Some of you are amazing (at least based on your recipes and tips).
When or how did you learn?
My mother used bottles, boxes, jars and cans and I picked up little. I eat a LOT of grilled cheese for dinner.
Did some of you take classes?
Work at restaurants?
Just read cookbooks?
How did you become so skilled?
Passion and curiosity can take you far. I've never taken a class but I read lots of cookbooks. I read them the way some of you read fiction. I read cookbooks in bed. And I try a lot of the recipes I find. If it doesn't work out, I'll play around with it till I get something I like.
Over the years I've known lots of people who have worked in restaurants. It can be awful, grueling work. It won't necessarily make you a good cook.
I grew up on a farm in a time when we produced most of our own food. Even as a 5 year olds we were involved with food. Picking peas and beans, strawberries and asparagus. Trimming and snapping green beans, shelling peas, working in the garden.
Gender roles were often crossed. My mother on the tractor in the summer and my father in the kitchen in the winter
My mom always asked us kids what vegetable we wanted for a meal. My favorite was creamed green beans. When I was about 8 and once again asked for my favorite veggie Mom told me that not everyone like them creamed and showed my how to make my own. From then on she taught me to cook the things I liked.
I think great cooks can be trained. Be fearless. Technique is more important than a recipe. The world is your oyster.
I would say take classes, for two reasons. They can be enormous fun, even as a seasoned cook I take them AND you build confidence when you make new things.
My sophomore year in college, I realized that I was going to need to learn to cook if I wanted to get an apartment instead of live in the dorms. Fortunately, I had two friends whose mothers were great cooks, making nearly everything from scratch, and I learned a lot from both my friends and their mothers.
I made fish a lot, and seafood, because one of my friends' family business was a wholesale fish company. My mother, who hadn't liked cooking her entire life, suddenly got interested in Julia Child, and she gave me a cookbook of Julia's during my junior year.
The most important thing, I think, was a desire from the beginning not to eat processed food that came already made, or almost-already made, in packages. I just knew instinctively that I didn't want to eat like that.
Over the years, I've had numerous influences (Marcella Hazan, Giuliano Bugialli, Martha Stewart) who wrote cookbooks, and I've taken cooking classes.
I like baking a lot, and until very recently, had never made a cake that came from a box. I tried a couple from Trader Joe's, figuring they might suck less, but I wasn't really impressed with anything but the ease with which I was able to end up with cake.
But it was way too sweet, and full of artificial moistness, which is a weird, supermarket cake type of texture I fail to enjoy.
Please contact Allison Hart of Lavely and Singer. She will have any mention of you deleted from the internet. It's awesome and few major celebs like me take advantage. Allison is listed in the phone book FYI. Hiring her is the best investment of my life. It kept me out of prison. She and Marty Singer will even get LAPD, on thier payroll, to terrorize and ruin anyone who writes negativity about you.
R5 is spamming a lot of threads...speaking of spam any great cooks have spam recipes?
Funny thing, I got a job at a bakery and was really good at it. People think baking or pastries are more difficult than cooking but I think it's easier because you simply have to follow the rules. There's no interpretation. Just read the instructions and go.
As far as cooking: This is cheesy but at 32, I was inspired to cook by Alton Brown and Emeril- back in the day when the Food Network had real cooking shows that taught you [italic]HOW[/italic] to do stuff.
I would find those real cooking shows so comforting and eventually picked up basic tips for cooking general stuff. I realized there were some things I could handle. Emeril talked about his Trio of pepper, onion, and carrots... Alton Brown taught me there's a science to it all and his exact instructions were easy to follow step by step. It began with basic stuff. Learning to salt and season. Learning how to make a roux, then a steak done just right, Some rice, etc. Eventually it clicked. "I can do this" and if I screw something up- I learn from it and try it again the next day. NO fuss.
One thing led to another and I felt confidant enough to make more involved dishes.
Oh, it also helps to have someone in your life who LOVES to cook or can appreciate your work and is supportive. I had an unappreciative hag for a partner for a while and my cooking confidence was SHOT to hell. When I got with someone who loved food, we took off and now make GREAT food together.
Good Luck OP! You can do it!
A cooking class is a good idea if you can find one. I am a competent cook, and have grown to do a few things really, really well. When I was in my 20s I was afraid to even handle raw meat. I didn't know one cut from the other. I started reading cookbooks, asking for recipes for things I liked and watching others. Then with the internet and Food Channel, I really started paying attention. As annoying as she is, Rachael Ray is really good for beginners. Her food is very basic, no fancy techniques, and is good. Once you can master the basics, you get confidence to experiment and branch out a bit.
