newsletter article or just lend a hand to another ACF member in need.

ACF really isn't about getting, its about giving back what others, all the chefs before you, have given to you. Unless of course you just became a chef one day having spontaneously and independently developed all the techniques of cuisine.

As far as certification goes, It will mean more in the future that it does now, just as it means more now that it did in the past.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - 08:08 am: Edit

I did not get certified (CEC, CCE) until I started teaching, (5 years ago) I did not have the time or the inclination. The truth is, most employers do not care and do not want to spend the $$$, only companies that want a CMC on staff would pay for such certification, I have been in the kitchen 25 years, I have seen the CMC test and I know I can pass it; I just can't afford 10K and two weeks to go to NY to do it. If anyone out there wants to pay for it, I will be glad to do it. I also had a BS in Hospitality which I also never had to show until the school sytem I worked for asked for a copy. I could have had it on my resume and not have it an nobody would have ever known.
Certification is only one aspect of beign a Chef, it verifies that you have some of the academic and experience required to be a Chef. It does not make you a Chef. As we all have said there are jerks and cool people, as in every industry. I think the jerks would be jerks with or without the letters on the jacket, the letters just makes them more pronounced jerks. Yet the cool people are rarely noticed. You never hear "that guy is pretty cool, and he is a CEC. It's always, "What an a------, he thinks he is hot s--- just because he's got CEC on his jacket. Is it true or not???

By Rick on Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - 09:18 am: Edit

O.K., O.K., O.K....I think that My question did not get the responce that I was hopping for. I did not mean to start are war between the haves and have nots. I just had a simple question, which I think that I have found the answer to. I do not know if I have all of the skill set requirements for just jumping up and running off to NY to take a CEC test. However, I know that what I learned from my grandmother would probly get me a passing grade. As with many professions, I do know that this is one of the last to have a cert program that sets the standard that is reconigized by the whole country, and therefore rewarding the person for their accidemics. But I put this question before you to think about. Is food an art, or is it a sience? If you think of food that way that I do, with a passion, with soul, with style and grace, I consider it to be art. But if you considered it to be science, then I guess that you believe that it should be structured. You cannot certify art, you can science, but not art. How could you tell Rembrant that he was not an artist becouse he could not pass am exame? See what I am getting at?

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - 09:44 am: Edit

Rick, you only have to go to NY for the CMC test, the other tests you take locally at testing centers.
Food is art and science! Think about it, it is artful in how you present it and scientific in how you prepare it. More cooks/chefs should take food science classes, maybe we would not have so many "fusion" chefs/cooks creating crap by mixing things that should never be mixed. Foods are very basic in the sense that certain things go together like hand and glove other things should never marry.
Rick, you are right you could probably pass the test, try it the worst you could do is fail and then you just try again. It is a very basic safety, sanitation, cooking procedure, terminology test. I did not study for it at all because the book (The Art & Science of Food) is so general it basically covers anything in cooking and baking (CEC test)and I past it with flying colors. Basic knowledge is always your best resource!

By W.DeBord on Wednesday, June 13, 2001 - 08:07 am: Edit

We qualify artists totally...every Tom, Dick and Harry might think their an artist. But saying you are an artist doesn't make you one! With-in the known comunity (among your peers) we are judged by each other, people who understand art vs. sh** on the rug. As to weather the population "gets it" is another question/subject.

Schools, musuems, art galleries all certify artists abilities and qualify them as artists by representing them.

Most cooking is fine my opinion. You know when your standing next to a chef that's advanced into an artist, their gift amazes advanced chefs.

By annie on Thursday, June 14, 2001 - 12:59 am: Edit

Chefmanny- food peparation as science?????? Maybe at Kraft, but tell that to single mom with an empty fridge who dishes out a meal her kids request later. You don't have to have scientific knowledge to mix food. It doesn't hurt but it doesn't necessarily help. I agree with some of the fusion crap pumping out of the system, but i chaulk it up to lack of common sense in society as a whole.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Thursday, June 14, 2001 - 08:42 am: Edit

Annie, just because you don't realize it's science it does not mean it isn't. Basic things are good to know, for example tomatoes and mushrooms are the 2 foods which have the most naturally occuring MSG. If MSG bothers someone I'm sure they would want to know before ordering a pizza with ...shrooms, extra sauce;
How about all those preservatives in (Kraft) or other food products which might make you sick. There is a poster called "chemical cuisine" which shows the prevelant items in certain processed foods and, it is scary.
I believe this is one of the reasons why kids today are getting sick worse and longer and who knows what the long term affects will be? look at the antibiotic craze we had in the 60's,70's, kids are immune to them now. They have to create new stuff strong enough to kill the new strands of bacterias.

By Meghan Campbell on Friday, June 15, 2001 - 01:32 am: Edit

Food is ABSOLUTELY art and science, and not the science of Kraft. The science of chemistry, and why for example, acid essentially cooks fish as in ceviche, or why weather affects bread baking. It takes the two in combination wether the cook is conscious of it or not, to make an excellent chef.
If you want to be a professional chef you need the desire, the ability, and the endurance, because it is HARD work.
Good luck with your choice Rick.

By Peachcreek (Peachcreek) on Saturday, June 16, 2001 - 12:10 pm: Edit

Hello, Peachcreek here.
As I say trying to understand the complexities of the modern chef is a little like having bees live in you head.
But, there they are.

By Chris on Monday, June 18, 2001 - 09:48 am: Edit

Anyone that thinks food is not science or chemistry, Try baking for 600 on a regular basis at 11,500 feet above sea level.

