Back in the day, there was just one stereotype of a chef: a shouty, stern perfectionist who threw around French terms like brunoise and en croute and wouldn’t be caught dead in anything but his chef’s whites. It was a time when Mario Batali inspired outrage just for wearing a different kind of shoe from everyone else (okay, the shoes were also hideous, but that wasn’t the main objection). Back then, your average eater couldn’t name two people who cooked for a living that weren’t mom and Chef Boyardee.
We’re not about to give you a history lesson here about the creation of the Food Network and the rise of the celebrity chef—other people have done that already. Let’s just say that when people started paying closer attention and kitchens opened up to the public eye, it revealed that most of the people working back there weren’t uptight old French dudes. And as they stepped into the limelight, chefs discovered it was worth their while—not to mention a hell of a lot easier—to stop trying to uphold some old-school image and just be themselves. Chefs, they’re just like us!
That said, chefs still fall into a few basic categories. Even if you’re never planning on setting foot in a kitchen, it’s worth your while to understand which type you’re dealing with when you go out to eat. Not only will it make you look like a total pro if the chef happens past and you can speak his language, it’ll up your ordering game and ensure that nothing but the best ends up on your table. You wouldn’t order a steak from a vegan, would you? Now you know.
Get familiar with the 10 most common chef types to find out how they think—and what they can do for you.