top of page



This week I wanted to remind everyone that when you are in the kitchen, your world (and your food) is up to you (not some recipe)!

You're the Chef

Having a baseline knowledge of foods and techniques allows you to let recipes be a guide for you, not a strict set of rules that need to be followed. That is one of the reasons that I created my Essential Series of classes (to give you a great breadth of knowledge and skills you can expand upon, for the rest of your life, through your own cooking). But even without my classes, you already have a good deal of knowledge about food and cooking that you can start using to look at recipes like chefs do and let your tastes guide you to making your own personal cuisine.

Get at the Heart

There are thousands of recipes out there for the same food (just google chicken soup if you don't believe me ;)). So there can't be just one way to make things, right? When we professional chefs look at recipes that are new to us, we typically look at a few and see what they have in common, what ingredients and methods are the same and what are different. Then we combine our knowledge of those recipes and give it a try while looking at what we are cooking through the lense of our own experience. This way of looking at a recipe gets at the heart of what a recipe is trying to convey and allows room for your own tastes, experiences and preferences. This also lets recipes be a guide for your cooking and food, not a rulebook for the recipe author's cooking. Read multiple recipes and try to understand the idea of the dish (methods, ingredients, ratios, etc.), not just the mere steps to blindly follow.

Cooking with Natural Ingredients

This way of looking at recipes also lets you account for the inevitable variation that comes from cooking with natural, non perfectly uniform foods. Say your jalapeno is super spicy or huge; if you are blindly following a recipe and it calls for "1 jalapeno", you may end up with a dish that is way too hot for your liking and also not what the recipe author's intention was for the dish. It's ok to vary your cooking based on what you see and experience!! We all have some idea of how big a jalapeno is, right? So if you have a recipe (or set of recipes) that calls for 1 jalapeno, take a second to think, is this a big/small jalapeno that I bought at the store? Should I use all of it, or do I need another? If it's small and I don't have another, is there something else I could add (cayenne)? Think about the idea of the recipe, look at what you have, and bring it together in a way that makes you happy!

Role with it...

I also find it super helpful to think of ingredients in terms of the roles that they play in a dish. This helps with creating variations on dishes you love, utilizing unfamiliar foods in ways you know, and with working around ingredients you don't like because you can just substitute another ingredient that plays that same role. This is one of the ways Chefs create variations on classics like Carrot Top Pesto, White Bean Hummus, or Smoked Pimento Cheese. Think about an ingredient, what role it plays and then find another ingredient that plays that same role. Or you can do it in reverse if you have an ingredient you're not sure what to do with. Think of another similar ingredient that you know and use it in the same manner... And presto, you have just created your own variation! Just make sure to think about what the similarities and differences are and account for them when possible (if using poblano chiles instead of Thai bird chiles, maybe add some cayenne to account for the lesser spice, for example).

Ready When Classes Resume

This idea is an easy way to help liven up your cooking, continue building your skills and help you branch out to new and different ingredients because you can have a starting point of "what to do with this..." What is it similar to? How would you use that? Anything I need to account for? What do I like?

When classes resume, I can't wait to help take that knowledge and skill set to the next level by showing you even more great cooking foundations!

Happy Cooking Y'all!!

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page