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.