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Get some training and become a beast in the kitchen

Get training and become a beast in the kitchen 
Jan. 8, 2011 3:23 pm 
Updated: Feb. 7, 2011 4:55 pm
Check your local community colleges and see if there are any non-credit or credit classes available.

It might just be a one-night class, titled something like, "Cowboy dinners," like a class offered at our local community college. The fee was nominal, something like $60, but you almost always get to eat the food that is cooked.

My culinary journey began as a youngster, layed dormant for many years, until a change in my career was necessary.

I spent nearly 30 years in the media, electronic, as a disc jockey for a short time and more years as a writer/editor for my local daily newspaper. When my career as a writer/editor evaporated faster than cooked spinach, it was time to make a change.

I had cooked in high school at a take out seafood restaurant and was good at it. I called my local community college, and through job training through the New Jersey Unemployment, I took a five-month culinary training course.

If you don't think it was enough training, think again. My instructor was a well versed area chef, and we learned knife skills, cold food, hot food and baking.

I also volunteered for after-school classes, such as cooking food for local fund raisers.

My turning point was this: I cut a pretty big slice out of my thumb with an 8-inch blade chef knife. At that time I thought I had made the wrong (second) career choice. My fear of knives was healthy. About two weeks later, I volunteered at a local fundraising event my chef participated in.

I cut vegatables to size, shucked clams, and helped to prep other meals for about 200 patrons. Our food was not the only food, but we were about one of five vendors making appetizers.

My point? I used several knives that night, including the chef's knife and did not have time to think about being scared about the knife.

Now the chef knife is like a pairing knife to me. It is my tool, just like a hammer to a carpenter.

Another thing I learned with knife skills: Make uniform cuts. I read one review on a soup and the person said that the ham in the soup was too tough. What that told me was that his cuts were not the same. While the small pieces cooked at one rate, the larger ones cooked at another rate.

If you take a cooking course, get to the point where you are doing hands-on courses.

You won't learn a thing if you don't pick up the knife yourself.

What can you do in the home kitchen?

Take recipies that you already know and change them up to make a new dish.

I have a mac and cheese recipie that I used pepper jack cheese instead of chedder and added diced ham. I think I also added Tabisco to the cheese. New dish.

A friend I used to have dinner made me a side dish of apple slices with skin on with raisins cooked in orange juice.

We had a church dinner recently and the theme was turkey. I had cranberries in my house, substituted the cranberries and added pineapple juice. I thickened up the sauce with a cornstarch slurry. The result? Hot apple chuntney. Church members loved it.

Also if you can't take a course, get to learned knife skills. It makes for quick work on fresh herbs (they do make a difference) and gets you a cleaned and more uniform cut.

What's your story?

I am working as a cook at Atlantic City International Airport. I do mostly prep, but have cooked alone on the grill, operated the fryer and ran the cash register.

Make beautiful music in the kitchen.

Your family will love it.
Jan. 8, 2011 4:16 pm
Interesting. No story really for me, I just like to cook. Back before I started my current career, I was a newspaper writer/editor as well.
Jan. 8, 2011 8:06 pm
my story, well, i've taught myself to cook over the years, when I was home as a youngster, my mom made stuff from frozen mostely, being the oldest of 4 kids, I remember eating steak really young, and then moving oneo "budget" meals to help feed the family. I taught myself over the years, and pregnancies helped with insatiable appetites, unable to find the bottom!! I worked my way through cookbooks, being inspired by Julie and Julia, I've taken dozens of classes from the local grocery store, they offer $30.00 classes like you were talking about, from sushi, to chicken and basic cooking skills. I've been buying books that I like and learning from them, then I married into a very talented family, growing up in a french community, I always liked the french food, but now I like in a northern community, where they enjoy soups and hearty cuts of meat (something I rarely ate growing up), so I have found my cooking evolving. One cooking triumph has been to find that my cooking is better than almost any restaurant I've been to, I enjoy a good challenge and love the internet, because I can research anything I'm interested in and combine numerous recipes to make the meal just the way I want it! I've been learning to enjoy trying out new things like ratatouille, sho-fly pie, jumbalya, and learning to perfect my own traditional recipes like mille-feuille over the years. It sure have been a fun learning experience for me. another thing I've come to really enjoy has been learning to host cooking/baking parties with the "girls or family", we've had sushi/spring roll parties, gingerbread house decorating, fondue parties, and pot lucks once a month with the local church group. I guess that's my story. It also helps that I have so many mouths to feed who aren't picky, it's encouraging to always have somebody willing to eat whatever you make. I have to admit that I like baking much more than making the main courses. Oh yes, I can't forget that I've been doing a lot of preserving, pressure canning, pickling and fresh fruits and veggies, it's always fun to try to perfect some of your favorites, for me over the years, it's been spaghetti sauce.
Jan. 10, 2011 6:42 am
Good blog, Chef Scott. Perhaps I should take your advice and take a class or two. A little inspiration goes a long way!
Feb. 7, 2011 4:55 pm
Thanks everyone for your comments. I figured that everyolne needed to eat, so I'd always have some type of job. I especially like what bountiful life had to say: Yes, once you get in a cooking rythm at home, you become a more discerning diner. Yep, sometime the thing we make at home is better than the restaurants. I feel that way about breakfast. I am not fast, but I make delicious breakfasts at home. You also are able to distinguish ingredients and replicate dishes at home. I recently replicated a salmon egg bendict at home. Keep on cooking!
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Chef Scott

Home Town
Ocean City, New Jersey, USA
Living In
Galloway Township, New Jersey, USA

Member Since
Sep. 2009

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Cooking Interests
Baking, Grilling & BBQ, Frying, Stir Frying, Slow Cooking, Italian, Nouvelle, Dessert, Quick & Easy

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About Me
As a child, our family owned a variety store, pre Wawa, 7-11 or Piggly Wiggly. In high school, I worked at a take-out seafood restaurant. I majored in Communications in college, worked radio and newspaper, but when my career in the newspaper ended, I went back to cooking. I worked as a cook at the Atlantic City International Airport in Pomona, N.J. and most recently worked for the summer at Bills Bar and Burgers at Harrah's in Atlantic City.
My favorite things to cook
Seafood, hamburgers, mac n cheese, Asian rice, pies, cookies and sweet breads.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Hot dogs and eggs, a favorite breakfast item from my dad. Add cheese and/or onions as desired. From my mom, tuna fish, mushroom soup, peas and pasta. I learned to love fish at the age of 5 when my dad caught a perch from a river, cleaned and fried it up over and open flame. Fresh and flaky. Delicious, I will never forget it.
My cooking triumphs
Coconut custard pie, Key Lime pie, Hunter's Stew in cooking school, sweet bread (hand mix only!).
My cooking tragedies
When I was working the fyer at an Atlantic City casino, I had my back to the cooridor of the kitchen. I smelled burnt plastic. A voice in my head said, "Turn around." I had put some boxes of chicken fingers under the heat lamp, telling myself I would get them as soon as I got behind to the fyer. The boxes were burning up. We put them under water. One box was trashed; one saved. I under cooked fries once in my current job.
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