Chef Amadeus frowns when people dub themselves chefs. A
chef, in traditional, brigade-system kitchens, are the highest ranked people in
their kitchens and who have others for whom they are responsible. They usually
have decades of experience and have apprenticed and cooked under other notable,
experienced chefs. They’re responsible for the overall theme of the food, the
foods costs, and the crew. They lead and develop their cooks.

Chef Amadeus focuses on the experience that these
self-titled “chefs” have (or don’t have). He says, “if you’re going to call
yourself a chef, and call yourself a peer of mine, then you better get into the
kitchen and cook. Show me, don’t tell me.”
Coffee Crusted Chicken Over Grits
Courtesy of Chef Amadeus

He also pointed out that when someone calls himself a chef,
he’s opening himself up to be criticized and evaluated as a chef. Chef looks
for the application of techniques, not the reiteration of a dish that has been
around forever. That’s not creativity, and it’s not an application of a chef’s

Chef gets positively riled up when he talks about young
graduates of culinary schools who feel that they should get a leg up for going
to school. His criticism is that cooks come out thinking they should become
sous chefs really quickly or that they are better than the non-culinary program
alumni and the dishwasher working three jobs. Maybe.

He exclaims, “My dishwasher will wash all the dishes, prep the ingredients, and put groceries up for half the wage that you’re expecting to be paid! Why would I hire a culinary school student who thinks I should make him a sous chef within three months?”

Takeaway: It takes time to build experience, knowledge, and
network. Culinary school can give a foundation to it, but the rest of the
investment into your career is up to you. And don’t call yourself a chef unless
you’ve earned it.