January 21, 2016

The 4 Myths of Cooking That All Chefs Must Address

The chef's hat, or toque, has a long and rich history.

Before you begin your culinary arts program, you’re bound to have certain misconceptions about what you’ll be studying and your eventual career trajectory. This pieces of misinformation can be harmful, and you should start your career as a chef knowing exactly what to expect. To provide just such insight, here are four myths of culinary school and being a chef in general:

“All chefs must trust evidence and not merely anecdotes.”

1. Myth: All chefs are experts on food
Just because you’ve pursued a field doesn’t mean you know everything about it. That would be like an astronomer recognizing every star in the sky. Instead, chefs need a commitment to great cooking, an interest in growing their skills and a love of entertaining guests. Passion is generally the hallmark of a truly successful chef. And if you simply don’t know something about a food or a certain tradition, don’t be afraid to ask others. In the end, you’ll grow as a chef and then be able to pass on this knowledge.

2. Myth: You’ll only learn how to cook in school
Technically, this is true. But there is a world of knowledge and study that goes into great cooking, and much of it is cultivated from other fields and disciplines. For instance, great chefs have to understand certain principles of basic chemistry to cook effectively. Many chefs also keep up with current trends to help bolster their skills and the specific items they cook. History is also important, as it helps contextualize the work of each chef. Yes, you’ll learn how to mince meat, but there is so much more than cutting techniques and knife choice involved.

3. Myth: Kitchens are noisy and chaotic
Don’t believe everything you see on TV and in movies. Yes, kitchens can be a little disorganized at times but most actual chefs will attest that there is very little screaming or pot throwing involved. Instead, most chefs try their best to communicate with one another, and while all that can get loud due to background noise, these sentiments are hardly born out of anger. It’s important to remember that before heading into your first professional kitchen.

4. Myth: Cooking is all about technique
J. Kenji López-Alt is a chef and world-renowned cookbook author. Speaking with Bon Appetit, he said that all chefs must trust evidence and not merely anecdotes. By that he meant that cooking is not a discipline one can learn based on the work of others. While science forms a core basis of cooking, so much of it is also simply cooking a great deal and finding results yourself. That means a lot of trial and error – which could translate to burnt dishes or odd tastes – but a lot of learning occurs from these culinary mistakes. Chefs must be unafraid to develop technique over time.