Cook (domestic worker)
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A cook or private chef is a household staff member responsible for food preparation.
The cook in an English great house was traditionally female; today's residences may employ a head cook or chef who may be of either gender.
The cook is responsible for the preparation of daily meals and menus, as well as menus for parties and other special occasions. The cook is also responsible for the ordering of food, the maintenance of the kitchen and for keeping accounts with local merchants. The holder of the position reports directly to the lady of the house or sometimes to the housekeeper.
The cook supervises all kitchen staff. In large households, especially at a noble or royal court, this comprises an elaborate hierarchy, at the bottom of which come the kitchen boys (who, despite the name, were not always minors), in the largest households even further subdivided, perhaps the lowliest position being that of spitboy or turnbrooch, who had to remain close to the hot fire to turn the roasting meat; there were six at Hampton Court palace in Henry VIII's reign.
Today's cooks are likely to have spent years in domestic service in different households, or have gone to cooking school. Few modern families can afford retinues of domestic workers, so the cook is often expected to be a cook-housekeeper and responsible for cleaning and nannying as well. Many of them have to wear a uniform.
Known private cooks
- Margaret Powell, who began as a kitchen girl at the age of 15, later advanced to become a private cook.
In popular culture
- Aunt Chloe, described as the "first cook in the neighborhood", in Uncle Tom's Cabin
- Aunt Jemima, a fictional character in advertising
- "Why downstairs HATED upstairs: The acerbic memoirs of a Twenties maid reveal what domestic staff REALLY thought of their masters". Daily Mail. 26 February 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
- Veronica Horwell. "The servant question". Le Monde Diplomatique. Retrieved 25 October 2015.