What's the Difference Between a Chef and a Cook?
When you and I see people who prepare food, and do so many other tasks in a commercial kitchen, such as a restaurant, café or hotel, we simply see them all as Chefs or cooks, there being no distinction between the two.
Whether they are wearing a professional chef coat and toque (the tall hats worn by professionals) or simply a cook shirt under their apron, we see them all in the same light. However, did you know that in the culinary world there is a big difference between the two designations?
For one thing, the uniform that they wear is vastly different. A Chef dressed in his professional uniform of a Chef coat and pants and tall Toque commands the respect and honor that his experience and expertise bring. The Head Chef will usually have the tallest hat, and its height will reduce as they go down the line, while a cook may simply wear a skull cap or beanie to cover their head, and a kitchen shirt rather than the usual double-breasted jacket. Hence to most laymen like us, the only difference we see between the two are the hat and the clothing, even though the actual differences go far deeper into their skills and experience.
Usually, a Chef is someone who has finished culinary school and gained many years of experience, and a cook is someone who either simply enjoys cooking (possibly a home cook or something similar) or is still in culinary school and is learning the ropes, or are probably still apprenticing under a professional. In the hierarchy of the kitchen a cook is considered a lower rank than a chef, which is why they do not get to wear the tall hat and Chef coats and are simply attired in cook shirts and beanies.
What defines a chef?
Chefs have many specialties as well, and different professionals are needed in a commercial kitchen to carry out different activities or head the different sections of a kitchen. These areas of specialty and the hierarchy of the kitchen may include:
While Chefs are generally creative and come up with innovative dishes and garnishing, cooks usually don’t have a say in the creative aspects of the menu items, and are always working under the supervision and management of the head of the kitchen or sectional supervisor. This hierarchy in the kitchen is strictly maintained in all commercial kitchens in order to have a smooth operation, and you can usually distinguish the different levels of the hierarchy from their uniform style or color.
A cook’s responsibilities or jobs include:
Whichever job role they play, each person has an important function for the smooth operation of the kitchen, and each role is vital in giving customers a food experience of a lifetime. The learning process for a Chef is long and hard, with many years of endless hours put into it, and therefore when they finally come up to the standard of being referred to as a professional Chef, they certainly deserve all the honor and glory that goes with it.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Virginia Hawthorne, a.k.a Georgie writes books and articles, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. She’s best known for writing fiction and fantasy. She also writes non-fiction, on subjects ranging from business strategies to world facts and historical subjects. She enjoys pizza, as should all right thinking people. She lives in the west suburb of Sri Lanka with her mother and her outrageously annoying two siblings, and two cats.