UNITED STATES—The kitchen. It can be an intimidating place for many Americans, and as I see it you have three types of cooks. Those who cook for the pure love it, those who hate cooking and those who can’t cook, and I already know what many of you are thinking: the last two sound similar, but they are not! We all may not be trained chefs, but I do believe some of the best cooks in the country are self-trained and those who cook because they get a level of enjoyment and excitement out of doing it. They don’t look at cooking as a chore or something THEY HAVE TO DO; it’s something THEY WANT TO DO.
That is a big difference and we’ve all encountered people in the past who look like they slaved in the kitchen for hours, but the food turns out terrible. Why? They were missing one vital ingredient: LOVE. There was no love in the dishes they made, which is where those second tier cooks fall into. They might have some cooking chops, but if the love is not in the dish, as bad as this might sound, you can actually taste it to a large degree. I cook all the time and I tell people the vast majority of my cooking skills are a direct result of watching people in the kitchen as a kid and a teen. I watched my mother and grandmother and aunts cook dishes and as a result picked up some of those skills and tricks they used in the kitchen with my dishes.
Yes, the dishes are traditional for the most part, but I love to put a nice twist on it from time to time. This is where I argue I’ve learned my second set of cooking skills: Food Network. Knowing the basics is one thing, but the ability to develop technique, precision and the ability to not be afraid to try out new things is where TV has become a major tool in my cutlery set. I play with what I know and throw in a bit of what I’ve learned to elevate a dish from being traditional to more modern with a unique spin.
Now all the dishes I experiment with don’t always come out successful, but that is the fun of cooking you have to experiment in order to master a dish. It’s just something I truly believe in. I remember once I tried to tackle a butternut squash risotto and it was just dreadful. I was defeated, but I did give up and soon learned the most important trick to cooking risotto: patience. There are some dishes that you just cannot rush no matter how much you might wish for that to transpire.
We have to talk about those cooks, who seem to find themselves in the kitchen cooking food, but their attitude absolutely stinks, it sucks and as a direct result the food feels forced, there is no finesse to it and as a consumer of the dish, you feel more hesitant to try it. I’m not that person who believes certain people should just stay out of the kitchen; I honestly believe EVERYONE should know how to cook to some degree.
This is one’s opportunity to take care of themselves and not rely on others to save them when they are hungry. Trust me I know people like this and it breaks my heart watching them. I mean I saw my little brother God bless his heart trying to cook chicken breast and I nearly died watching. His inability to properly season, cook at a reasonable temperature and prep the meat where all direct results as to why the chicken was an epic fail. The one good thing I can say is that he attempted to cook, which is the last tier of cooks we have; those who have NO EXPERIENCE whatsoever in the kitchen, but want to learn. With the right teacher and appropriate knowledge, an inexperienced cook can turn into exceptional cook if given a chance.
That is the thing about cooking, not everyone can be an Iron Chef like Bobby Flay or Michael Symon, so don’t try to be. Do what you know best, but at the same time do not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. You learn things about yourself and cooking that you never imagined. I was always petrified of making lasagna. It seemed like a dish that was outside of my caliber, but after a few fails, I have mastered the dish and I have people clamoring for me to make it all the time. Being a pro in the kitchen is not all about skill set and technique, it’s about taking the time to learn, to be patient and be willing to put a smile on someone else’s face because you put your heart and soul into the dish.