Teaching Cooks About Chefs

By Adam Weiner, JD, CFSE

Provide budding cooks with a reality check about how becoming a chef is more than just cooking well.

As you approach the end of the school year, many of your students will be looking toward starting jobs in the culinary field. When looking for a job, they need to sell themselves and their abilities. However, they need to be cautioned not to oversell.

Let me give you two examples: I met a young person who told me she was a “chef at Taco Bell.” I asked if she worked in the corporate office doing development and perfecting of new recipes. “No,” she said, “I am a chef at the Taco Bell about a mile from here.” The second example comes from a culinary instructor friend of mine, who worked in another program. My friend asked if I could instill some reality in a student. I asked my friend’s student what he wanted to do after graduation. He said, “I’m going to get a job as a lead cook or sous chef working for a celebrity chef.” I told him how unlikely this would be right out of a culinary program. I also stated that working for a restaurant owned (or whose name was licensed by) a celebrity chef didn’t mean he would be working with that chef. He replied, “Oh, the chef will know me. I’m going to challenge the chef to a cooking competition just the chef and me. I’m going to show him I can cook better than he or she can. And since I can cook better, that means I am a better chef.” (Emphasis original.) It is not often that I am speechless, but this comment left me without anything to say for quite a few moments.

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