Table Talk: "What defines a Chef"

 I recently stumbled upon an interesting read. A post on the James Beard Food Conference website brought about a thought provoking question. What defines a Chef? According to the writer, who asks the question is there a distinction between Chef and Celebrity?
    First, the topic is quite misleading. A Chef is not defined by whether they are in front of the camera or behind the stove. In my opinion a Chef is defined by their characteristics. A person who is first and foremost passionate about the lore of food and cooking. A chef is excited to enter their kitchen, awaiting the expected and unforeseen challenges of the day. They are also leaders and teachers. Once one masters such traits he/she has earned the title of Chef and it should not matter whether they are in front of a camera or not. Of course having the ability to handle food and work in a kitchen under heat and pressure is an expected requirement.
    There are a handful of true Chefs that put their name in the spotlight, although sometimes they risk damaging their reputation. Some examples of Chefs who have successfully gained celebrity are Giada De Laurenttis, Rocco Dispirito, Duff Goldman, and Anthony Bourdain. Giada is a trained Chef who studied at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. She worked under Wolfgang Puck and was a personal chef for many years. Rocco Dispirito, CIA alumni and youngest to ever graduate, showcases his talents in both restaurants and TV. Duff Goldman, also a CIA graduate worked at the French Laundry straight out of school!  Although he's hung his days of professional cooking up, Anthony Bourdain is still considered a Chef. All of these examples are true chefs that have or had the best of both worlds and have maintained respect and authenticity.
    The worlds most admired chefs are celebrities, are they not?. Two of our country’s most renowned Chefs, Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud (who had his own TV show!) have often shown their faces on the screen.  Does being celebrity Chef make one any more or less genuine Chef. Just something to think about though. What do you think defines Chef? Let me know.

Keep on Cooking!!


1 comment:

  1. Jeremy, What a great conversation! I am so glad you brought it up!

    Chefs, the word actually means Chief - the leader of the kitchen. And as it sounds you also believe, Chefs are just so passionate about butternut squash coming into season, the walnuts that join them, and how to create an experience with both (and maybe umm, apples, nutmeg, curry, and cream?) for their diners that will elicit "aaahhs" when reflected upon. As Chefs, we are in the pleasure business. Not all Chefs need to be Celebrity's. I think when the focus pinpoints the Chef, and negates other factors -- there's something inherently distasteful going on. Cooking shouldn't be put on a pedestal (the pot will surely fall off) If the whole advent of Celebrity Chefdom had created more Cooks at home, I might feel differently. But I hope to foster a love and to encourage others to cherish cooking at home, and offer your family and friends a celebration of everyday! as often as possible around the table.

    Merci, Jeremy!
    So how can we get more folks not afraid to cook?