Cook Like a Chef. Eat Like a Customer.

Losing weight? Saving money? Developing better habits? These are all common New Year’s resolutions but one of the things I resolve to do each year is to explore the Pittsburgh food scene. Pittsburgh has a wealth of amazing restaurants; I love to try new dishes and develop new ideas and inspiration to take into my own kitchen to make myself a better chef.

If your New Year’s resolution is to become better in the kitchen, then step back and prepare to take control of your kitchen with these simple tips that are informative and easy for any one!

1. Read that recipe.

Think of this step like a movie. You sit down and watch the movie and say, “Wow, what a good movie.” But, if you sat down and re-watched the exact same movie, you would pick up on things you didn’t notice the first time. A recipe is no different. Read the entire recipe. Then, read it again. Make sure you know every step that is coming up and where you should be for the next step. It not only ensures whatever you’re cooking comes out perfectly, it saves a hassle and a mess!

2. Prep, Prep, Prep.

This step is probably the most important. We’ve all had the moment where we’re following a recipe and then it says “add the chopped bacon to the onions” and we realize we have yet to chop the bacon. So by the time we get the bacon chopped, the onions are burned because we weren’t prepared. DO YOUR PREP WORK! If the recipe calls for chopped onions, chop them
before you start. If the recipe calls for torn basil, tear it and have it ready on stand-by to use when the recipe calls for it. Organization is the key to success. So, if you want a successful dinner, organize yourself and your ingredients.

3. Taste, then season. Taste again then season again.

Remember when you were making chicken and went to taste it and realized it was as bland as cardboard. You added salt then tasted it again, and now it’s too salty. This is called the “cross my fingers and hope it comes out tasting good method.” Chances are this won’t work. You need to adapt the “food should taste good method.” Think of a recipe like Legos. You build upon each one. And if one block is faulty, the rest tumbles down. Well, if one step in your recipe is under seasoned, the finished dish is, you guessed it, under seasoned. If you don’t taste your food at all the steps throughout the cooking process then how are you going to know that the end result will be delicious?

4. Salt is not your enemy!

Salt can be your friend. Embrace salt and love it. If you’re a cook that tries every herb to spice up a dish you’re cooking in order to avoid using salt, I can guarantee it will taste bad. As chef Anne Burrell states, “Cooking with seasonal and fresh ingredients, you can salt with reckless abandonment and never even come close to something that’s processed or packaged.” Learn to love salt, and move on.

5. Salt not pepper.

Think of the relationship between the two as dating. They’re not married. Salt brings out natural flavors within the food, while pepper adds a strong spice note. They don’t need to be in every dish. Just because you salt something doesn’t mean pepper has to join. They can still go to separate parties. They’re only dating.


6. Fresh Herbs are yay! Dried herbs are nay.

To be honest, I’d rather use no herbs in my recipe than dried herbs. Dried herbs really don’t taste very good. And if you add something to your food that doesn’t taste good, what do you think will happen? Skip the dried herbs you always use in your dish and swap them out with their fresh counterpart, then try your recipe again. I bet you’ll be amazed.

7. Have the right equipment.

When cooking anything, you need the correct tools. Don’t be afraid to stock that kitchen. Have some pans, have some pots, get some whisks, a small food processor, etc. Having the right tools for the job ensures perfect restaurant quality from your own kitchen. For instance, if a recipe calls for grilled chicken and you don’t have a grill, are you going to bake it? If you’re making a crust and don’t have a food processor, how are you going to get the graham crackers to the perfect consistency? Invest in your kitchen!

8. Stock up on supplies.

Keep your patry stocked full of spices and ingredients and you’ll always ensure you have everything you need to make the recipe. Nothing is worse than when something calls for flour and you don’t have any (see also item #1 Read that recipe and #2 Prep. Prep. Prep.). I can’t tell you how many home kitchens I’ve been in that don’t have the basics like butter, olive oil, flour and sugar.

Take the time to get comfortable with your kitchen. Bust in there, rock it out, invite your friends over, and treat them to a fabulously prepared meal. I can’t think of a better New Year’s resolution than to cook like a restaurant chef, and then eat like a happy customer!

This article is preserved here as part of the QArchives. Help us preserve Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ history, like this article, by contributing to our GoFundMe.

Jay P. Obertance is a food, quality, and entertainment addict; a gourmand/chef with a passion for fine dining and a love of company to enjoy and share it with. As his motto goes, “Life is too short to eat mediocre food.”