Difference between Chef and Cook

Updated on February 24, 2018

With more and more people becoming interested in gastronomy and starting to watch cooking shows more intensely, chefs have turned into some sort of rock stars. But what makes a chef a chef? Does preparing that amazing piece of toast make you a chef? Should you rush to buy a sexy black apron and should you start using the names of exotic herbs in conversation?



A chef is the head cook of a kitchen. The term actually comes from the French “chef de cuisine”, which means a head of a kitchen. This automatically makes anyone who is the head of a kitchen in a small or big restaurant, diner or any other type of food-related facility, the chef. The word is used in defining what positions other people working in a restaurant kitchen occupy. These are the sous-chef (a second in command in the kitchen), the chef de partie (station chef – in charge of a particular area of production), range chef (works under the chef de partie). In a big kitchen, apart from deciding on the menu and on the selection of the kitchen staff, the chef is also the one in charge of the food supplies. This latter responsibility can be delegated to sous-chefs or can be handled as the chef sees fit.

A cook is a professional who prepares food for eating. Usually, all members working in a kitchen are cooks. Historically, great houses had their own cook or cooks. In order to become a cook, one must either know how to cook, take classes, or learn from someone in the kitchen.

Chef vs Cook

So what is the difference between a chef and a cook?

According to many, it’s the experience, the career and the glamour of recognition. Chefs and cooks alike can go to cooking schools or can learn from experienced chefs. The hierarchy in a kitchen starts from doing the basic work and then working your way up to the more sophisticated dishes. Chefs are the ones known to have signature dishes, specialties for which people come to the restaurant specifically.

When we think of a chef, we instantly think of a very creative person, with great kitchen experience and great results in managing a prestigious kitchen. The chef has the power to decide over a menu, to hire or fire members of the kitchen staff and to raise or decrease the rating a restaurant gets. The best acknowledgement a chef can get is by helping the restaurant he works for get Michelin stars in a more sophisticated category, while smaller restaurants with moderate prices can simply depend on the reviews of people.

Comparison Chart

Takes specialized cooking lessonsTakes specialized cooking lessons and has special qualifications
Manages the kitchen, decides on the menu and on the human resource and restaurant supplyWorks in the kitchen; does the supply and the menu if he is the only cook
His work is reviewed by customers and can increase the rating of a restaurantHis work is reviewed by customers and can increase the rating of a restaurant
Did this article help you?
Thank you!
Thank you!
What was wrong?