The 10 Commandments of Cooking
1.“Dull Knife Dull Chef” — ALWAYS keep your knives sharp
2. Control the heat — Do not let the heat control you
3. Use all 5 senses. Know the difference between the smell of beautifully reducing balsamic vinegar & balsamic vinegar starting to burn on the edge of the pot. Know what a cooked shrimp looks like vs. a shrimp not cooked through. Feel how well a steak is cooked over and over until with one poke of the finger you can say “medium rare — take it off”. Different foods sound differently when heat is applied to them. Become familiar with the sounds. Learn to differentiate the sounds. Know which are music to the ears of us cooks and the ones that are “uh oh get it off the heat” sounds. Lastly, develop your palate every single day. Try everything. Taste EVERY single sauce, stock, mix, etc. that you create for seasoning.
4. Work Clean — Nobody enjoys cooking with a dirty cook — but more importantly, when your workspace is a mess, it severely limits your efficacy. Work from the left side of your cutting board to the right while disposing of waste continuously.
5. Master the Technical Side of Cooking -Having impeccable knife skills will make your food more aesthetically pleasing, decrease waste, and decrease time spent on any given task. Plus, nobody will come out and admit it, but it makes you look like a badass. If you’ve ever seen Morimoto take a cucumber and turn it into paper, you know what I am talking about.
6. Eat and Cook Locally Grown Produce — — I can go on for days about this. Instead, I will let this infographic speak for me.
7. Utilize Every Part of Every Animal That Died for us to Survive Not once have I ever considered becoming a vegan or a vegetarian, but I do respect their point of view. The entity that created this remarkable world we’re so fortunate to live in created the food chain. Energy from the sun is absorbed by plants. Plants are eaten by herbivores. Herbivores are eaten by carnivores. Carnivores are eaten by larger, faster, and/or smarter carnivores or omnivores. This is life, and it is a beautiful cycle. Respect the fact that the animal in which you are preparing gave its life to feed us and is now in your hands. This was a living creature that deserves the utmost respect as we prepare them for cuisine.
8. Use Recipes as Inspiration — Not as Marching Orders -
If you are baking and a recipe calls for exact amounts of certain baking elements, then, by all means, follow the recipe exactly as it’s presented. Other than baking, though, do not google a recipe and “finely chop 2 cups of carrots, 2 stalks of celery, and 1 whole yellow onion”. This is not cooking. This is carrying out a set of direct orders. Have some faith in yourself and give yourself permission to sway from a recipe or combine ideas from multiple recipes. That is what cooking is about. In his book, Think Like a Chef, Tom Colicchio (Bald Top-Chef Judge, Chef/Owner of many notable restaurants including his flagship restaurant “Craft”) speaks of cooking being a craft. I challenge you to shift your paradigm of cooking from simply preparing food to engaging in a craft. Your outlook on cooking will forever be changed and your cooking abilities will drastically increase. Although his books are nowhere near on my list of top 25 cookbooks, Think Like a Chef is the one book of Colicchio’s I would recommend.
9. Learn From Other Cooks -. It is impossible for any of us to read every single cookbook ever written, travel to all of the most exotic culinary Meccas of the world, work in all of the best kitchens worldwide, or learn from every grandmother that has ever lived. No matter the skill level, every cook has something that you can learn from them. Much more likely though, the people you cook with will become your portal to their grandmother’s secret recipes, techniques they learned while cooking overseas, their knowledge of a book you have not yet read, and every other life experience they have had along the path that has led them to the present moment there, cooking with you. I sincerely hope everyone who reads this will be fortunate enough to play the reverse role and have the priceless opportunity to share your life’s experience cooking with another chef.
10. LOVE — PASSION — LIFE — FAMILY
Commandments 1–9 are all very important. If you practice 6 out of 9 or 8 out of 9, some might view you as a respectful cook. (I wouldn’t) Commandment #10 is non-negotiable, an absolute must, 100%-universal law. If you do not have the inner passion for food, people, and life then you will never craft great food. You can be the most technically skilled cook out there. You could have worked in all of New York City’s 3-Michelin Starred Restaurants. This doesn’t matter. You will be a good cook, without a doubt. But you will never be a great cook with the ability to spread love through this amazing craft. I love quotes. I used to keep a dry erase whiteboard on my station at a restaurant I worked at to proudly display my quote of the day, ranging from Aristotle to Dr. Seuss. Surprisingly though, my favorite quote does not come from one of history’s greats. It comes from a fellow cook I used to work with who had a passion for cooking that had the ability to fire up a kitchen staff whenever present. We would often get into deep talks about many subjects (often food/cooking related).
One Saturday night after another fully booked service conquered, we were discussing the connection between love and cooking — how great it is to have the ability to make the world a better place by doing the craft we love to do. I’ll never forget him saying this:
“Cooking for another person is the most intimate connection one human being can have with another human being. I would challenge anybody to provide me with another type of engagement where one has the ability to take the living organisms placed in this world around us, craft these “ingredients” with passion and love, present them for another person to consume into their body where all 5 senses are electrified, and that beautiful meal gets converted to nourishment and energy for that person to live another day.”
If you thought cooking was boiling some pasta and whipping up a sauce — you will never understand a real cook. Keep cooking with a deep passion, and every day you will have the power to emit positive energy, love, culture, life experiences, and great-tasting food to the world.