There are a lot of different names for positions in the restaurant. Executive Chef, Chef de Cuisine, Sous Chef, Tournant, Chef De Partie. These are only a couple of ,what feels like, a limitless supply of names for cookers.
There are a lot of proper french names for all of the positions in the kitchen. Many restaurants use these titles to help preserve the history of our profession, standardise the hierarchy in the kitchen and make all of the cookers feel extra fancy.
The titles are very important to a lot of cookers. They bring with them pride and a sense of accomplishment. A real sense of achievement that everything is going well and you’re on the right track.
I love the titles. I really do. I wish I had a badge with my title, so everyone could see. Being a cook fucking rules. There is so much simple freedom and excitement in cooking. Creating something and watching people enjoying your creation. It’s fucking rad, and I’m glad that we have these titles, They work for us and people respect us based on something they probably can’t even translate.
But, and this is a big but, Fuck That shit. Fuck the pretension, and all of the stress that goes with it. Once you are a chef and you’re in charge and your names on the door, things get fucking real.
No one is good enough, not even yourself, the pressure breaks you down and smothers all of the joy out of what you do. or, even worse, you never get the title. I didn’t get my title until I was almost 30. That’s a long fucking time. A big part of why it took me so long is because I have a hard time sitting still in one restaurant.
When you spend a ton of time in the same restaurants you develop a routine, you begin to understand how the chef cooks and moves, and how he likes his kitchen. Everything comes into focus and you really get it, and you really become a gear in the machine. If you stay long enough you become a Sous Chef and eventually you can even work your way up to CDC! It is the way most cooks work their way up, and it’s a good way.
It’s also fucking boring.
Sometimes, even worse, it’s not the right fit. You don’t fit in, the chef hates you, things you crushed five years ago without even thinking about it becomes really fucking hard.
“Pate a Choux? Hell yeah I can make that!” And ten minutes later you’re standing over a mixer hoping for death as you slowly realise it’s not coming together and you barely have enough time to try another batch before the party at six. And you are behind on the rest of the prep at this point, floundering, and the sous chef has to bail you out.
This shit happens. It happens to everyone and it fucking sucks.
I have held a lot of jobs, and I have been challenged by them and I wouldn’t trade one of the unique experiences I’ve had for anything. I learn better by jumping around. I’m not like everyone and I know there are a lot of cooks running around that are just like me.
This industry is hard. It’s brutal, everyone bands together because everyone’s taking a good amount of abuse. You have to be strong in this industry or it will crush you.
The titles help.
But at the same time, I wonder if we had more “Head Cookers” if it would be just a little bit less brutal. and everyone would see that we are all together in this, because more than any other industry I’ve been apart of, cooking is all about the team.
It’s a team sport.