Man garnishing plate of food in professional kitchen
Chef Vs Cook: What's The Difference?
Both "cook" and "chef" refer to jobs that require specialized culinary knowledge and training, but they differ in the extent of autonomy and responsibility tied to each position.
Cooks are skilled tradespeople with specialized expertise. They do hands-on work like preparing food, grocery shopping, and performing custodial tasks.
Importantly, cooks don't create recipes but expertly follow recipes created by chefs. Thus, cooks lack the assumed responsibility of chefs, who must have a more overarching role.
Being a cook is a job, but being a chef is a lifestyle. While cooks can clock off after a day's work, chefs are always on the clock brainstorming and planning.
Chefs have more creative freedom and a lot more responsibility. They are specialists, often with culinary degrees, who must know what to do without any external instruction.
Their role includes problem-solving, assuming multiple roles, overseeing products to maintain consistency between dishes, and managing industry insights and connections.
Put simply, a cook knows the "what," while a chef knows the "why," assuming a higher degree of practical responsibility while funneling creativity into new dishes and flavors.