A Categorization of Meal Producers

Chefs, Cooks, and Kitchen Chemists – The thought process behind the Blog

The first thing you should know is I’m a librarian, specializing in cataloging – I work with organizational schemas.

The way I see it, there are three approaches to taking ingredients from market to kitchen, to meal to (happy, happy) digestion.

First are Chefs: professionals, trained to reproduce a dish consistently (taste and appearance) and reliably. Having never met any chefs outside of a business relationship (they produce food & I pay money to make happy noises), I have no idea about method. The key point here is the reliable and consistent reproduction of dishes in a commercial setting. In a lot of ways Chefs are combination of the next two categories.

Next are Cooks. They tend to know how food goes together; they cook by smell and taste and knowledge of ingredients – what ingredients do on their own and in combination. Typically, they don’t use recipes and don’t bother with exact measurements of ingredients. Cooks tend to go from the general (technique, ingredient, type of dish, etc) to the specific dish/meal on hand.

Last are Kitchen Chemists (that’s me!). We follow recipes and measure X amount of Y plus A amount of B under Z conditions (1 hour at 450°F, 10 minutes on low on the stove, etc.) to produce the delicious, delicious foods. I think we are more likely to be bakers, less likely to improvise, and tend to build their skills from the specific meal to the general set of techniques.

Now, none of these are hard and fast rules. The way I see it it’s all a continuum of cooking styles. Also, the style has absolutely nothing to do with quality. There are good, bad, and mediocre chefs, cooks, and chemists all over the world. This little classification schema only speaks to or about a person’s main approach to moving from raw ingredients to a dish of food. But it has really helped me understand why I learned more from certain authors/recipes than others – they were teaching in my learning style.

So what’s this have to do with a blog?

The husband (Adam) and I (Laura) have completely different styles – which is what originally led to my thinking about this topic and coming up with this little classification schema. We are, in fact, so different in style, and (originally) such pure examples of our styles, that we could not cook together lest we drive the other nuts. We do, however, act as  prep-cooks for each other, helping with the peeling and chopping and the peeling (and the chopping… it never ends!).

So with all that said, some introductions:

I’m Laura, and I am your kitchen chemist of the title. (Seriously, you have no idea how long [years!] it took me to be comfortable with substituting ingredients within a recipe.) I am completely self-taught. Huzzah for cookbooks, experimentation, very patient friends/test subjects, and the internet. If you’d like to learn more about me, take a look at my “Things you ought to know about me.

My husband and co-author of the blog is Adam and the cook of the title. He learned how to cook at his mother’s knee (French peasant style, according to him). He also spent some time in restaurants, working his way up from dishwasher to prep-cook to line cook to short order cook.  If you’d like to learn more about Adam, take a look at his “Things you ought to know about me.

We live in Northeast Washington DC and love the access to Union Market and to all the rest of DC’s great food resources. We’re planning on using this blog to explore the differences in our cooking styles, drop some recipe love, and learn a thing or three from comments left by the Internet – within reason.


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