Updated: Jun 23, 2021
I've never really addressed anyone as chef. Neither do I ask or expect to be addressed as such (once or twice in the heat of the moment over nearly twenty years simply doesn't count). Not, at least, by employees or colleagues. Nevertheless I am a chef, and to this I will admit and lay claim: If not as defined below, then certainly by trade.
Personally I do hold the title of chef quite in high regard, and I know I'm not alone. When I got serious about cooking, those bearing the title of chef or sous chef practically insisted that I not call them chef. The sentiment, was that a chef--a true chef--was about as common as a fucking unicorn: A chef, is someone who can literally "do it all".
Today, it would seem that a lot of current "chefs", really are just lucky line cooks who happened to be in the right place for the right amount of time when the previous chef or "chef" decided to quit, and they have no real understanding and appreciation for the word, the title, or the unicorn.
The vast majority of kitchen crew have an extremely limited worldview: Myopic, in the moment, and probably quite reactionary. And, the vast majority of those holding the position and title of chef, most likely know somewhere deep down inside that they're really not qualified for the job. They may not want to admit it, but they know. Hence the big dickery and general chicanery justified as being part of what at times seems be a literal field of outrageous competition, bullshit, and sheer idiocy.
In the meantime, "chef" has almost entirely lost its meaning. It means, chief. And, for each kitchen, there should only be one: One person, able to do it all, well-versed in dozens of different cuisines and hundreds of techniques and thousands of people and all the best places.
One person, able to answer any food-related question, up-to-date on the latest diets fads and trends, presently on a first-name basis with local farmers no one's ever heard of and attending next week's food show and participating in this year's annual competition as well as nearly every freaking charity event booked for the next five months, all while remaining utterly consistent and on point at all times, no matter what!
...The very few good ones actually make a solid effort and come some kind of close to meeting the standard. Most people don't see it and even when someone thinks they do, they simply cannot comprehend it for the full-on addiction that it is. Some people think they're addicted and they try going hard-core but in the end they just can't hack it.
And that's okay.
And that's also why I'm not going to call you chef (which is also okay).