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Where lies the secret of a true chef?

A true chef is not just a cook, which is someone who prepares meals. He is the one who manages all the people working in the kitchen, makes sure that there’s always enough fresh and quality products in the restaurant and is responsible for the final results of the entire team’s effort that end up on the guests’ plates. Can being a good chef be learned? What makes someone stand out in this profession?

Following the popularity of different cooking shows, plenty of people started dreaming of basing their professional future in gastronomy. The position of a chef makes many of us think of preparing the favorite meals, decorating them on the plates, and getting praise from satisfied guests. Meanwhile, the daily life of someone working in this field looks completely different. Cutting different ingredients, mixing them, cooking and frying is something that cooks do. The chef on the other hand, like the name suggests, is in charge of organizing the entire team working at the restaurant. He coordinates the cooks’ work, makes sure that the facility always has the right ingredients, organizes the staff’s work and is responsible for a dish’s flavor before it finally leaves the kitchen. He is also the one to prepare the menu, and plenty of times also contacts the restaurant’s guests.

Contrary to a popular belief, it’s not an easy nor pleasant job. Not everyone can be a chef – it requires the right predispositions of character as well as a lot of talent. What makes some people great chefs whereas others are completely not made for this? What are the traits required for a good chef?
1. Experience
A chef is not someone who woke up one morning and decided they wanted to do this job. Before we’re ready to hold this position, we need to learn about the job of other people working at a restaurant. A good chef not only can make orders and hand out individual tasks, but also replace any of the cooks when need arises. He can peel potatoes, slice onion, fry steaks and make pasta sauce. He knows this world from the inside out and knows the struggles of his coworkers. That way he is able to properly manage them while also not expecting impossible and also being able to provide a good atmosphere in the kitchen. Job experience gained in other restaurants broadens horizons, teaches new skills and allows to develop own style.
2. Sense of flavor
A chef is someone responsible for how the menu looks in a particular facility and for the flavor of the dishes leaving the kitchen. Someone who personally doesn’t like to eat and doesn’t have a very good sense of flavor is not able to create a good recipe or cook a delicious meal. To cook well, it is not enough to memorize ready recipes. One also needs to have the intuition, to know which things go together and to be willing to experiment – and the best „tester” of new flavors is one’s own palate.
3. Passion and involvement
Working at a kitchen is not easy nor peaceful. It is often related to sweat, effort, as well as a lot of stress and pressure of time. It is certainly not a task for someone who doesn’t like to get involved in their duties. Good restaurants hire cooks and chefs with passion, the aim of who is not only to make it through another work day, but also to create a unique place with great atmosphere, one that the guests will be happy to return to as often as possible.
Working in gastronomy is also related to completely unusual day and month plans. The biggest number of guests is when most people relax – in the evenings and on weekends. For that reason a chef has to be ready for increased working at the time when his loved ones have free time. It also comes with a lot of sacrifice and requires a lot of determination.
4. Organization
Someone disorganized and unable to plan will not make it as a chef. This job requires a huge organization, timekeeping and honesty. A chef has to be able to plan his shopping in a way so that he never runs out of anything, while also not wasting large amounts of food. He can assign everyone particular tasks and plan them on the schedule so that they interlock perfectly, and that the client gets a perfectly composed, fresh and hot whole thing.
5. Simple dishes mastered
If you want to see if a chef is really good, don’t tell him to prepare some exceptionally refined and complicated dish. Ask him for making… scrambled eggs or something equally uncomplicated. Although it may seem not to make sense, there’s a lot of logic in that reasoning. If we wish to come up with our own dishes, experiment and have fun in the kitchen, first we need to master the basics. Without that it’s impossible to create own, authored recipes or develop own style. That’s why we can spot a perfect chef by perfectly fried French fries, aromatic broth or perfect tomato sauce for pasta.