Locally Grown

Tossing The Hot Potato, Going Long Pt.1

Today I am a little upset.

I was told long ago that you can’t make up your own nick-name, you have to EARN it. You earn it by living up to it. As a child I was called Sammoth the Mammoth because I was a chubby kid and lived up to it every day. I didn’t just come out to recess one day and say “hey guys, I was thinking you should all call me Sammoth the Mammoth because it would be cool.” Nope, a friend of mine saw my mammoth sized proportions and processed my appearance into an appropriate name which caught on and was used in reference to me for a number of years. I EARNED IT. (Conversely at the age of 22 I decided to call myself “Sammy Chaos” wich did not stick, thankfully)

All five of you out there are probably asking yourself right now what the hell this has to do with local dining or food at all (other than my obvious life-long love for overeating). Well, our lesson today involves a word that people have drug down to the level of a self-proclaimed nick-name.


Chef is a word thrown out inapropriately more often that PET plastic water bottles. It seems that in this day of Food Networking, Travel channeling, self-important, sometimes delusional cooks (home or professional) any joebob weilding a recipe card feels the need to call themselves a chef.

To be a chef is a wonderful and maddening thing. It requires love, dedication, years of experience, and a level of knowledge far beyond what the average non-restaurant person could comprehend as needed just to “cook some food.” There are great triumphs and other days your newest creation hits the trash can in frustration. This is a job of managing cooks, labor, food cost, customer relations, menus, dealing with the requests of owners/investors, possibly wrestling with the expectations catering directors have falsely given customers, and trying to please as many people as possible so as to have a successful restaurant. Bottom line is this : Creativity, Thick skin, Methodical, ability to take shit, dish it out, motivate and train. No wonder it has one of the highest burn-out rates!

Now, many people out there call themselves Chef, lowering the title to the status of self-made nickname.
You have the restaurateur who has a few cookbooks and may base their menu entirely and verbatim from other peoples’ hard work and recipes. (Sometimes even from ONE SINGLE BOOK!) Culinary Plagiarism is a fraud and this type of person is not a chef.
There is also the overeager cook whom sees fit to refer to themselves as a chef even though the closest they have come to a hot line is dropping off some prep they were “cheffing” in the back. After work they are talking all about what a chef they are.
Then you have “Culinary Parasites” whom employ good chefs to open their restaurants, let them get a good system going, then fire them, steal their recipes, call the whole operation theirs and Viola! Look at the new chef. Never worked in a kitchen, now a chef. It’s a miracle!
The guy at home with a penchant for grilling – Chef
Lady opening up cans and dumping them in a casserole dish ala Rachel Ray – Chef
Kid straight out of culinary school who can barely run a salad station – Chef
Line cook at HyVee deli – Chef
Bar owner with 2 cook books and a convection – chef

Do you understand what I am getting at here? Someone watching the afformentioned Ms. Ray hacking up stewed tomatoes in a can with kitchen shears suddenly gets the epiphany “what if I add some basil, onion, garlic, stock, and cream to those tomatoes and maybe some salt and pepper then call it soup?) WHAMMO! Chef.

The press picks up on this b.s. and polinates it like little hunny beez. “Chef Blah Blah of Bloop Has done it again with their inventive use of blah blah blah” The person I refer to is not a chef, but the uninformed will back up the claim.

Sometimes these perpetrators even get nominated for awards.



6 Comments so far
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In the words of a good friend of ours,
“Why does it always have to be Joebob?”

Comment by yayah

I don’t know why, but it always is…

Comment by locallygrown


I think I know who you’re talking about. NOT that I’m ready to jump on your wagon here….but may I guess, and if I guess right, do I get a prize???

Would it be, um, a guy who has a restaurant in the East Village and, on a good day, bears a resemblance to George Clooney?

I know what you mean about the whole chef thing….I once stopped a super-important-looking chefs-whites-dressed guy who happened to be walking through the dining room in France: “Vous etes le chef?” (Are you the chef?) He gasped, like I had asked him if he were king of France. “Non, non,” he said. “Pas moi! Je ne suis qu’un cuisinier.” (I’m a cook.)

It was like he was wanted to make sure that everyone knew he would NOT presume to be a chef when he wasn’t one!

Also….doesn’t the word “chef” derive from the same word as our word for “chief,” which means: Head hancho….Obviously, not everyone who wears “chef’s whites” is a chef….though many would make us want to think so…..

And what idiot-journalist wrote “Chef Blah Blah of Bloop Has done it again with their inventive use of blah blah blah”? Was this person WRONG in referring to the person in question as a chef? Or do you just not like this chef….Details, please!

Comment by La Bonne Femme

Oh man, first off you may be in line for a prize but I would like to state for the record that any subject’s resemblence to real life persons is purely coincidental.

Europe is a different animal altogether when it comes to respect of the chef trade, and it is true that the definition of a chef is “one who manages cooks.” Or “one with the power to make you cower when improperly executing their dishes.”

As far as other details, I am going to have to bow out. You know I don’t like being that helpful, maybe we can discuss it next time we run into each other.

Comment by locallygrown

“Lady opening up cans and dumping them in a casserole dish ala Rachel Ray – Chef”
Hee Hee Rachel Ray aka Marge!

Comment by Jenn Buller

Exactly. Chef Marge!

Comment by locallygrown

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