HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >

The difference between a chef and a cook

b
Bkeats Jan 5, 2012 11:04 AM

I was watching an interview the other day of Jacques Pepin. He was asked what’s the difference between a chef and a cook? He had a very simple explanation. Pepin said a cook is someone who does the cooking. A chef is a manager. He oversees the cooks. After all, chef just means the chief – the boss. So next time someone says to me as a compliment – You’re such a great chef! – I’ll just respond, nah I’m a good cook and only a decent boss.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Monica RE: Bkeats Jan 5, 2012 11:13 AM

    Though chefs do oversee the cooks, they also cook too...especially if you are chef de cuisine and sous chefs. I guess if you are executive chef, you are not so involved in cooking itself.

    1. paulj RE: Bkeats Jan 5, 2012 11:46 AM

      The word has the same roots, I think, as English 'chief', and the use in cooking comes from the highly formalized French restaurant kitchen hierarchy. In that old-school system you started at the bottom as an apprentice and worked your way up through the ranks. At the bottom you are chopping onions, at the top you are hiring people, cussing out the staff, and sucking up to the VIP customers.

      Modern American usage is much looser, some applying it only to graduates of culinary (cooking) schools, others to anyone who cooks in the public eye. In many contexts the distinction between cook and chef is not very useful.

      1. h
        Harters RE: Bkeats Jan 5, 2012 02:21 PM

        It will depend where in the world you are.

        Where I am, almost everyone cooking in a professional kitchen is likely to have the word "chef" somewhere in their job title - commis chef, chef de partie, sous chef, chef. Of course, there are other variants in large kitchen brigades where jobs may be very specialised.

        1. j
          jamieeats RE: Bkeats Jan 5, 2012 04:20 PM

          in my opinion, a chef is the "concepter," coming up with the menu, flavors, and presentation. the cook executes.

          2 Replies
          1. re: jamieeats
            KarenDW RE: jamieeats Jan 5, 2012 10:50 PM

            and sometimes those are one and the same person :)

            1. re: KarenDW
              j
              jamieeats RE: KarenDW Jan 6, 2012 04:43 PM

              agreed!

          2. mamachef RE: Bkeats Jan 6, 2012 04:47 AM

            Well, I like Jacques' answer and it's succinct, too. One can be a chef without credentials, and never touch food anymore. But one cannot be a cook who doesn't cook!! Basically it's semantics plus job description, if we're insisting on formalities here. But a chef definitely runs the kitchen line, though (s)he may cook on it too, whereas a cook cooks on it and doesn't become a chef.
            I'm not sure this made any sense at all, though. :)

            2 Replies
            1. re: mamachef
              c
              chefdaddyo RE: mamachef Jan 6, 2012 05:35 AM

              The difference between a chef and a cook is $500 per week!

              1. re: chefdaddyo
                mamachef RE: chefdaddyo Jan 6, 2012 02:09 PM

                LOL, right?

            2. b
              beevod RE: Bkeats Jan 6, 2012 07:33 AM

              Pretension

              1. jmcarthur8 RE: Bkeats Jan 6, 2012 02:22 PM

                How about this - a chef does his or her cooking commercially, for pay,
                with some supervisory functions. (in general)

                A cook does it for family and friends, and does not get paid. (in general)

                5 Replies
                1. re: jmcarthur8
                  s
                  soupkitten RE: jmcarthur8 Jan 6, 2012 02:50 PM

                  what?

                  1. re: soupkitten
                    jmcarthur8 RE: soupkitten Jan 6, 2012 03:00 PM

                    Urggh. I was trying to keep it simple. Did I blow it?

                    1. re: jmcarthur8
                      pikawicca RE: jmcarthur8 Jan 6, 2012 03:42 PM

                      Made sense to me.

                  2. re: jmcarthur8
                    paulj RE: jmcarthur8 Jan 6, 2012 05:00 PM

                    Isn't the person manning the grill at many restaurants called a line-cook?

                    1. re: paulj
                      jmcarthur8 RE: paulj Jan 6, 2012 06:27 PM

                      Sure! That's why the (in general) qualifier.

                      Hubby says "A cook may work for a chef, but a chef will *never* work for a cook!"

                  Show Hidden Posts