I became skilled simply by cooking a lot. With the internet it's even easier, so many websites (like Chowhound, Serious Eats, not to mention cooking videos from amateurs and professionals on youtube)
My mom cooked a wonderful dinner every night and I certainly learned a lot from watching and helping her. As a result I'm a very good Italian cook because that's what I grew up with. But once I became an adult, I started to branch out into authentic Thai food, Caribbean food, bread baking, etc. I'm now familiar with a wide variety of ingrediants and techniques, just by reading good cookbooks, repuatable websites, etc.
Cook and eat!
I'm pretty sure that R5 is the same idiot from early this morning who was bumping all the old Zac Efron threads with some ridiculous lyrics.
Don't feed the troll.
I taught myself after college. I had some spectacular fuck ups but you gradually learn some nice tricks and techniques. One of the best things to do is watch the old Julia Child episodes. She explains TONS of things that would be hard to pick up from her books.
Mastering dishes is the first step -- the real trick is learning to time their prep so they all will be done at the same time...
I do read books but don't get it all...I will try Julia Child's shows.
Anyone have a specific class in Manhattan to refer me to?
If you have Amazon prime, you can stream all of the old Julia shows for free!
R13 you are in luck. I can refer you not only to the fun class I took with friends...but I got an e mail this morning offering a discount.
I will link you directly to the website in another post.
This class builds confidence, skill and recipe development...you really let go of your fear of food.
Best taken with friends vs as a single...I did it because of his volunteer work, wanted to support that, but ended up making duck candy...yea candy out of duck so I realized that there are some things I still have to learn.
BTW...duck candy rocks.
I got interested in cooking very young and when I was in high school I started cooking for my parent's dinner parties.
I cannot seem to do pastry though. Yesterday, I tried biscuits from scratch. While not exactly hard as a rock they were not the fluffy delicacies the recipe promised. Maybe it was the recipe or maybe breads are a whole different ballgame.
Here you go...and I 3rd or 4th Julia Child...I learned more about chickens from her in 30 minutes than I had in 20 years.
R16 Don't touch your dough too much. That's a very common error with pastry and dough.
Bread takes a very light touch, biscuits need to be barely worked. If you overwork you develop gluten and they are hard.
I hate to cook, partly because I hate getting my hands all gooey and dirty (yes, I know it's psychological, but it truly mortifies me) and partly because I live alone and I've never found a cookbook that has recipes for one person. Any suggestions?
Julia beats her pie dough after chilling to break down any gluten formed. That seems counter intuitive, but it works.
My mother was an excellent cook and baker and we had home cooked meals every night. I never got a taste for Hamburger Helper and the like because I never had it. Starting in 5th grade I really wanted to learn to cook and started with popcorn after school and pancakes for my family on the weekend. My mother and I watched Julia and Saturday morning were spent watching cooking shows on PBS.
When I moved out, I wanted to make the same dishes I grew up with so I would get the recipe from my mother and try it on my own. I kept up with the cooking shows and started to collect cookbooks. I just kept plugging away at it with success and disasters along the way.
Four years ago, I gave up my corporate job and went to culinary school. I worked in a restaurant for a while which is extremely demanding work and doesn't replicate home cooking all that much. I agree with the poster above that it's more important to learn technique than recipes because you'll never understand why a recipe works and how to cook without one without the technique. I think the America's Test Kitchen recipes are excellent for acquiring this skill even though I think some of their recipes are a bit too fussy.
I'm sad that so few people have cooking skills. When people come to my house, they're amazed at things I consider really simple. As much as I dislike what the Food Network has become, if it gets people interested in cooking then I'm all for it. Be curious and patience and you will get there. Good luck, OP.
R20, google "cooking for one" -- lots of blogs & books. Also, "cooking for two" & divide the recipes in half, or eat leftovers tomorrow.
Blogs are free & so are library cookbook sections -- or browse at yard sales, usually lots of cookbooks there.
Thanks everyone...especially for the encouragement.
R15 discounts help but I don't know 4 people who will take a class with me. I booked for 2 and my brother is coming when he gets to town. We will get matched with strangers but that can be fun.
I also subscribed to Amazon Prime to get Julia...
I hope this is not a trend, but has anyone noticed that most of the posters on this thread are kind, encouraging and helpful?
Is DL becoming nice?
To compliment the Julia shows, you should also pick up a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I have made notes all over mine. I've gotten good enough with the techniques that I am changing them up a bit to be slightly lower fat, using only chicken breasts, etc.
4 ounce of thigh has only 13 more calories than 4 ounces of breast. I would not ruin Julia's food with a breast alone.
