The media is always talking about Michelin star restaurants, up-and-coming chefs, and of course those culinary TV shows where young professionals are put through the paces. People love to watch and read about the high stakes game of professional culinary arts. It’s a competitive field, and some people are willing to do whatever it takes to reach the top.

But do chefs in the real world really go through that kind of training? Are they really all that well trained, or does the media tend to sensationalize it?

Let’s take your average steakhouse, for example. There are an awful lot of steakhouses out there, and many of them could be described as average. What kind of training do these chefs have? Can even be described as “chefs,” or are they more like “cooks”?

These are interesting questions for anybody who is fascinated by the restaurant business. They also have a direct bearing on the quality of the food that comes of the kitchen.

There are certainly exceptions, but if you took a detailed survey of the chefs in “average” steakhouses, you’d probably find more experience than formal training. Make no mistake – experience is valuable in the kitchen, especially when you’re putting together orders for dozens of tables at the same time, and trying to make sure all the plates come out on time and on point.

That being said, formal training is a characteristic that virtually every high-level chef possesses, whether that training was undertaken at a culinary school or as a formal apprentice to a master chef.

When you start looking at the higher-level steakhouses – the ones that earn great review scores, and maintain sterling reputations in their communities – you’ll probably find that a lot of those chefs have formal training in the culinary arts. You might not even have to ask in order to confirm this fact – the evidence will be right in front of you, both in the execution of the steak and sides you order, and in the presentation.

Let’s be honest – when you go to a steakhouse, you probably aren’t overly concerned about presentation. What you want is a high quality steak, prepared to absolute perfection, with an array of irresistible side dishes. You want craft beverages, a comfortable and inviting atmosphere, and a warm style of service. Those stuffy, uncomfortable, overly formal restaurants aren’t exactly what you have in mind when you go to a steakhouse – you want to relax and enjoy yourself!

If you’re wondering about who is in the kitchen, and what kind of training they have, it never hurts to ask your waiter. In many cases, the steakhouse chef will come right out and introduce him or herself to you, and answer your questions in person. At the very least, the waiter should be able to tell you about the qualifications of the chef, if that interests you.

What interests most people, however, is the quality of the meal. That’s why the highest rated steakhouses often maintain their high ratings on popular social channels, and always keep their customers coming back for more.