Nowadays, chefs are celebrities. They’re featured on reality TV shows, they’re written about in articles, and people discuss them online in reviews and blogs. They’re artists and their dishes are culinary works of art brought to life with passion and creativity.
But reality shows and online articles don’t actually show you what’s really going on behind the scenes outside the spotlight. So let’s clear up some of the misconceptions you may have about chefs and the food they serve.
1-Chefs aren’t really doing the cooking. Chefs are actually more like a general than a frontline soldier. Their task is to oversee everything, not chopping onions back in the kitchen. They’re managers, and they see to it that your entire dining experience is fantastic. So what is it do they actually do? They manage everything in the kitchen. They’re the ones who develop the menu and recipes. They teach the cooks on what to do and taste the results to make sure that your dishes are done right. If there’s a problem in the kitchen, it’s their responsibility to deal with it.
2-Chefs don’t go to the market to buy the ingredients either. You may have some romantic idea that chefs are up before dawn, buying fresh fish in the market. The truth of the matter is that they have vendors who do this sort of thing for them. The vendors negotiate with the food suppliers about the quality and the prices of the food. Then the vendors are responsible for delivering the supplies straight to the restaurant kitchen. Again, chefs have bigger fish to fry (so to speak) than dealing with food market sellers in the early morning. Having vendors do the job is more cost effective and more efficient for everyone.
3-Chefs take allergies seriously. In fact, this is so serious that a lot of restaurants are playing it safe and refusing to serve diners who have allergies. That’s because this is a serious legal matter, and the bad press that comes with patrons having an allergic reaction isn’t worth it. Chefs also hate it when customers say that they’re “allergic” to something when in fact they just don’t like a particular ingredient. It’s just too much pressure for them to act as if the tomatoes you hate are actually dangerous for you.
4-Chefs obsess about their customer reviews. Sure they love it when they get a great magazine review. But most of the time, they pay special attention to reviews in forums like Yelp. That’s because most diners pay attention to those too. Chefs and restaurant reps often respond to customer reviews and comments on Facebook because they don’t want any negative comments to go unchallenged or unacknowledged. They don’t react to every review, of course. But they do heed comments when they come from regular patrons and the same complaint is being voiced by several customers. They make sure to identify the problem and solve it. So let’s say that 3 different regulars complain that a particular soup was served cold. The chef’s job is to see whether the problem is about the ingredients or the preparation. It may even be about how quickly the servers are serving the soup when it’s done.
5-Sometimes they use frozen food. Wouldn’t it be great if everything you eat is fresh from the garden or from the market? That’s not always going to happen. That’s especially true when you have a large menu. That means they need too much food at the ready, and they can’t all be fresh. Fish is commonly frozen, and they’re sent to restaurants only partly thawed. Sauces also commonly come out of a jar. It just takes too much time to prepare a sauce from scratch. There’s not much difference in the taste, and diners may not care for the delay anyway.
6-Not all chefs went to culinary school. Some of these chefs and cooks learned on the job while they started out as dishwashers. It’s more of an apprenticeship, yet their determination to learn sees them through. There’s nothing wrong about starting out as a dishwasher either. In fact, some chefs don’t hire cooks who came from a culinary school. That’s because they often think too much of themselves and they just think about cooking. Those who first started out as dishwashers know that there’s more to the job than just cooking. They help organize the kitchen and clean up.
7-Great chefs worry about the state of the bathroom. That’s because they know that the cleanliness of the bathrooms is indicative of the cleanliness of the kitchen. Even if the bathrooms are separate for employees and for customers, they should all be clean.
So the next time you watch some chef reality show, remember: it’s not always about the screaming!