R27 - OK true confessions, the breast meat thing is partly because of fat and largely because my parents always told me poor people eat the dark meat. Let me acknowledge I know that is stupid, but for some reason it stuck. If I cook a whole chicken I toss the dark meat. Rip away bitches.
I'm a tremendous cook. But I was raised in a multi-generational house, and learned to cook from my old-fashioned, traditional, Italian grandmother. I have always had a fascination with cooking shows. Maybe it's because I loved Julia Child.
I never studied cooking, but I guess I did absorb it. There I things I just know or do automatically, and I have no idea how I learned them.
I am most conscious of that when I have friends over and we are in the kitchen. Apparently I am more knowledgeable than I realize. So I would have to say it's all of the above in combination, OP.
I don't do too many exotic things,as I'm not a particularly adventurous eater, but I do cook a interesting varieties, and on gloomy winter weekends I'll experiment in the kitchen.
Mediterranean cuisines are my favorites, like Turkey, Morrocco, Greece, Italy, etc. Also love the variety of spices in Indian food. Enjoy trying different vegetables, like Mexican and Chinese food too.
R25...I am reading other threads this morning...it is not a trend.
Not "tremendous," but a pretty good amateur cook. My mother was a great cook but preferred doing it alone so I taught myself. I started by following recipes and then riffing on established recipes according to my tastes. Now I basically don't need recipes unless I'm trying something for the first time. I've learned a lot from the chowhound forums and I like to search epicurious.com for recipes. Once you've got the basics down, I think creativity and a sense of adventure take you far. Obviously I'm not baking or making complicated sauces. Also, you will fuck up and that's fine, just order a pizza (or make one).
I like to buy at least one item a week that is completely foreign to me (eg, goat, tripe, celeriac, cactus, etc have been past challenges). I research it, look up recipes that sound good, and cobble together something that is often fantastic or at least tasty. My current project is chicken feet.
I love reading cookbooks and THE FLAVOR BIBLE taught me a lot.
I agree with a previous poster who said the most stressful thing about cooking is getting a multi-course meal on the table all at once. On those occasions I try to cook ahead as much as possible.
I would love to learn bread baking for the Zen pleasure of it, but unfortunately this would be hell on my weight.
Baking it won't make you fat R31 eating it will. Maybe you could bake for a shelter or something...worth considering.
Personally I adore chicken feet.
Good idea, R32. I give a lot of my food away anyway.
How do you like your chicken feet? I bought a pound because I saw a guy gnawing on a foot in a dim sum place and will never forget the look of pure bliss on his face.
R33 I make a complex chicken foot dish where I do a simmer for about an hour in seasoned water with masses of garlic and onion (save for soup) then I do a part cure rubbing gently with a mix of kosher salt and brown sugar and leaving uncovered in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
Then I pan fry, crisp and brown, chewing every bit off the bone.
R20 Yes, cut the recipe in half or quarter. If you can't do that make the full recipe and section it off and freeze individual portions for later.
A few years back I needed a job because I had been laid off.
My neighbor's daughter had just opened a restaurant.
My job was sous chef. I made biscuits each morning, pancake batter and the like.
I also assembled and made a soup of the day, lasagna and chili as well as cakes and pies.
The boss would tell me to make chili, no recipe, I just made the chili I like with cumin and lots of red chili.
I was never told how to make anything, I just did my own thing, no one ever complained.
R36 come back! Tell us more! What happened are you still cooking for a living? Are you still at that restaurant? I'd love to do that.
Sometimes I invent something. My own personal recipe for a new soup or a vegetable dish or an entree. I'd love to sell my recipes. We have a few really fine local restaurants, not high end, but good food, and I have considered approaching them. Has anyone ever done that?
R37 unless it is a stunning original that can be mass produced, no one wants your recipes.
Sorry to tell you that, but a restaurant may taste it, make it and name the dish after you, but money...forget it.
Great cooks have a taste for good food, a sense of what ingredients work well together, and a sense of when to keep it simple (usually) and when to try something a little different.
But really the best way to become a great cook is simply to cook a lot, read recipes, watch people cooking and continually judge yourself - did I overcook? undercook? overseason? underseason? plan the meal smartly or not? - and try to be your best.
I don't remember not liking or not being able to cook and every member of my family is a decent to very good cook. My mother was a great baker and maybe the family's skill comes from watching her. I think our ability comes that and from having almost nothing but home cooked meals as children--I don't ever remember eating out as a child.
Like many others Julia Child was/is my muse. Her cook books are great guides to techniques, The Way to Cook is still one of my favorites.
The restaurant folded within 6 months. The owner was newly married to a third or fourth husband who had a few bucks.
She didn't know a thing about running a restaurant, managing people or operating a business. She bankrupt her new husband while he fucked the waitresses.
