Welcome to my little corner of culinary delights. Probably the most difficult question asked is the difference between a cook and a chef.
I would say that a cook needs to follow a recipe. They are unable to venture out enough to adjust recipes in order to satisfy certain needs. If then, the recipe calls for tender meat, such as veal loin, but he or she has only a tougher cut from an old cow, would they know how to make it work? Usually, sanitation and safety practices, or making substitutes, are not taught from a recipe. If they had a certain meat or vegetable to use up, could they proceed without a recipe to guide them? They may not know which sauces are best for certain entrees. How many would know which wine to serve with pork loin, chicken or beef stroganoff? Which wine goes best with angel food cake? A chef should know.
I feel that the biggest difference is in knowing methodology. To know how to evenly distribute your ingredients and which serves what purpose the best is part of a chef’s talent. It also takes knowing how to mix certain ingredients and in which order and in what ways.
Another true test of a chef is to give him or her items such as a rabbit, a chicken and an apple. Have that person create an entrée with those items without using a recipe. Including other ingredients is permissible. They must keep with the selected items.
A chief strives for perfection. One must be able to veer from the expected to seek that perfection. To strictly follow recipes cannot allow for variations. A chef also loves his work enough to learn and research all he can. Although cooking has been around since fire was discovered, you will never hear a chef say, “There is nothing more to learn or discover.” In my case, I have created several of my own recipes. I have also innovated different preparatory procedures and methods. I like to experiment and create. I do not know of any true chef who has not done the same.
Have you heard someone say, “Well, this is how we have always done it, and this is how we will continue to do it.” These are words you will never hear from a chef or from a good cook. A chef is always open to new ideas and better ways of doing things. If cooking is to be an adventure and a delight, an open mind is necessary.
A chef will more likely make test dishes from his experiments to get opinions from others. A chef might create as many as 20 small dishes of spaghetti. Each test dish has a different spaghetti sauce added. They are then rated by various tasters. Even if a chef has his favorite sauce, he would still strive to improve it.
Until next time, peace to all.