By joker on Monday, June 18, 2001 - 12:29 pm: Edit

A 747 ?

By junior on Thursday, June 21, 2001 - 02:20 pm: Edit

chef manny, you may want to check out 'Soul of a chef' by michael ruhlman. it's the story of the CMC at C.I.A. i read it cover to cover and i believe it to be challenge. they take recipes right out of 'guide culinaire' ya gotta be up on your knife skills,gotta be able to work 10 days straight without a break. from what they say, you either have it or you don't. so whoever is spending that 10k should be well prepared. my guess would be to start as soon as you get to culinary school(if you are new) on your day off study and practice.but if i had lots of years in the biz and decided i wanted to attempt CMC at this late date for 10k? well...?

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Friday, June 22, 2001 - 07:28 am: Edit

Dude, what the h--- are you talking about???
I have been in the kitchen over 25 years, if you "think" you read "my" post you better go back and read it again and try to comprehend it this time areound!!!!

By Junior (Junior) on Friday, June 22, 2001 - 10:36 am: Edit

nah... i ain't gonna bite. all i meant was that cherries coming into the biz might wanna think along these lines...ya know read,study. as for you manny,i think you could swing the test. since you did mention you "saw" the test,can you give some specfics?....junior

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Friday, June 22, 2001 - 11:43 am: Edit

When I say I saw the test I mean that I saw someone who was going through the test when I was there. (Continuing Ed. classes).(Not an actual paper with all the specifics)
The test includes principles from all facets of the Culinary Arts. It includes sauce prep., cold foods prep., pastry, confectionery, identifying flavors, just by nose, meat fabrication, soups, veggies, farinacious products, etc. Mostly in the classic French cuisine and Nouvelle. Very traditional.
Too many items to mention or remember now. This was about 10-12 years ago.
Absolutely, if anyone is serious about this business they should want to better themselves, wether they do it by reading on their own, or schooling but in this business you never stop learning.

By Yankee on Friday, June 22, 2001 - 01:56 pm: Edit

They ran a CMC test during the last month I was at the CIA, six years ago. Two people in my group worked as commis. It is a very intense 10 days, but it all goes back to basics. If you want to study, find someone who went through the CIA program and read their stuff. Almost everything on the test we covered in class.

I think they need 10 to 15 qualified applicants before they even offer the test. After two days, five people were gone. I think only five finished, and only three passed.

It's ten days of morning and afternoon sessions, all the basics, plus table service. Everything you have to present to a group of ACF judges, most of whom are staff at the CIA. It get's pretty brutal, none of these people holds back their comments. If it is clear you are not going to pass, they let you go.

The one thing these applicants just could not get past? Pastry cream. Most of them took three to five passes at it before they got it right.

By Junior (Junior) on Friday, June 22, 2001 - 04:56 pm: Edit

thanks go to chefmanny and yankee for their input.

By The Baker on Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 07:34 pm: Edit

"you may want to check out 'Soul of a chef' by michael ruhlman. it's the
story of the CMC at C.I.A."

I was at school (not the CIA) with one of the chefs that took the cmc exam (neil becker NY restaurant school) He was an awesome teacher really into it.
I am glad that he did finally pass the exam.

By junior on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 05:13 pm: Edit

hi, baker,junior hear. yeah i've already read 'soul of a chef',it's a good read. i would recommend it to anyone interested in the CMC exam or any neophyte chef for that matter.i've also read bourdain's book,'kitchen confidential' wanna know how to conduct yourself? this is it. none of these books would be very interesting to the experienced culinary veteran,probably. 'kitchen confidential' 'the making of a chef' 'soul of a chef' recommended for the foodie in your life.

By aussie guy on Monday, July 02, 2001 - 05:58 am: Edit

A couple of questions for you people out there,if you can help me it would be appreciated, I'm a Pastry chef with 10 years experience having completed a 4 year apprentiship 9,000 hrs and college assesments etc.. . Am I a chef there in the states or am I a cook, currently here in Sydney, Australia Im a Chef De Partie but we dont have letters after our names .I move over to Canada in 6 weeks for a year not really knowing what to expect havent met any Canadian Chefs but i would be stoked to catch up with any one who doesnt mind having there brain picked.
cheers An Aussie chef or cook???

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Monday, July 02, 2001 - 08:09 am: Edit

There are some Canadians on these boards, I can't remember who. Look in past messages.
With that experience you could be a pastry chef, probably a CEPC, Certified Executive Pastry Chef, if not very close to it.
Canadian designations are a bit different then USA.
Check w/ Canadian source.

By Aussie chef on Tuesday, July 03, 2001 - 03:55 am: Edit

you have love all these little letters you can have after your name dont you :) i guess what it comes down to is dont tell me how good you are, show me how good u are.
cheers Aussie chef.

By junior on Tuesday, July 03, 2001 - 10:19 am: Edit

aussie chef: in my mind, the term "chef"is a rank confered upon someone who is hired to run a kitchen,plan menues ect. but within that chef ranking there is a cook.this man or woman has been,up until they were hired to run a kithcen,a cook. the term "chef"in the states has always been used loosely.anyone with a white paper hat will be deemed a chef by the non-cooking public.any line cook that tells the public that they are chefs isn't being completely honest.some organisations award the title.check around..junior

By junior on Tuesday, July 03, 2001 - 10:28 am: Edit

aussie chef,ignore the previous post.there are posts with more info from june11...junior

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