It was a job, I got to eat and was allowed to take something home if I did not get a chance to eat. However it was the worst job I have ever held and I have done some real shit jobs.
The experience actually pushed me to find a way to work for myself. I have been self employed ever since. I would live in poverty before I would ever work for someone again.
Worth remembering Julia Child was hopeless in the kitchen until she began to study hard and work at it daily.
I think most great cooks are all three: born, made and trained.
My mother was an excellent cook and an even better baker. Nearly everyone in her father's family were chefs in Europe, and a few of them came over to the States. She was exposed to good food from the time she could eat solids.
My mother was not only a great cook, she was a born teacher who always told everyone I surpassed her early on. If true, I think it's because after I left home I didn't have to cook down to the tastes of my demanding father. I learned early on to cook French, Chinese, Italian and Greek, none of which he would have eaten. I also went beyond the pastries he was willing to eat. It's a shame when a great cook lives with someone who only appreciates basic foods, but she did those things he would eat extremely well and she gradually added in some food that he had not grown up with. She made the best pie crust on earth, the lightest biscuits and scones, and wonderful noodles and dumplings. Her cakes were heaven. Her fried chicken bar none the best I've ever eaten. Her gravies and sauces were always perfect.
My mother taught me far more than the basics. I took what she taught me, added in a very large dose of Julia Child, both her cookbooks and her PBS cooking shows, and built quite a stock of standards.
I take classes from time to time. The latest was Moroccan cooking because I wanted to learn to use a tagine, their unique blend of spices and their sweet and savory combinations. I've taken many courses, in classic French cooking, desserts, chocolate, European pastries (especially laminated pastries), artisan breads, pizza, and regional foods from many different places.
There are some very good cooking teachers on TV. I highly recommend Julia and Jacques Papin, both of whom teach great technique. There are also many excellent online resources for cooks and bakers. I'm still enjoying breadmaking and pastries and have found online forums to be very helpful.
Shut up R11,14,26, & 28 you racist pos.
Trolldar's a bitch and so are you.
R44 Um Okay. What's your point?
I used to bake bread and one thing I learned was that no matter what you end up with it could be very good.
I once made french baguettes using the oven steam method with hot water in the oven while baking. The came out very flat and crusty, doughy in the middle and delicious. I had company for dinner and served them as "cuban bread", just something I made up and the bread was a big hit.
Peculiar to me, perhaps, I never ever taste anything while cooking. The idea of what I am trying to achieve is in my head. I know from experience that when I start tasting I start adjusting from my original plan and it puts my outcome at risk. I stick to my plan and only evaluate when I sit down to eat. I am seldom disappointed and it seems to me that someone other than myself made the food. Like having your own chef. I was always fond of the James Beard books. Actually the french baguette recipe was from his book.
Reading books by cooks can be helpful. Technique can make a difference. I have read things like when sauteing onions if you put them in a hot dry skillet for a minute or two before adding the oil or butter it makes them sweet. I don''t know if it does but I always do that.
If Martha Stewart cooking segments are available anywhere they stand alone. Unequaled by any cooking show.
Avoid many of the TV cooks, especially Rachel Ray, unless you are fond of continuous and repetitive tail gating fare.
Martha Stewart. Ick
R44 do you need your meds? What is racist about any of those posts?
Let the idiot go R49 and if there are an on topic threads...go for it.
R49, nothing, in this thread. Elsewhere, that pos is repulsively racist.
And that anus fissure knows the point very well, and can die on the spot.
Martha Stewart has surprisingly excellent and simple recipes.
Martha Stewart's Mac and Cheese 101 is my favorite version.
Martha's Pate Brisee and Pate Sucree are the best, my "go-to"s, as you youngsters say.
Her creme caramel is TDF.
I watched mother and grandma, but it didn't work. I'm a poor cook, I have no eye or ear or nose to judge or make balanced flavour choices. I try to cook for myself but end up throwing approx 50% of these meals in the bin and end up eating a sandwich or cheese and biscuits or something.
However, I am a moderately good baker. Baking is all about measurements, precise, its an Excel spreadsheet mindset. I have cold hands. I don't over-knead. I double sift from a height. I am meticulous and rigid about things anyway and find baking a sympathetic pass-time.
If I want to keep a beau, I make him a cake. If I want to ditch a beau, I make him a casserole.
I like to do both, R55, and I do them well, but I definitely prefer what I end up with when I bake.
R55 YOU need a class. That stuff can be taught. Learn to taste.
R55, just to prove to yourself you can cook, make Thomas Keller's Roasted Chicken: an organic chicken, salt and pepper (I don't use any of the other stuff).