Also known as
National Culinarians Day
annually on July 25th
Today we honor culinarians! They are cooks or chefs who are experts in cooking, preparing, presenting, and serving food. Today we celebrate and thank them for the many ways they use food to satisfy us!
While professional culinarians tend to work in restaurants or commercial kitchens, the culinary arts have a much humbler beginning. It is believed that the roots of culinary arts sprouted when someone either threw a piece of meat on a fire or found an animal that had been cooked by a forest fire. From there, advancements in agriculture, the expansion of culinary techniques, the domestication of livestock, and the introduction of earthenware and stoneware all helped with culinary development.
Chefs were first employed by kings, aristocrats, and priests. In contrast, the lower classes cooked for their own families. The distinct approaches to cooking by different classes helped nurture the development of many different types of cuisine. Jean Anthelme had a great hand in getting culinary arts started in Europe. Others expanded on his work through the study of food science and gastronomy. In Asia, a similar path of study and advancement took place.
Culinary arts in the Western world began expanding at the end of the Renaissance. There was a shift from chefs working exclusively for nobility, to them also working in inns and hotels. It was at this time that the studying of culinary arts as its own field also began. At first, studying happened by apprenticeship, with students accompanying professional cooks. In 1879, Boston Cooking School opened, becoming the first cooking school to open in the United States. Today there are thousands of culinary arts schools around the world, and many colleges and universities offer culinary arts degrees as well.
Cooks and chefs are both involved in the culinary arts. Although a cook is sometimes referred to as a chef, this is not necessarily the correct term for them in the culinary world. Cooks prepare food, help chefs, and manage food stations. They may have names related to the food stations they work at, such as broiler cook, fry cook, and sauce cook. In the United States, one doesn't need to achieve a certain set of accomplishments to become a cook. Some cooks study for two to four years, learning sanitation, food safety, hospitality, and advanced cooking. Others participate in culinary apprenticeships that last about a year, where they receive on-the-job training.
A chef is a type of trained and professional cook. They have knowledge of food science, nutrition, diet, and of preparing and presenting meals. Although they are knowledgeable in all types of food preparation, they often focus on a particular cuisine. They may be formally trained at an institution, or they may learn their craft by being an apprentice of an experienced chef. They work in restaurants, but also in delicatessens, as well as in somewhat large institutions such as hotels and hospitals. They wear a toque blanche hat, neckerchief, double-breasted jacket, and an apron.
There are different types of chefs, and there is a system called a kitchen brigade by which the hierarchy of chefs are classified. The chef de cuisine is sometimes also known as an executive chef, master chef, or head chef. They are in charge of the kitchen and may be in charge of the menu, managing the kitchen staff, and ordering inventory, among other things. The sous-chef is second-in-command and fulfills various duties to keep the kitchen running smoothly. They may fill in for the chef de cuisine, and also may help the chef-de-parties when needed. A chef-de-partie is known as a line cook or station chef. They take care of a specific area of production. They may have their own hierarchy, such as "first cook," "second cook," and so forth. If they work in a large kitchen, they may have assistants; range chefs may work under them as well. There are many other titles in the brigade system. No matter if someone is a cook or one of the many kinds of chefs, today we celebrate them for all the culinary joy they bring us!
How to Observe
Celebrate the day by presenting a cook or chef with a gift or simply some words of thanks. You could do this for a culinarian you know, or for one at a restaurant or at another place that you eat today. You could even prepare a meal for a chef or cook today, to give them a little break from their everyday work. If someone usually cooks meals for you at your home, you could also consider cooking for them today.
If you are a chef or cook, or are looking to become one, you could become involved with the American Culinary Federation. You could also enroll in a culinary arts program or look into how to become an apprentice. This is also a good day to watch famous television chefs, or to read a book on professional cooking and culinary arts, or a book recommended by the American Culinary Federation. You could also visit the Culinary Arts Museum or another museum related to food.