Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. That’s my philosophy about life – and cooking. In my journey as foodie, traveler, student, and chef, I have cultivated a set of beliefs and personal standards about my craft:
Competence is key.
You cannot be a genuinely confident cook if you are not a competent one. Learn the fundamentals, practice often, and experiment with as many flavors, ingredients, and techniques as you dare.
It’s the surest way to experience joy – for yourself and those you feed.
Select the finest ingredients you can afford.
Don’t compromise on quality. Get the best that your money can buy so that your end result begins with excellence.
Preparation is essential.
You can’t cook well if you are unorganized. Always take the time – before you begin cooking – to prepare your ingredients. Wash, peel, pare, cut, and measure before you apply heat.
French techniques are the foundation.
The core techniques of fine cooking were developed and perfected in French kitchens. That doesn’t necessarily mean French food. Look to the French for your standard, best-practice methods. Mastering the basics like knife skills, roasting, sauteing, and braising is the first step in the quest for competence.
Sometimes expense or time requires a shortcut. But for the most part, stay away from letting someone else do the work. If you rely on pre-cut veggies, meats marinated in the store, and jarred sauces, you’re really just assembling, not cooking.
Shop locally and seasonally.
Support your local farmers. Enjoy food when it naturally peaks. And shop for it yourself. Seek the full experience of food preparation, and you’ll be a better cook.
Trust your instincts.
Don’t be crippled by a cookbook. Use a recipe as a guide, but go with your gut. Experiment. Try something a little different. Learn from your mistakes as much as your triumphs.
All you need is salt, pepper, and a lot of love.
That line comes from Chef Alain Sailhac, one of the great masters of French cooking. He’s right. That’s all good cooking really requires. Well-seasoned food tastes good. When made with love, it tastes GREAT.