Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Marks of a bad cook


gfweb
 Share

Recommended Posts

Whoever said "bad food" nailed it.

I have a lot of personal markers for someone who I wouldn't want to collaborate with in the kitchen ... they mostly have to do with organization and OCD cleaning habits. These are typical markers that make or break a pro kitchen, and they make a huge difference at home, too.

But I've had wonderful meals prepared by people who are disasters in all these regards (Mom, are you reading?)—a kitchen that looks like a war zone minutes into prep, dull knives, horrible pans, clutter, drawers clogged with gadgets...

My solution is to let them do their thing while I mute any lingering sense of horror with alcohol. Then enjoy the delicious meal that emerges like Phoenix from the ashes.

Notes from the underbelly

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my experience the one constant mark of a bad cook is as much garbage thrown out as is being carried in from the market.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One sign of a bad cook, in my opinion, is a refusal to learn something new. No, you (a generalized "you", not directed at anybody in particular) do not know it all... and you never will.

To me, it would indicate someone who is a bit hyper-focused on the "technology" side of cooking, and a bit too excited in bells / whistles rather than simple, well executed cooking and basic technique.

One has nothing to do with the other. At least not in an x=y sort of way. It is possible to get caught up in the equipment and techniques and forget about the food but it's impossible to know that's the case simply by observing the equipment someone has in the kitchen.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To me, it is also the unwillingness to try to figure out what went wrong and then to try to fix it. I'm either fearless or foolish, but I can't think of anything I've been afraid to cook or bake and I have been doing just that since I was six or seven. Peoples irrational, to me, fear of pie crust for instance, mystifies me.

Edited by annabelle (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my experience a bad cook is someone who doesn't pay attention to what they are doing, has no interest in improving, and doesn't seem to taste what they eat to see if it could be bettered next time.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Empty fridge apart from really scary veggies that are beginning to develop sentient life

Hey! I'm not a bad cook, I just get too ambitious about buying vegetables and then end up going out to eat all week. :laugh: Finally threw away what were lovely organic green beans I got 2-1/2 weeks ago in the CSA I realized wasn't working for me, and picked through the yellowing kale. I'm a good cook when I'm not too lazy to do it!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Empty fridge apart from really scary veggies that are beginning to develop sentient life

Hey! I'm not a bad cook, I just get too ambitious about buying vegetables and then end up going out to eat all week. :laugh: Finally threw away what were lovely organic green beans I got 2-1/2 weeks ago in the CSA I realized wasn't working for me, and picked through the yellowing kale. I'm a good cook when I'm not too lazy to do it!

That's definitely not a sign of a bad cook. I can't speak for everyone but I quite often come home from the restaurant with no desire to cook something for myself. I have good intentions when I buy stuff for the week but it doesn't always happen. I wonder how common it really is for restaurant cooks to get home and say "screw it, I'll just make a sandwich". :raz:

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Moldy / expired foods (and I mean WAY expired - verging on developing sapience) in the refrigerator. Dirty kitchen.

I've known people with hand-me-down nonsticks and POS knives that were as dull along the edge as they were along the spine who could still knock your socks off. Being broke doesn't equate to skills in the kitchen. But how you work in the kitchen directly impacts the food you put on a plate (paper or otherwise).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Empty fridge apart from really scary veggies that are beginning to develop sentient life

Hey! I'm not a bad cook, I just get too ambitious about buying vegetables and then end up going out to eat all week. :laugh: Finally threw away what were lovely organic green beans I got 2-1/2 weeks ago in the CSA I realized wasn't working for me, and picked through the yellowing kale. I'm a good cook when I'm not too lazy to do it!

That's definitely not a sign of a bad cook. I can't speak for everyone but I quite often come home from the restaurant with no desire to cook something for myself. I have good intentions when I buy stuff for the week but it doesn't always happen. I wonder how common it really is for restaurant cooks to get home and say "screw it, I'll just make a sandwich". :raz:

Very, very common! I'll cook something more elaborate on my day off, less so after all day in the kitchen.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me, one sign is the inability to detect subtler flavours. And I don't mean people who cannot identify a miligram of pepper in a gallon of soup, I mean people who cannot taste anything beyond very strong instances of salty, sour, sweet and pungent (and probably also strong bitter!). So they can't identify anything beyond, "It tastes sweet I guess." Typically such people often dislike certain vegetables as they "don't taste of anything" :rolleyes:

I know one person who consistently cannot taste flavours that aren't really really bold. He just has no idea what the natural tastes of some vegetables are because he can only taste whatever flavourings they are cooked with! He also repeatedly "misidentifies" flavour sources. I put that in airquotes because it's not like he actually tastes them and tries to work it out, he just guesses from what he's seen in the fridge or cupboards. So he'll say "There's a really good ginger flavour." and I'll have to tell him there's no ginger in it. "Well, I like the tamarind in it." And there's no tamarind in it. He just doesn't get it. You can give him two sour dishes, one made with tamarind and one with lemon, and even if they have completely different seasonings they will pretty much taste the same to him. And he is a bad cook. He'll start off with some specific ingredients, but before you know it he's put the whole kitchen cupboard in the pan and it just tastes like a mess.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Someone who has an industrial sized container of something tableside which they apply liberally to all foods. It could be ketchup, sriracha, sweet chilli sauce, mustard, ranch, garlic salt... If everything is doused in the same sauce, then you can't taste anything which means you're not really paying attention to flavor. I've known quite a few hipster "foodies" who wax rhapsodically about the wonders of sriracha because they could barely make anything edible.

