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Old 10-24-2006, 07:40 PM   #1
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How do I get better at cooking?

Hi guys

Soo, i went to the college fair at my school last night and i think that i might wanna be a professional chef when i grow up. I cook as much as possible at home and for other people/friends but i wanna get like... i dunno, REALLY good at cooking. I know its kinda a broad question, but are there any like, secrets to getting better? Things i should read/practice? Like organization in the kitchen kinda stuff? Im going to apply for a food prep job at one of the local health centers (starting at 9.00 an hour! ) as soon i turn 16 in december and that'll probably help, but is there anything else? Sorry for the possibly dumb question!


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Old 10-24-2006, 07:48 PM   #2
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Practice the basics and cook food that you like. For example, if you like Italian food, start with that. Practice tomato sauces, pesto, one pan dishes such as veal or chicken piccata. Learn how to balance the flavors, especially with salt because that can make or break any dish. It's all trial and error but start with simple things first, and cook things that you like to eat so that it's enjoyable.
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Old 10-24-2006, 08:04 PM   #3
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And as you are doing what ironchef just said KEEP NOTES with measurements and then if you add something make sure you document it. Remember what it feels like to pick up a pinch or two of kosher salt with your fingers.

Practice mise en place. Before you start cooking ANY recipe measure all ingredients and lay them out from left to right in front of you in order of use in the recipe. If you run out of room start a second row, again from left to right. Not only will this make the actually cooking a breeze it will assure you you have all the ingredients. Not only measure but if it says one chopped onion, chop it, mince the garlic. Whatever form it goes into the recipe as it should be that form in the dish before you.

The best experience you will get is what you plan on doing.

"Count yourself...you ain't so many" - quote from Buck's Daddy
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Old 10-24-2006, 09:00 PM   #4
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watch and learn from the pros; read up on your favorite foods. read cookbooks, practice, taste while you cook, season, try new foods, etc. btw, not a dumb question...so follow your dream!
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Old 10-24-2006, 09:18 PM   #5
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keep an open mind, be prepared to work...HARD, and learn from EVERYONE. No matter who it is, there is always something to learn from everyone in a kitchen or front of the house.

It is a very demanding trade, but if it is something you want, I am sure you can do it. keep your head up, thoughts open, and take criticism well. More times then not, it is not about insults, it is about the results.

Best of luck!

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Old 10-24-2006, 10:25 PM   #6
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1. I think an excellent cook must be passionate about great food. He distinguishes exceptional food from just 'good' food. So, educate your palate. Taste different foods, different cuisines. Seek out great food. Seek out great restaurants or food outlets to taste their food. If you can, travel and experience the authentic food in those places.

2. Understand what's happening while cooking/baking the food by learning the science behind it. There are several books on this subject.
'Never eat more than you can lift.' - Miss Piggy
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Old 10-25-2006, 01:08 PM   #7
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If you are looking for a career in a restaurant, it is completely different from cooking for a family. In the former, you need to develope recipes that are consistent. You can only be creative up to a point. When someone brings guests to your restaurant and orders your signature dish, it better be good, and most importantly, consistent. You can't experiment too much except on daily specials. Professional kitchens tend to be very hot. You will probably wind up doing time before being able to exercise your creative juices, and the head chef is the boss until then. If you have a problem with "Yes, Sir; Yes Ma'am" -- well, don't join the military and don't work in a restaurant! Your idea of working in a professional kitchen will tell you very quickly if you are suited to the work. On the other hand, there a personal chefs and catering which might be different.
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Old 10-25-2006, 01:56 PM   #8
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I agree with all the comments so far. Great advice.

As for getting better, having good knife skills will help you a lot in a professional setting. For example, there's a method to dicing an onion, to mincing garlic, to chopping parsely, to filleting a fish, to cleaning a beef tenderloin, etc...The sooner you learn the right techniques, the better and the more respect you'll get when you start working in a professional kitchen. These skills help you work faster and more efficiently and that's a definite plus. Chef's want their staff to work quickly and not waste either food or time. It would be a huge plus if you could do a couple of things at the same time also, like be able to chop vegetables or whatever, while you have something sauteeing on the stove without letting it burn.

Also, Claire is right, working in a kitchen or upscale hotel is very much like the military. There's a hierarchy and a pecking order. When you first start you're expected to "pay your dues" and you're starting at the bottom. When I graduated from culinary school, I worked in restaurant kitchens as a line cook for two years and there were definitely a few nights I went home to cry, it's a tough environment. However when I switched to catering and baking, I found I loved the professional atmosphere. Just try everything and find what's best for you.

Good luck
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Old 10-25-2006, 02:07 PM   #9
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Get all the 'real world' experience that you can. There is plenty to be learned from a school, but too many school taught cooks are totally unprepared to actually do the work. They are typically very knowledgable, can cook an awesome meal for 8 or 12, but couldn't even begin to manage 300 - 400 covers or more. Learn to handle great pressure with ease, and you will go far.
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Old 10-25-2006, 03:16 PM   #10
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Cook things that you like. This Cooking Site will really teach you a lot of things. Our members are very nice people who are great cooks and they have some of the most delicious receipes.

Buy Cooking Books which discuss what foods you want to cook. Also go to great restaurants and check out their dishes.

Frequent stores that sell cooking tools and look around because you will be needing a lot of things like knives, crock pots etc.

Jill and Jolie
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Old 10-25-2006, 03:33 PM   #11
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Cooking books open a world of learning oppertunity.

If I were in your shoes I would read, read, read and cook, cook, cook!

Read cook books of as many differnet types of cuisine as I could get hold of by well repected cooks and chefs, newspaper columns on food and restaurant reviews, I would cook everything I could, working out why I like one recipe books version of the same dish more than anothers. I would get a weekend/after school job in the best place that would take me and I would watch and learn.

I don't think your question is "dumb" and I think you are very sensible to find out what you can. Furthermore I think you are enterprising and lucky to have a feeling of what direction interests you at only 16 years old! Well done !
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Old 10-26-2006, 05:22 PM   #12
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(hehe, thanks :) lulu)

Awesome! thanks SO much guys for all the help!!!!
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Old 10-26-2006, 05:36 PM   #13
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When you are reading, keep a notebook to make notes. Write down any questions you might have. There are NO dumb questions. Only the ones you DON'T ask.

Make notes, too, when you are working with someone. Ask questions of them, also.

Read, read, read.
"As a girl I had zero interest in the stove." - Julia Child
This is real inspiration. Look what Julia became!
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Old 10-27-2006, 07:35 AM   #14
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You are already given loads of good advices from various points of view, if I may pitch in my 2 cents, try to experiment, get yourself accustomed to, and learn to use and care for the right equipments.
i.e. all the different knives are designed to special purposes, learn the differences and how to use them, as well as maintaining them in the best condition possible. Using the right knife will make your life a whole lot easier, and actually safer.
Also if you are accustomed to just using a nonstick skillet, try to learn cooking with different types of vessels like cast iron, SS, Copper etc. and see what kind of effect they can attain.
Don't be afraid to try new gadget, mixers, robots, food processors, slicers for just a few example, but before you jump in, read the manual and make sure you will know what you are doing, and the correct usage.
This practice will enhance your world of cooking so much.
Good luck!!
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