Everybody loves a great cook
They can concoct delicious recipes from thin air and produce a fabulous meal with less than an hour’s notice. Men adore women who can cook and women adore men who can cook, so if you are a skilled gourmet cook, you are on to a winner no matter which side you bat for!
How can I become a skilled gourmet cook?
The quickest way of learning how to cook like a professional chef is to attend catering school and study the art of food. However, whilst this is a perfectly acceptable route to food heaven, further education in the art of culinary magic might not be high on your list of things to do any time soon. So how else can you learn to conjure up wonderful dishes for your friends and family?
Cooking is like any other skill—you have to practice lots before you become perfect; or at least reasonably good at it. But being a good cook is not necessarily the same as being a wonderful cook. Great cooks differ from mediocre cooks by their talent for improvisation and artistic endeavor. A great cook will be able to do much more than follow a recipe—a great cook will be able to master the ingredients and write their own recipes.
How do I learn the skills required to be a skilled gourmet cook?
In order to master the skill of cooking great food, you have to truly enjoy food. Great cooks are passionate about good food, which is why you can tune into a television show to watch your favorite celebrity cook creating some tasty food and immediately become inspired by their enthusiasm. So it is hardly surprising that every Christmas millions of celebrity cook books fly off the shelves based purely on the television spectacle of charismatic people cooking fabulous food.
You can learn a lot from the celebrity chefs you admire. You might not ever be able to achieve their level of success in the kitchen, but by watching how they experiment with ingredients and have fun doing so, be inspired into having a go yourself and seeing just how easy it is to create amazing dishes from relatively simple ingredients.
To be a great cook, you have to learn to walk before you can run. Start off by mastering the basics and get a good grounding in how the different ingredients work together. Once you understand what happens when you pair one food with another, you can begin to experiment and change things around to create new and exciting flavors.
Creative cooking is a cross between science and art, and even though a lab coat is probably unnecessary, an apron might be a good idea. On the one hand you have to understand how the chemical properties of each ingredient can cause different reactions when exposed to heat, acids and alkalis. But on the other, how a dish looks and tastes is just as important.
When you are first learning how to cook the basics, you will need to measure out your ingredients very carefully in order to make sure the dish works, but once you gain a greater level of skill, you will probably be able to judge by sight whether you have enough of one particular ingredient. When this happens, the time has come to start experimenting with different ingredients and proportions of herbs, spices, and flavorings.
Most people judge the quality of food by how it looks and tastes. A skilled cook can also judge whether a dish is ready by its scent and how it looks and sounds. For example, you can tell whether a sponge is cooked by the sounds it makes when you remove it from the oven—if the sponge is still crackling gently, it needs a few more minutes in the oven, but if it is silent, it is cooked (and if it’s black and crispy, it most definitely is beyond cooked!).
Skilled food gourmets operate very much on instinct. They know their ingredients so well that they can easily tell when a dish is cooked or if it requires a little extra ingredient or flavor to transform it from the ordinary into the extraordinary. Skilled gourmet cooks use ALL of their senses when cooking. They test the weight of food with their hands, sample the flavor at various times during the cooking process, listen to the sounds the food makes as it cooks, and smell the aroma; they also look at the finished product to see if it lives up to their expectation.
Mastering different cooking styles
Great cooks are always versatile and although it is perfectly acceptable to specialize in one particular culinary genre, it is better to experiment in many different genres and become master of more than one style of cooking. This can help you experiment with different styles and create interesting fusions across many cooking genres.
Watching how other people cook is a great way to learn new ideas and be inspired into trying different things with your own cooking. Spend as much time as possible watching master chefs at work, whether they are on the TV, or cooking in your favorite restaurant. Most chefs are so passionate about their food that they will be delighted to preach to the converted about the wonders of great food, so ask questions and feed your knowledge.
Trying new dishes when you travel to exotic places is another way to find inspiration for your cooking. Experiment with different flavors and seek out new recipes. If you sample something new and incredibly delicious in a small tavern somewhere, ask the cook how he made the dish and take notes so you can try it once you are home again.
Buy as many cook books as possible. Cookery books should become your bible when you love food. Pour over the recipes and make them your own. Write your own notes and keep a recipe scrapbook where you can write ideas down and keep a note of what you did and why something worked (or didn’t). Eventually you can pass your recipe notebook on to your children or grandchildren, so treat it like a diary and use it to record your journey from amateur cook to food gourmet.