cook vs chef

Exploring the Difference Between a Cook and a Chef

To the layman, a chef is a cook, and a cook is a chef. As long as both work in the kitchen, they are considered the same. Those with knowledge of culinary school and other training institutions may have a better idea of the difference between the two. Let’s dive further into the chef vs cook argument to provide a clear definition for both. 

Who Is a Cook, and Who Is a Chef?

In simple terms, a cook is a person who cooks food. The cook can work in different settings, from hospitals to prisons and even schools. A cook is not required to prepare food with the same precision as a chef. They mainly perform basic kitchen functions and use a regular cooking style. A cook also needs formal education in the culinary arts. However, some cooks work with the chef, such as the prep cook and line cook. These cooks are skilled in working in a professional kitchen. 

What are the Roles of a Cook?


  • The cook prepares food for different purposes.
  • Cooks do not follow a certain cooking style.
  • Basic skills are enough to thrive as a cook.
  • Cooks may work for catering companies as well.

On the other hand, a chef is responsible for food preparation of a variety of cuisines. This professional chef may work in fast food restaurants, hotels, or any other establishment in the culinary industry. Chefs have practical training that enables them to handle certain tasks in the kitchen. They don’t just cook but master ingredients and spices. So they know how to combine them to create the perfect meal. Besides preparing ingredients, chefs have different specialties. That’s why there is a Sous chef, executive chef, chef de Partie, chef de cuisine, commis chef, and even head chef. 

What are the Roles of a Chef?


  • Recipe creation.
  • Ensuring proper storage procedures.
  • Overseeing other chefs in the kitchen. 
  • Overseeing food preparation 
  • Responsible for food safety. 
  • Menu planning.

What is the Kitchen Hierarchy?

As mentioned earlier, chefs pass through different stages before they attain higher ranks in the kitchen. No one starts as an executive chef or a head chef. All chefs have to grow in rank and this can take a few years. Why is the kitchen hierarchy important? Well, it ensures that the kitchen runs smoothly. Each chef, whether it is a commis chef or a sous chef, needs to play their role in making sure food is prepared on time, with good quality ingredients, and concerning food safety regulations. This section will highlight the roles of cooks and chefs in a professional kitchen.

1. Cook Hierarchy 

In the chef vs cook debate, knowing the hierarchy of each worker in the kitchen is essential. Like chefs, cooks in a professional kitchen also have a hierarchy. They must pass through these stages to advance their careers.

2. Commis Chef

Commis chefs are also called junior cooks, and it is a training stage for progressing in the kitchen. They often become line cooks after some time. It is like a culinary apprenticeship where the line cook teaches commis chefs all they need to learn in the kitchen. 

3. Line Cook

Line cooks handle the food assembly line in hotels, restaurants, or cafeterias. They are in charge of the cooking station that handles specific kinds of foods. 

4. Stagiaire

This is a French word for an intern, so the cook is a trainee in the kitchen. They may perform basic cooking functions in the kitchen under the direction of their superiors. 

5. Kitchen Porters

The kitchen porters are not technically cooks, but they ensure that the kitchen is clean at all times. They wash plates, clean equipment, take out the trash, and arrange other items in the kitchen. 

6. Prep Cook

Prep cooks are not responsible for preparing food; rather, they prepare the ingredients needed to cook the food. They may be responsible for cutting and slicing ingredients as well. 

Chef Hierarchy 

Unlike cooks, chefs do not just prepare meals. Their role is extensive and requires culinary skills. Some professional chefs even have a culinary degree to make this process easier. Chefs also take on managerial roles and oversee kitchen staff. 

1. Sous Chef

Sous Chef

The sous chef is the deputy chef, who works directly under the executive chefs. This chef takes orders from the executive chef and manages other staff in the kitchen. The chef may also be responsible for creating recipes.

2. Chef De Partie

Chef de Partie

Chefs de Partie are also known as station chefs. The station chef handles food production and may have a cooking assistant to carry out their orders.

3. Executive Chef

Executive Chef

This professional chef does not necessarily work in restaurant kitchens like other chefs. Rather, they work in management positions. They also oversee the deputy chef, who handles other kitchen staff. 

4. Chef De Cuisine

Chef De Cuisine

The head chefs, as they are also called, manage the kitchen's daily activities. This chef is also an established chef in the hierarchy of chefs. The chef may be responsible for checking costs, creating menus, and even finding and liaising with suppliers. 

What Is the Difference Between a Chef and a Cook?

The difference between a chef and a cook is the role each one plays in the kitchen. Many cooks can work in other establishments that are not part of the food industry. However, chefs only work in food-related establishments such as restaurants, hotels, and any other business in the hospitality industry. Cooks in the food industry often have a lower ranking than chefs. However, like any other profession, they may be able to work their way up and become chefs. 


The chef vs cook debate has been going on for a long time, as some people don’t know the differences between them. While both chefs and cooks don’t need culinary school training, most chefs tend to have it to make the transition in their career smoother.

Both chefs and cooks prepare food, but some chefs, like the head chef and executive chef, manage other chefs in the kitchen. Chefs may even have their own recipes, while cooks just enjoy preparing food. Hopefully, this answers some salient questions about the cook vs chef debate.

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