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.

Improving Culinary Skills


petrus
 Share

Recommended Posts

I am curious about routes by whch the amateur cook can improve; there don't seem to be many.

College courses are locked into NVQs and produce a type of food that is not found in many modern restaurants. If you do a "stage" in a restaurant you will probaly be given pretty basic tasks and not pick up many new skills. (Quite rightly so; why should they trust an "unknown" in preparing part of one of their signature dishes?)

Has anyone got any suggestions?

Petrus

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes. Nearly all the information you need is to be found in books. If you cook your way through Richard Olneys' 'Simple French Food' you will end up as an excellent cook. I think it is a dead end approach to want to emulate restaurant cooking. For this you need a brigade, and ultimately restaurant food is a poor substitute for what can be done at home by a gifted cook.

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

Have you thought about trying Julia Child? Mastering the Art of French Cooking helped me gain a lot of basic skills, even if I don't cook directly out of it that often.

For Italian food and technique, try Marcella Hazan...

Also, eG is a great resource if you're interested in trying out some of the newer, more experiemental (for home cooks, at least) techniques, such as sous vide. Here are some topics that might interest you:

Sous vide recipes wanted

Is sous vide "real cooking?"

Creating foam

And, of course, the eGCI is a fantastic resource.

Happy cooking!

Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why not try a private cookery school?

OK, it can be very expensive and if you choose a bad school/wrong course it'll teach you things you already know or nothing at all.

I went on a 5 day course and really enjoyed it. An added bonus is that you're doing it with lots of other like minded people.

Just do your research, phone them up and give them a grilling about the course content and look for one where the tutors have had some experience of teaching.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I posed a similar question a year or so ago, the wonderful, inimitable, dear departed Bruce Frigard answered, "Cook, cook, cook!" And to a great extent, he was right. When augmented with reading cookbooks, watching cooking shows, and asking questions on eG, there's a lot to be said for just diving in and cooking.

I'm currently well into Julia Child's memoirs; I've just passed a point where she describes dropping out of cooking school (for the most part) and just making a recipe repeatedly until she felt it was exactly right. She did have to throw out a lot of the mayonnaise she made, since she and Paul couldn't eat that much. And I can identify with her disappointment when she wrote about sending her perfected recipe to friends or relatives, and they weren't the least bit interested in trying it out for her. My eGullet friends are often the only ones I can "talk food" with. It also helps to have friends who are cooks, who can be consulted about sources for ingredients, techniques, etc. And those friends may know of other opportunities, such as private, ad hoc courses held occasionally by individual chefs.

But in the final analysis, the experience you can acquire in your own kitchen is probably your best teacher. Just don't be afraid to ask fellow eGulleters for help, on even the simplest points. The times I've swallowed my pride and done it, I've been surprised to find that others have had the same problems. Those discussions have been known to open up whole new worlds to me, just because someone mentioned a particular ingredient or dish in the course of addressing my question.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Have you thought about trying Julia Child?  Mastering the Art of French Cooking helped me gain a lot of basic skills, even if I don't cook directly out of it that often.

Try the Stephen Bull method - buy a derelict building and a copy of MAFC. As the builders turn the derelict building into a restaurant, cook your way through MAFC.

When you've mastered 40 recipes, open for business.

It worked for him, he started with culinary skills at the level of Llanrwst's other culinary export , Glynn from Big Brother, and look at him now !

Gethin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I posed a similar question a year or so ago, the wonderful, inimitable, dear departed Bruce Frigard answered, "Cook, cook, cook!"  And to a great extent, he was right.  When augmented with reading cookbooks, watching cooking shows, and asking questions on eG, there's a lot to be said for just diving in and cooking.

I absolutely agree. For most people, there are so many books to read and so little time to cook. Do you have family or a set of friends that you can cook for regularly? People who will enjoy the successes as well as the failures? Even if you are already quite an accomplished cook, there are plenty of complicated recipes to challenge yourself. And if you are looking for that cheffy finish, you could perhaps focus on plating. There's an eG thread on it, and there are plenty of cookbooks with great shots.

It would make a very interesting thread in the Cooking Forum.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

apart from buying books and going on courses have a dig around your friends and relatives bookshelf.

If they have a lot of cook books it be a pretty safe bet that they know how to cook, get them to teach you :wink:

"so tell me how do you bone a chicken?"

"tastes so good makes you want to slap your mamma!!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To add my tuppence worth, I agree with whats been said thus far about cooking, cooking, and cooking some more. I also concur with recommendations for Richard Olney and Marcella Hazan, Julia Child, and reading decent cookbooks in general.

But I will add a third category of recommendation, and that is: EAT! Sounds simple, but the next time you're out at a restaurant or a friends place or whatever, eating, think about how the food was made. Thinking about food may be an obsession for some of us, but it does impact what you find your hands doing the next time you have a piece of lamb/fish/whatever in your hands, or see one at the butchers/fishmongers whatever and you think back to that fabulous experience you had in that restaurant that time or whatever...AL the experience adds up and influences the way you end up cooking, and thinking about cooking.

I've laboured my point enough. Also, eG's really good, eh?

Raj

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

the book i would reccomend is Jaques Pepin's "Cooking Techniques" - it is divided into techniques, some of which are recipes in their own right (ie - making mayonnaise), and each is illustrated in steps with accompanying picture and very little text.

from experience i can suggest that you focus on learning through traditional dishes you enjoy, the basics or pillars of home cooking - beef stew, tomato sauce, home made pasta, etc. you'll never get them right the first time - however you will not only learn to make excellent food, but also it will give you the techniques necessary to improvise and cook using your pantry at a high level, without following recipes. once you have those skills, you will then be capable of reinventing and getting more creative with food.

-che

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And, of course, the eGCI is a fantastic resource.

I second that; you'd be unlikely to find more detail on specific areas of cooking anywhere else. And it's all free! have a rummage around there before you go out and spend any of your hard earned cash.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...