PS: I am a guy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me, one sign is the inability to detect subtler flavours. And I don't mean people who cannot identify a miligram of pepper in a gallon of soup, I mean people who cannot taste anything beyond very strong instances of salty, sour, sweet and pungent (and probably also strong bitter!). So they can't identify anything beyond, "It tastes sweet I guess." Typically such people often dislike certain vegetables as they "don't taste of anything" :rolleyes:

I know one person who consistently cannot taste flavours that aren't really really bold. He just has no idea what the natural tastes of some vegetables are because he can only taste whatever flavourings they are cooked with! He also repeatedly "misidentifies" flavour sources. I put that in airquotes because it's not like he actually tastes them and tries to work it out, he just guesses from what he's seen in the fridge or cupboards. So he'll say "There's a really good ginger flavour." and I'll have to tell him there's no ginger in it. "Well, I like the tamarind in it." And there's no tamarind in it. He just doesn't get it. You can give him two sour dishes, one made with tamarind and one with lemon, and even if they have completely different seasonings they will pretty much taste the same to him. And he is a bad cook. He'll start off with some specific ingredients, but before you know it he's put the whole kitchen cupboard in the pan and it just tastes like a mess.

That may explain why some chain restaurants are successful despite the food being very mediocre or even poor. I ate at one such place last night. Had BBQ chicken. It was cooked dry and stringy, baked, not BBQ except for the sauce which was burnt. Corn on the cob water logged. Muffin must have been a couple days old. Yet people wait in line to get in.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Empty fridge apart from really scary veggies that are beginning to develop sentient life

Hey! I'm not a bad cook, I just get too ambitious about buying vegetables and then end up going out to eat all week. :laugh: Finally threw away what were lovely organic green beans I got 2-1/2 weeks ago in the CSA I realized wasn't working for me, and picked through the yellowing kale. I'm a good cook when I'm not too lazy to do it!

That's definitely not a sign of a bad cook. I can't speak for everyone but I quite often come home from the restaurant with no desire to cook something for myself. I have good intentions when I buy stuff for the week but it doesn't always happen. I wonder how common it really is for restaurant cooks to get home and say "screw it, I'll just make a sandwich". :raz:

You've hit on the exact reason I hardly ever buy bread or sweet baked goods. After a full day at the bakery, I could care less about these things and I haven't had a sandwich in months. I just looked on top of my fridge (where buns go to die) and I found something that looked more medicinal than edible. :blink: I think it might have once been a Kaiser roll.

My list was meant to be taken as all factors together, though (probably I should have mentioned it up on page 1) - the sentient fridge beings PLUS the abused cookware PLUS the old spices PLUS melamine plates PLUS bad food = bad cook. If you're missing the bad food part, the bad cook part can't be inferred from the other bits. Lazy cook, sure. Cheap cook, almost certainly.

I have friends with sentient fridges and all melamine all the time services who are excellent cooks, and I have friends with all the bells and whistles in their kitchens who are absolutely terrible. It ultimately comes down to their attitude towards their ingredients and towards the cooking process itself.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you use metal utensils on Teflon pans, then yes you are a bad cook. Regardless of how tasty the meals you're serving are they are tainted with tiny bits of scraped up non-stick surface. That's definitely not being a good cook.

My brother is a very good cook but he does this. Why? Because he's usually cooking in my Mom's non-stick pans and not his, so he's just being an uncaring asshat. They're not his pans...so why should he care? :angry:

Yes, we've had "discussions" about this attitude of his.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you use metal utensils on Teflon pans, then yes you are a bad cook. Regardless of how tasty the meals you're serving are they are tainted with tiny bits of scraped up non-stick surface. That's definitely not being a good cook.

Have you ever charred even the tiniest portion of meat and then served it? That's carcinogenic. Are you a bad cook?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aside from tasting someone's cooking and finding it vile, the surest sign for me is finding products in the pantry and refrigerator labeled "low fat" or, even worse, "fat free". This country has bought the "fat is bad for you" concept hook, line and sinker.

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you use metal utensils on Teflon pans, then yes you are a bad cook. Regardless of how tasty the meals you're serving are they are tainted with tiny bits of scraped up non-stick surface. That's definitely not being a good cook.

That's just black pepper :wink:

On the "fat free" thing, I can't stand it...fat free but bulked up even more with sugar...

Edited by ScottyBoy (log)

Sleep, bike, cook, feed, repeat...

Chef Facebook HQ Menlo Park, CA

My eGullet Foodblog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have to say that reading this thread, I'm amazed by how many people, when, invited to someone's home, take it upon themselves to root through the fridge, pantry, etc. Do you also look through their medicine cabinets? If I invited someone to my home and they rummaged through my cupboards and fridge (and possibly/probably my medicine cabinet), well, that would be the last time I'd be inviting them over.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have to say that reading this thread, I'm amazed by how many people, when, invited to someone's home, take it upon themselves to root through the fridge, pantry, etc. Do you also look through their medicine cabinets? If I invited someone to my home and they rummaged through my cupboards and fridge (and possibly/probably my medicine cabinet), well, that would be the last time I'd be inviting them over.

I have never just went over to a friend or associate's home and just went through their cabinets. But there have been a number of personal chef gigs that I have done in where they have insisted that I use their spices. Going through the kitchen at the owner's requests has turned up some pretty interesting results.

At the end of the day, it's all about good food!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have to say that reading this thread, I'm amazed by how many people, when, invited to someone's home, take it upon themselves to root through the fridge, pantry, etc. Do you also look through their medicine cabinets? If I invited someone to my home and they rummaged through my cupboards and fridge (and possibly/probably my medicine cabinet), well, that would be the last time I'd be inviting them over.

I only find out about the frightening state of the fridge / pantry when said bad cook asks me to whip something up. That's when being appalled sets in.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have never just went over to a friend or associate's home and just went through their cabinets. But there have been a number of personal chef gigs that I have done in where they have insisted that I use their spices. Going through the kitchen at the owner's requests has turned up some pretty interesting results.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...