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Jun 15

The Difference Between a Cook and a Chef

Difference Between Cook and a Chef

To most people, a cook and a chef are the same thing. The two terms are used interchangeably to indicate someone working away in the kitchen, regardless of whether that individual is cutting vegetables or masterminding the entire menu.

For those who work in the culinary field, however, there is a big difference. Although there is no single professional organization that determines exactly who is a chef and who is a cook, most agree that the difference lies in education and experience. If you have a culinary degree and/or trained under a notable chef and have moved up the ranks, you are typically considered a chef. If you simply dabble in the kitchen at home or are just starting out at the bottom of the restaurant totem pole, you are almost always considered a cook.

What Makes a Cook a Cook?

Most people agree that a cook is lower-ranking than a chef, and that chefs themselves vary in rank. For example, an executive chef is the top of the line, while sous chefs, chefs de partie, and other professionals might have the right training, but are still working toward their top professional goals.

If you still aren’t sure exactly what it is that makes a chef a chef, consider these qualifications:

  • A two- or four-year culinary degree
  • Extensive training under a chef with the goal of gaining a culinary education equal to that of a degree (also known as a culinary apprenticeship)
  • Responsibilities that include a supervisory role
  • The ability to create and implement menus in a restaurant setting
  • Management roles in the kitchen

A cook, on the other hand, can expect to:

  • Prepare food on a daily basis
  • Perform kitchen duties, as needed and directed
  • Clean and wash the kitchen
  • Use recipes and follow someone else’s menu plan
  • Still be at the learning level of his or her career

There are some culinary institutions (including the American Culinary Federation) that offer designations and titles based on testing, work experience, and education. Although many organizations and restaurants recognize these distinctions (and will boost your career accordingly), they aren’t required to be a chef or to be successful in your own culinary career.

In most cases, the cook is below the chef in terms of prestige, pay, and career development. However, there are instances in which this isn’t true. Many home cooks or amateurs have skills and experience that surpass that of their chef counterparts; they simply may not make claim to the title.

Famous Cooks vs. Famous Chefs

In fact, many of the celebrity chefs we have come to know and love as a culture aren’t really chefs at all. Rachael Ray and Nigella Lawson are two of the biggest names in the culinary and Hollywood world, but both women profess that they aren’t trained chefs…and have never pretended to be anything other than cooks. Self-trained, self-motivated, and never having worked in a long-term chef capacity (such as overseeing a restaurant), they are just two examples of cooks who have hit it big.

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  1. Chef Website

    Yeah! I agree how you differentiate between chef and cook. So the cook can’t be compared with the chef as the chef has lots of knowledge, experience and degree too and the cook is the person who just knows how to cook the simple foods and recipes in home or in low level restaurants.

  2. george stray

    A chef is trained to know how certain herbs and spices affect taste. A chef works for a long period of time under an experienced chef prior to gaining the title of CHEF;as well as having good deal of practical experience. A chef also understands dietary needs of those he is cooking for. These factors are only the tip of the iceberg when differentiating between a cook and a Chef.

  3. Chef bill

    In my view that a chef is well trained professional who have the education and earned a degree from a culinary arts school. But cook has no formal education in the industry but basically perform the same job and same time better than the chef but he can’t get the same salary or position in the kitchen or industry.

  4. Granny

    A guy who’s dating my husband’s niece claimed to be a hoity-toity chef. He brings over stuff at christmas bought in ritzy restaurants and cafes, but has never brought anything he made himself. At a wedding in the family he met my son by a previous marriage. They got to talking and he told my son he was a chef at a restaurant in Jack London Square. My son asked him where he went to school, and the question was neatly side-stepped and the subject changed (same as when I asked him). My son told him he was the executive pastry chef at a country club in wine country with a four year degree. The guy avoided him after that, and doesn’t push that he is a chef anymore! He also doesn’t think it’s possible to work an 18 hour day. Yeah – most chefs I know do work more than 18 hours sometimes. My son does on a regular basis. We found out he runs a taco truck and has never been to school.

  5. gramps

    restaurant # 1 has a Chef——that worries what the food looks like

    restaurant #2 has a cook that makes sure the food is down home GOOD

    I’m eating at # 2—

  6. Stuart Holmes

    So do chefs cook things?

  7. olabisi

    I work as a cook but some who call their self chef can not with stand me in aspect of cooking or menu plaining

  8. andrea kay

    I was told whilst at college, training to be a chef, was that the difference is that a cook.is not formally trained and has no qualification. If you have a “cooking” qualification, then you are a chef rather than cook

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