Blogs > Cooking from Scratch

Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cooking 101 - A Recipe is ONLY a Guideline

One of the first things chefs-in-training learn in culinary school is “a recipe is only a guideline”. We think of a recipe as an outline, a list of ingredients, a starting point. So many people are inhibited and hesitant in the kitchen because they think they can’t cook without the perfect recipe. Others follow recipes carefully only to deliver another disappointing meal to the table because the recipe was poorly written or not tested. Worse, some meals wind up in the garbage can because the cook didn’t know how to fix what went wrong.

When you learn and start developing the basic tenants of cooking (which you can do at a Mirepoix Cooking School class), your eyes are opened to an entirely different culinary experience. Armed with practical knowledge and experience, and guided by a professional, you can learn to develop your palate and cook from instinct, instead of by the book.

I don’t expect people to know formulas and ingredient quantities from memory. Instead, I’m selling you on the idea that the recipe can be altered to a certain degree. For instance, every time a batch of guacamole is made, even if it is followed to the letter, it turns out different every time. Depending on the ripeness of the avocados, the acid in the lime or lemon juice, the ripeness of the tomato, the same recipe will yield different results because the food is FRESH .

Or, if your recipe calls for 4 scallions, but 6 come in a bunch – use 6. The chances that you are going to need 2 scallions tomorrow is slim, and what can you really do with 2 scallions anyway? Of course, you can’t do this with ingredients like flour in a baking recipe, but once you learn the fundamentals, you have the confidence to make these types of decisions.

Since the Mirepoix Cooking School’s mission is to teach people to cook and think like professional chefs, another one of our goals is to develop your palate. Being a good cook is about having sound intuition and following your instincts based on what you’ve learned. Knowing how to taste food is incredibly important, which is why we provide tasting spoons – we want you to taste your food as you make it.

Since there are only 5 basic cooking methods, I believe that once you master them, there is no more need to be so “recipe dependant”. In fact, I have been known to make my chefs teach without a recipe packet for their reference. Bold statement, but I say it because they, trained chefs, should be able to look at the list of ingredients in the recipe and repeat the method to their group because they are so grounded in the foundations of proper cooking technique.

By no means are we saying the recipes aren’t important, or that we want you to disregard them or plow ahead without any instruction. What we are saying is that we don’t want you to think that the recipe is gospel. Let’s face it – some recipes are written badly, some haven’t been tested, some don’t MAKE SENSE! Read the recipe and ask us your questions.

So – start with the guideline and go from there. Taste your food! Ask questions, practice . As you develop your skills, take chances and try something new. Build your confidence in the kitchen by developing your palate and broaden your knowledge of basic cooking technique. The worst thing that can happen is that you ruin it beyond repair. It’s just food! When you take the fear out of food is when the fun can really begin.

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Blogger Caren Gittleman said...

Stacy Hi!

I love your philosophy about a recipe "being a guideline" because that is the point of view I have always had when I cook. I hate to follow any recipe down to the letter! (But I do when I have to)

How would I go about getting information about your cooking school?
I collect cookbooks as a hobby, I love The Food Network and I subscribe to a few cooking magazines. I consider myself to be a good "home cook" but would love to hone my skills.

I am currently unemployed and am wondering if cooking school would be affordable?

Thanks from a fellow Oakland Press Blogger!! (Cat Chat)

April 7, 2010 at 2:58 PM 
Blogger Stacy Sloan said...

cooking school is an investment in time and a financial investment as well. send me an email and we can set up a time to talk.

April 8, 2010 at 11:58 AM 

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