Definition: a chef is a professional who has an understanding of the culinary arts and prepares food for others. This is also the definition of a cook, right?
Chefs can, and often are, called "cooks". The one distinguishing factor is that a chef has earned a degree from a culinary arts school. Without that degree, one cannot earn the title "chef". Yes, they basically perform the same job, but typically a chef is more specialized and has a wider knowledge base of all activities involving the kitchen, food service and purchasing.
"Depending on one's level of education, chefs can be responsible for managing kitchen staff, directing the preparation of meals, estimating food requirements and ordering food and other supplies. Executive chefs, or head cooks, coordinate all the daily operations for a single kitchen. They define serving sizes, plan menus and ensure correct presentation and quality of meals. A Chef's degree program usually begins with basic sanitation and workplace safety courses, followed by instruction on food handling, preparation and cooking protocols. The number of options available to the student who wants to earn a Chef degree includes a diploma or certificate in the culinary field. One can also pursue an Associate of Culinary Arts or an Associate of Occupational Studies. Students who wish to become a master chef must earn the highest chef degree, the Master's of Culinary Arts. A graduate of the master's progran can then be certified by the American Culinary Federation as a Certified Master Chef (CMC). Jobs for Chef degree graduates include personal cooks, pastry chefs, executive chefs and sous chefs. Typically, apprenticeships for a Masters of Culinary Arts degree last about 2 years, combining classroom training with work experience. "