Friday, March 19, 2010

Learning to cook....continued

It has occurred to me that in writing my last post I neglected to talk about the very best way to learn how to cook.  It is of course to stand at the side of someone who has better skills than you do and to attentively watch them work.  If you have a friend who is a great cook--or who does one thing really well--see if you can join them in the kitchen sometime.  

I have a friend, Bonnie, who makes the most amazing Swedish Cardamom Bread.  I have her recipe.  Even though I bake all the time (have done it for a living in a pastry shop...I started my professional career as a pastry assistant), my cardamom bread never turned out as well as hers did.  I've casually watched her make it several times.  The last time I had the opportunity to watch her, I really paid attention.  I noticed things I hadn't noticed before--things I woudn't have noticed if I hadn't tried to make it myself.  This last time, she handed a couple of the balls of dough to me and had me form two of the loaves.  The second was better than the first.  Both were better than anything I had ever made on my own.  My problem had not been the recipe; Bonnie's recipes are well written with clear directions.  There is just really no substitute for standing next to an expert.

Professional cooks and chefs have always known this.  Cooks and chefs with many years of experience under their belts use vacation time to work in another chef's kitchen for a week or two so they can continue to learn more.  Young cooks who really want to hone their craft seek out apprenticeships (for little or no pay) in the best kitchens so that even if they are just washing lettuce or peeling shrimp all day they can watch those who really know their stuff in action. 

Whatever level of skill you would like to achieve--professional or accomplished home cook--look for someone who is doing what you want to do well.  Ask if you can come and watch.  If you get the opportunity to watch, ask questions. See if they will watch over your shoulder and coach you through it. Go home and try it. Come back and ask more questions and learn some more.

1 comment:

Katrina said...

Well said and precisely why I take all your classes (if I can't have you right in my kitchen, you know), well, that and I love the food and you're great and it's a wonderful "mom's" night out for me every couple weeks. I think you should take your culinary skills to Utah! ;)