As a professional chef I learned early the proper food safety handling techniques. I’ve gotten funny looks over the years from roommates and partners for my “crazy whacked out kitchen habits.” It was those whacked out habits that kept them from getting sick. As I work more and more with home cooks, I've discovered many do not know how to take care of their food properly. Keep Your Family Safe!
Category: Cooking Skills
When you're an accountant, people ask you tax questions. When you're a doctor, they ask about medical problems. If you're a chef, you get asked about food, kitchen equipment, and whatever celebrity chef is the hottest at the moment.
In 2015, Chef Johnna wrote a series of articles describing what it's like to be a chef. The "Skills of a Chef" series addressed many popular topics around being a chef working in restaurants and catering.
You've seen those big beautiful, meaty mushrooms, portobellas, and, if you've been hanging out with me here on the blog, you know I love them. I love to grill them, roast them, put them on salads raw. I like to chop them up and saute them with onions. Yet most people don't know how to clean a mushroom -- that you should remove the gills, the mushy dark matter on the underside.
Now that I don’t cook in professional kitchens, I can sit back and take an objective view of my chosen career. It’s a brutal job. We ran morning to night. Food is all I thought about. Personalities were a focus. Who I was working with that day affected my mood.
girlcooking_bwIt may seem like cooking is a solo act. Something that you do in your own home, alone, or one lone wolf competing against other renegades to win some title or money, but that really isn’t the case. In the professional culinary world it takes a team of people – sometimes dozens or even hundreds – to create an enjoyable dining experience, one plate at a time.
I grew up knowing what fresh food was, what it meant to “put up” food, and some of the processes involved. I learned between the ages of 7-12. Formative years. Unfortunately nothing was written down and, as I engaged more in scholastics and the determination to kill off a few brain cells, I lost the knowledge given me by my grandmother, my aunts, and a few of the church ladies.
There is a control freak in every chef. I don’t care how humble, how calm they may appear, chefs like order. Floors must be clean, stainless steel tables should sparkle, not a speck of dust or dirt anywhere. Food belongs in containers lined up on shelves that get wiped down every day. Walk-ins to be filled with trimmed and unblemished produce, meats, and dairy. This is the best kind of kitchen. The kind you see on television. Gordon Ramsey is a control freak. So am I.
Every chef gets asked the same questions. In my attempt to answer the classic "what makes a good chef" I've written about the importance of knives and palate. Today I'm tackling plating: the creative skill a chef exercises to bring you beauty to your meal.
One of the things a chef is expected to do, and do well, is plate food. What does this mean?
Sometimes I’m just smart about cooking. This last week was one of those times. I use quite a bit of roasted garlic, so why don’t I make puree? I frequently made roasted garlic puree on the job, why not for myself?
Part of the issue is I don’t want to turn on a great big oven for just a little bit of food. Three heads of garlic doesn’t justify using all that energy. Finally I realized that there is a toaster oven in the house that I can use for cooking the small things and thus avoid turning on the big oven. read more
As an experienced professional, people always ask me what makes a good chef. There is no simple answer as a good chef possesses numerous skills. This is the second in my series of articles addressing those skills. Part 1 covered knives. Other skills include palate, plating, and managerial ability. Today I’m talking about palate, the flavor you coax out of different combinations of ingredients.
Knives are personal. The way they feel, the way they balance in the hand. How the blade cuts through the food. Personally, I like a lighter knife, one that is easy to grip and that is very, very sharp. Cat Cora of Iron Chef fame uses a 13" chef’s knife, and she’s 4’11”. Intimidating? Yes. Necessary? When you are that short and working in a “man’s” world, wielding a large knife can help intimidate your co-workers.