Chef and Head Cook
Main Topic: Human Geography
Secondary Topic: Environment and Society
Overview: Chefs and head cooks oversee the daily food preparation at restaurants and other places where food is served. They direct kitchen staff and handle any food-related concerns. Chefs and head cooks use a variety of kitchen and cooking equipment, including step-in coolers, high-quality knives, meat slicers, and grinders. They also have access to large quantities of meats, spices, and produce. Some chefs use scheduling and purchasing software to help them in their administrative tasks. Chefs who run their own restaurant or catering business are often busy with kitchen and office work. Some chefs use social media to promote their business by advertising new menu items or addressing customer reviews.
The following are examples of types of chefs and head cooks: Executive chefs, head cooks, and chefs de cuisine are responsible primarily for overseeing the operation of a kitchen. They coordinate the work of sous chefs and other cooks, who prepare most of the meals. Executive chefs also have many duties beyond the kitchen. They design the menu, review food and beverage purchases, and often train cooks and other food preparation workers. Some executive chefs primarily handle administrative tasks and may spend less time in the kitchen. Sous chefs are a kitchen’s second-in-command. They supervise the restaurant’s cooks, prepare meals, and report results to the head chefs. In the absence of the head chef, sous chefs run the kitchen. Private household chefs typically work full time for one client, such as a corporate executive, university president, or diplomat, who regularly entertains as part of his or her official duties.
Chefs and head cooks benefit greatly by having geographic knowledge and skills. Cuisine is increasingly global, both in the sourcing of ingredients and in the types of food people enjoy eating. Even local food movements are geographic, as a chef needs to know what grows best in an area and when it is harvested. “Fusion” foods combine ingredients from different parts of the world into something new and appealing. A good chef or head cook will be able to “tell a story” in the foods that they prepare, and very often that story is intimately connected with the places where the ingredients are grown and the people who grow them.
Geographers at work: Food geographers, human geographers, social geographers, environmental geographers
Recommended College Courses: Food geography, human geography, social geography, environmental geography, physical geography
Skills: Understanding locational patterns of food production and procurement, map reading and interpretation
Occupation Group: Food Preparation and Serving
Learn more about Chefs and Head Cooks from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/chefs-and-head-cooks.htm#tab-2
Written by Christopher Anderson