Cook and Chef. These two terminologies are often interchangeably used by people who have no experience in the field of food preparation.
It’s quite understandable. But for business owners and venue managers, differentiating one from the other can significantly affect your kitchen operation, your event, and your business in the long run.
If you need to hire someone for your restaurant kitchen, to cater or handle the food aspects in your event, you need to be sure that you are recruiting someone with the skills you require and not hiring someone overqualified for the job.
When you hire an overqualified person:
- You are not optimizing your payroll budget. You may have to pay more for the position than you originally intended, to bring someone in who has more skills. This decision may end up being more costly for you in the long run. An excellent tip to avoid this is to include the salary range on your offer directly in the job post.
- There is a risk of a faster turnover. The person may leave for a job that he or she is better suited for. The lack of stimulation or challenge can cause boredom and disinterest in the role. When you have even just one person feeling that way in your team, there is a chance that he or she can negatively influence the rest.
How do you know then who you will need to be on your team?
First of all, you need to be clear about what specific tasks you need to be done or what needs to happen in the kitchen.
And then, you will be able to determine the type of skill that you require for your kitchen or venue.
The next step is to figure out who between the two has the capacity to carry out your requirement.
Both cooks and chefs are undeniably skilled in the kitchen. This article is in no way meant to put down or lift one from another, but there is an advantage to knowing their specific skills/capacity that will serve your needs.
Cooks typically have little or no professional schooling. You need to be clear if you require “experience” because a cook who has been doing his work for some time can be called “experienced” but in what capacity? A cook can usually be considered an extra hand in food preparation because they can be trained on the job to do specific food preparation tasks that are already laid out and specified. Here’s a quick list of what to expect:
- They can handle food preparation
- They can manage their given stations (sauté, grill, broiler, saucier)
- They can accomplish given kitchen duties
- They can help clean and wash the kitchen
- They can follow recipes or a given menu plan
This is why often, cooks cannot be considered in equal terms with the chef in salary and prestige. But there are always exceptions to the rule. Many cooks have skills and experience that surpass that of chefs, but they do not need to claim the title. There are also celebrity cooks who, while admittedly are not chefs, are known for their cooking and passion for food.
If these capacities can meet your requirement, then you can hire a cook to help you out.
A chef is a technical title, and along with that title comes a myriad of responsibilities that go beyond cooking.
- They have undergone a two or four-year culinary degree that, apart from cooking, involves training on cost control, purchasing, management, nutrition, sanitation, menu planning, human relations.
- They have extensive training under a professional chef or undergone a culinary apprenticeship.
- They are trained to handle supervisory and management roles in the kitchen- which means they also manage most of the paperwork: Inventory, schedules, specials, etc.
- They can create menus and implement in a restaurant setting.
- Asking salaries are higher than cooks.
Often the chef takes minimal cooking duties to have time for the organizational responsibilities. As a basic comparison, cooks manage their given station, while chefs manage the kitchen.
RELATED READ: 5 Things to Look for When Hiring a Chef
If you require someone who can run the kitchen operation on your behalf, while managing costs and workforce, exploring and creating new dishes and ideas, then you need a chef.
As a chef, I do not necessarily think that chefs are better people than cooks. Some cooks may cook better than chefs. But, we all have a purpose to serve, and as brothers and sisters in the hospitality industry, we need to support one another and raise the level of cooking even higher.
In every chef, there is still a cook. There is always a beginning point somewhere. The reality of this situation is that chefs have evolved from being a cook. A brilliant chef will continue to learn and grow throughout his or her career. In every chef, there is a given responsibility to provide quality. This can be attributed to their training and to the discipline they learned from their apprenticeship.
Being a chef is best described as a craft. A cook learns a craft, and a chef teaches it.
That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!
Ciao for now,