10 Common Misconceptions about a Chef

In this era of emerging restaurants scenes, some would say that being a chef is probably a “cool thing” to be. Well, think again. Being cool and being popular has its own back story. What you probably see on TV is the glamorized part of the job – the nice studio kitchen, the beach-side picturesque background while cooking and all the top of the line cookware.

It’s not.

It’s far from pretty and not what you think it is. Most of the time, you’re inside a hot kitchen sweating out and being under an insane time pressure. Thus the saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Most chefs would probably say that the rewards come after. It is true.

On the other hand, behind these serious bad-ass stories are also the funny and sometimes annoying misconceptions and stereotypes that most people pertain about chefs. I advise you to read these and have a little humor and sarcasm on the side, just like what most chefs will do while reading these.

1. YOUR SPECIALTY

restaurant-939437_960_720More often than not, we encounter the question, “What’s your specialty?” Whilst we studied and practiced our craft, we actually don’t spend the whole of our career making this just one specialty. We work to create many specialties and it differs now and then. What would be a discussion-inducing conversation would be if you had asked us on the dishes or cuisines that we like. That would be a better question to answer for us.

2. PRESSURE, BECAUSE THE CHEF IS HERE.

Mind you guys, we are not critics. We are just humans with a spare talent for food. If you are pressured or too shy to put out the food you cooked or brought then don’t be. In fact, we appreciate a nice home cooked domestic meal.

3. LET THE CHEF ORDER

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Strange as it seems, you let the chef order because he is a chef? Yes, we know things about food but what we don’t know is your preference. It’s nice to know that you recognize our expertise but we don’t have any idea what you actually like. We actually don’t want to be obliged to order you food you will not like. How about some cow’s brain, pig’s ear and chicken intestines, would you like some?

4. DO YOU EAT THAT?

It doesn’t mean that if we’re chefs, we will not eat if it’s not restaurant quality food. We’d like for you to see how we appreciate and understand food more than you do. So don’t bother to think that we wouldn’t eat something that is not-so-gourmet because we do eat them. As chefs, we will try eating everything edible at least once.

5. YOU MUST BE GOOD AT COOKING, EH?

Imagine a scene where a person discovers you’re a chef and makes a rhetorical statement, “You must be good at cooking.” Or in Filipino, “Magaling ka pala magluto.” Imagine us answering back sarcastically in our heads, “Honestly, we just fry some chicken nuggets and drink beer!”You probably don’t want us to speak after what you had said. Next!

6. THE WALKING COOKBOOK

We do have some recipes stored at the back of our headsmemorized and stored just in case you ask us, “You have a recipe for…?” Honestly, we’re not literally walking cookbooks. Now, if I can make a recipe to make you Google the recipes you wanted to ask us.

7. CHEFS KNOW THE BEST PLACE TO EAT

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Being in this industry actually has some advantages. You get to have first hand information of the new and upcoming restaurants (maybe a competition), if you are not naive. It doesn’t necessarily follow that we know where the best place to eat are. We learn about these restaurants when we try them out, that’s how we know places. A suggestion might come from us for a restaurant to try but please do not approach us asking where to find the best African or Latin restaurant somewhere. We are not Google for restaurants.

8. TATTOOS, SMOKING, DRINKING and DRUGS

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A sensitive issue I would say but it’s very stereotypical for people to link us with these things especially in the western parts of the world. Open your minds and realize that most chefs actually have a clean way of living. We do know how to have a good time but it is mandatory that we work on a 100% healthy condition. Vices are there but only during breaks, if we get one.

9. REALITY TV COOKING SHOWS vs. REALITY COOKING

It’s best to be informed, entertained and to gather knowledge while watching cooking competitions and shows. It’s worst if you think that both situations are the same. Professional cooking is far from the cooking you see on television. If you have ever been in a real operating kitchen, it will open your eyes up to the true meaning of reality cooking.

10. THE FAT CHEF IS PROBABLY THE BOSS

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The most famous of all stereotypes has to be the fat chef. Whilst both fat and chef are words that are almost synonymous, it actually is not the usual case nowadays. If you suspect that the fat guy in chef’s uniform walking around the dining area is the boss then maybe you are annoyingly 90% correct. We as the chefs are obliged to taste the food on a daily basis. However, in today’s situation, there are more chefs starting to be more conscious of the things they eat, no matter how hard it is to do. So maybe the fat chef stereotype is there to stay, but who knows what the future holds.

This article is for every chef who has encountered these types of misconceptions and stereotypes throughout their careers. A big kudos to all of you who work hard to create and feed customers great food!

Kirk Ngo

Chef by profession. Let's talk about food and all the people and things around it. Traveler wannabe. You want advice on your restaurants and food business, ask me :)