We’re College Chefs. Even if you’ve never heard of us, chances are that you can guess we’re a chef related business. But, what EXACTLY is a chef? These days the term gets thrown around pretty loosely. We break down what the term “chef” means- and what it doesn’t.
The term chef, today, is a title for a professional cook; an educated individual versed in the culinary arts. But, the term actually originates from the French term for “boss” or “leader.” This title of chef holds an honor. It represents long hours spent honing one’s skill, day after day. The chef runs the kitchen and the menu. They’re more than just someone cooking a meal. Furthermore, they’re leading the charge of the kitchen and creating a symphony of flavors on a seasonal scale. Other than being a damn good cook, we believe there are 4 main qualities that make a badass chef.
The number one quality of a great chef is experience. Time spent in the kitchen, honing one’s craft. A chef is a mature, competent professional who has made the rookie mistakes and knows how to navigate on the fly. Knowledge of menu planning is a must! Like any good story, a great menu has a strong beginning, great development, maybe some intrigue or surprise, and a complete conclusion that keeps you thinking about the experience. Furthermore, a chef is a mentor, guiding the line cooks or sous chefs with any questions or uncertainties. The technical aspect of cooking has been mastered under the most tense, stressful situations.
A vast knowledge of food is also in the starter pack of a rockstar chef. The chef needs to know available ingredients, when those ingredients are in season, the best way to source those ingredients and the best method of cooking for the respective ingredients and what ingredients pair well together.
At the end of the day, a chef is working with the magic of flavor. They have a developed, experienced palate and the ability to build unique flavor profiles.
If you think chefs don’t use their arithmetic skills, you’re mistaking. Classic kitchen math is needed. Chefs possess the ability to cost a dish out within seconds as a result of mastering recipes, plates and costing the overall menu within the budget. Also, they standardize recipes and are able to scale for larger or smaller groups with ease. In addition to this, they maintain knowledge of inventory and are able to manage their stock room with efficiency to reduce waste and minimize costs.
If the origin of the word is any indicator, an amazing chef must also be an amazing leader. A true team builder, rallying a team behind one goal: serving a wicked good meal. If anything goes wrong, all fingers point to the chef. They are responsible for setting the tone and culture within the kitchen. They are the example of excellence for the rest of the kitchen staff. Respect is a major key here. Respect for ingredients, methods of cooking, the team and the customer! A chef also needs to be a competent communicator and versed emotional intelligence.
At College Chefs, we appoint a College Chefs Ambassador (CCA) in each of our houses to communicate directly with the the chef and play a role in the menu creation process so each member of the sorority or fraternity is getting exactly what they want.
It’s not called the culinary arts for nothing. An artist sees things that don’t already exist, and brings them to life. A chef has a grand vision and utilizes their knowledge and skills to execute this vision to the best of their abilities. This can mean taking some risks and the ability to get crafty when a creative mistake is made and the meal still needs to be served. This is a fast-paced industry, so a chef must be quick on their feet. After years of experience, chefs possess a knowledge of the science behind cooking and the inner workings of flavor. Beyond this knowledge, they’re able to hone and develop their intuition in the kitchen. With this intuition, they’re able to push the creative boundaries and create unique experiences for those lucky enough to enjoy their service.
“A jazz musician can improvise based on his knowledge of music. He understands how things go together. For a chef, once you have that basis, that’s when cuisine is truly exciting.” -Charlie Trotter