15 February 2009

i Chef?

I was starting a new post and it began "When I was cooking professionally... I will make that post another time as I have now been distracted by something else, no, not a shiny object this time. Yesterday I read this post on Tigers & Strawberries explaining to us all that you are only allowed to call yourself a chef if you are an actual chef de cusine, If you do not know what that is, have no fear as the author will tell you.

Cambridge shows this entry chef -noun [C] a skilled and trained cook who works in a hotel or restaurant, especially the most important cook. I actually think the position the author is describing would be the executive chef to whom the chef de cuisine will report but to be completely fair, these titles are all just assigned by whoever makes the rules in that particular kitchen, it means whatever the person bestowing the title says it means. The man that owned my last restaurant called me the prep cook. Seriously. I in turn compared him to the manger in Waiting even though he was nothing like that.
This morning I read another What is a chef-type entry, one which was written so poorly I am not really sure what we are being told, I think in the end it is some sort of a tribute to Nigella. I guess my point here is so what? I mean I sure as hell ain't no Alain Ducasse or Gordon Ramsay or even a Bittman or a Nigella but I went from waitress to General Manager in the corporate world where I had to do everything from cleaning shit in the toilets (gah! that merits a separate blog post, people are nasty) to assembling last minute parties of 50 church goers, the Kryptonite of every restaurant employee.
I then built several restaurant kitchens from the ground up, from the floor tile to every recipe, spoon and spatula, I purchased the goods, hired and trained the staff, tweaked and slaved, sweated and swore, cooked my ass off from 4-5am til it was done every day for over a decade to create a restaurant. The last one still puts 14-18% on the bottom line week after week and trust me if you don't know what that means it is good. Damn good. In fact I consistenly delivered an 11 to 14% in the corporate world. Yes, I really was that good. ::blink blink::
So am I a chef? I have never been to formal cooking school other than here and there, I have never studied under a master and have never even been to New York City but I do meet all the criteria laid out in that blog post as to what makes a chef. I no longer toil away in my restaurant, when we split he dropped some cash on me and I hopped on a jet and stayed away until I stopped twitching. I am not sure I could ever bring myself to cook professionally again as it just takes so much of your soul and he took what was left of it.
Now I have a little food blog. I adore cooking and eating, I love to read blogs written by other people who cook and eat, I love to watch cooking shows on tv, if I ever met Eric Ripert, Tom Colicchio or Tony Bourdain I would probably pee my pants. I cannot cook as well as they do, or even come anywhere close but I bet I could run a kitchen as well as any of them. So am I a chef?
So what if I am or not and so what if all of these other food loving people are not, so what if they call themselves a chef or a cook or a mom or dad, who cares? They aren't hurting anyone. I actually AM a chef and it doesn't nbother me so why does it bother all of these supposed non-chefs? So the bottom line here is could you please refer to me as Chef Juli from now on, apparantly I have earned it.


iJuli Cooks
(but mostly eats and watches Reality TV)
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