For as long as humankind has attempted to diet, eating out has been our arch nemesis. We all know to avoid fast food, that much is simple. What may be surprising is that the more formal sit-down style restaurants, the ones that serve oversized portions, can be terrible places to try to count calories and stay on the straight and narrow. The simple truth: the more you cook at home, and control what goes into your meals, the better off you will be. But cooking at home is often very intimidating for many people, especially those that didn’t grow up in an environment where cooking was a prized skill. Fortunately, there is a way to fundamentally understand what works, and what doesn’t, in the kitchen. A survey of several of our chefs at BistroMD helped us to understand what drives them to create, and fail, in the kitchen, and how they deal with success as well as setbacks.
Tip One: Find Your Muse
Inspiration is a funny thing. We can draw it from the most unlikely of places, but most of us would agree that we can’t be expected to do something passionately without proper motivation and inspiration. Many celebrity chefs were inspired at a young age, either by other chefs, or by a family member who was able to bring aromas, flavors, and ingredients together to make magic on a daily basis. If you are serious about learning how to cook, you should search for your muse as well. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Whoever, or whatever, makes you want to learn how to combine fresh ingredients to create culinary works of art will suffice. Before you know it, you’ll be inspired to take on even the most complex cuisine, right in your own kitchen.
Tip Two: Love Your Ingredients
We all know that fresh ingredients help create a better tasting meal, but many of us don’t know how to shop for the freshest produce and ingredients. You don’t have to break the bank to create a fresh and delicious meal. You can pick and choose where to spend your food budget, so that you can surround yourself with as many high-quality ingredients as possible. Trust us, if the celebrity chefs attempted to make a box of mac & cheese, it would turn out tasting pretty much like it would if you or I made it. The real difference comes with the ingredients you start with.
Tip Three: Love Food
Now this one sounds downright silly, but one of the most important components of high quality cooking is loving the foods with which you are cooking. This means exploring new flavors that you may not have tried before. Go to your local produce section, and pick up a few items that you aren’t that familiar with. Nature has given us a million different flavors to taste and combine. If you are cooking with the same six every week, you are going to be out of options fairly quickly. Remember, part of cooking is failing, but it is what you take from those failures, and later apply to successes down the road, that counts.
Tip Four: Have the Basic Building Blocks on Hand
Along with having the freshest ingredients around, you also need to have the basic building blocks on hand to help create the dish you desire. This means having a full spice rack, as well as pots, pans, knives, and the rest. This may mean you need to make an initial investment, but in the long run, it will pay off a hundred times over. You can’t be expected to fall in love with the art of cooking if you don’t have the palette, canvas, and brushes to necessary to begin.
Tip Five: Less Really is More
If you live near a four or five star restaurant, go look at the menu. You probably think fancy meals are the most complicated, with the most ingredients and the most preparation. You’ll be surprised to learn that the majority of fine dining is based on the K.I.S.S. principal. When you aim to create a new meal from scratch, choose a handful of ingredients, and then combine them in a new and interesting way. Not only will you stretch your budget, you’ll learn how to make the most from those flavors, instead of trying to drown everything in a mountain of complex sauces.
Tip Six: It is All About You
Recipes are general guides on how to make things. If you want to change things up because you prefer the flavor, go ahead. Remember, these meals are all about you and what you enjoy, so if you break a few rules along the way, you’re fine. Who knows? Your version might become the “right” way of doing things in the future!