the making of a cook

"Chef is just another word for boss."

It's a simple statement, likely to get some of you riled up, especially if you forked over tens of thousands of dollars for culinary school. Yet, you can't deny it's truth. Those words were uttered by a very wise, innovative person, Tom Colicchio.

The first time I watched Top Chef, I was struck at how his "character" was portrayed. Make no mistake, anyone cast on the show is there to fit a certain role. It's no surprise that reality television is a highly orchestrated affair.

But I digress, though you're all used to that by now.

The point is, Tom Colicchio is actually a generous person. We sat together at many a family meal, the time at which staff eats before dinner service begins in the restaurant business. While there was a sense of hierarchy in the kitchen (I worked front-of-house), the in-between times he was one of us. In a way he is still one of "us" today.

Raise your hands if you're not a trained chef? Hmm, I thought so.

Guess what? Neither is Tom, yet he has done amazing things with food, including being a supporter of the sustainable and local food movement, long before it was the fashionable thing to do. He has earned the level of success he's achieved, and though it's not likely we'll all reach that stratosphere of fame internationally, there's no reason we can't be the boss and master of our own kitchens.

Here's a bit of advice for pretty much everything you approach in life. Own what you do. Believe in yourself, and do not let preconceived notions of yourself stop you from excelling at what you want to do, whether you project them or others think it of you. This last bit of wisdom is a knee-jerk reaction to all the boo-hooing about attending food conferences, but it also applies to cooking.

Yes, you are bound to have a failed recipe or two…or three, four, five. The fact is cooking is a learned skill for most people, as is language.

During my panel at Eat, Write, Retreat, someone asked "when is a recipe your own" if you're constantly referencing cookbooks. My answer was "put the books away". Simple, yet scary for many I know, but crucial if you want to be taken seriously for your creativity and be considered a go-to person for original recipes.

There's much debate about all recipes being derivative, and I think that's just hogwash. I mean, yes, of course you won't be the first person to develop a recipe for "the best" piecrust, but if you're offering insight into a new technique, or put a different twist on it, then don't let the derivative police stop you from unleashing your creativity.

So where the heck am I going with all this is an appropriate question right now. My head is a jumble of ideas the last few weeks, some of which I decided to spew across these pages. My real point though, is to always stay focused and believe in yourself.

And if you want to learn how to think like a chef and see food in a different light, now is the perfect time. Take the advice we give parents with picky eaters, and browse through your local farmers' market or get lost in the supermarket. Pick up a new ingredient. Smell it, taste it, then imagine how it would work with something in your pantry. Don't make the risk so high that you may find yourself ordering takeout for dinner. Maybe do something inspiring with the vegetable or other side dish, so you won't find yourself scrambling if it doesn't work, after all one missing side doesn't make a difference.

While I was at the event with Tom, someone asked what he recommended if you could only buy one pot or pan. He retorted back with "why would you only want one," I chuckled thinking of the drawers in my own kitchen. Thanks to my work with the Love Your Veggies campaign, remember I'm a paid spokesperson, I get to make one cook's dreams come true and stock their kitchen with these essential items—yes, it's worth over $1,000!

All-Clad d5 Stainless Steel 7-Piece Cookware Set

AllClad

Le Creuset 4 1/2-Qt. Round Dutch Oven AND Small Rectangular Baker

LeCreusetCollage

de Buyer Kobra Adjustable Slicer

Mandoline

And of course some Hidden Valley Ranch products—I know there must be a few fans out there.

So what do you have to do for a chance to win? I'm pretty confident in my social standing, so no need to force friendships with tweeting, facebooking and following—though I do love to connect in all those places too. If you want to visit the Love Your Veggies site and learn more about the almost one millons dollars they've given in grants to help build school and community gardens, then that'd be swell too. The Clorox company is doing so much to help kids, and I wish more companies would follow suit.

Entering the giveaway is easy and only requires two things from you.

1. Leave a comment, sharing one ingredient or cooking method that you want to experiment with but are frightened to take the plunge. The comments will be open until 11:59pm on Tuesday, May 31st. The winner will be selected using random.org, and please only one entry per person.

2. Make a promise to yourself that you will conquer that fear. Now, this part is more an unspoken pact between you and me. I always keep my word, so I hope you will too. You may end up not liking said ingredient, or realize the hype surrounding said technique isn't worth the hubbub. On the flip side you might just have found your go-to ingredient, or new way of way of doing things. Either way, you will have grown as a cook and learned something new about yourself.

Have a great holiday weekend, and let's remember to be thankful for all the service men and women who make it possible every day to enjoy time with our family and friends.

p.s. One more bit of information to share. You may have noticed the new badge over there on the right for Bloggers Without Borders. Please take a minute to learn about this new charitable endeavor started by Maggy, Erika and Aimee, then donate what you can to help those in need.

Announcements

Comments

  • island girl: Beets! Don’t laugh, I am going to try them this weekend! GREAT giveaway!!

  • Jenn: wow what a fantastic giveaway!! I would love to conquer more cooking techniques for meats – I don’t know why I haven’t yet but I always tend to make the same thing – maybe I’m afraid of change? Well I def. need to experiment more!

  • Out of the Box Food: Cooking Indian food has always been a bit off limits for me. Though I love the spices and flavors of Indian cooking, I have always been a bit intimidated by the process. I’ve started collecting the spices and plan to dive in and tackle it head on soon!

  • Eva: I am intimidated by meringue. I can make a meringue pie okay, but meringue cookies and macaroons kind of terrify me. They always look so dainty and perfect and difficult to achieve. I will conquer this though, I have been reading a lot of article about meringues and macaroon-making in an attempt to make myself less intimidated by them :)

  • Olga @ MangoTomato: I’d love to make a flan. have had it multiple times, but never attempted to make it myself. Just this morning I printed out a mango flan recipe: perhaps this weekend will be a good time to try it!

  • Rachel: Amazing giveaway! I really want to learn more about grilling. First step: purchase grill. :)

  • Kristine: I have been weary to try brining. There’s just something about soaking meat in salty water that screams ‘salty kitchen flop’ to me.

  • Jennifer W: Fresh artichokes. The things are just terrifying to look at.

  • Kathi M.: I have always been intimidated by bread baking. I really want to try to make homemade bagels but have been afraid to do so. One of my goals this summer is to conquer that fear – thanks for the incentive!

  • carrie @ gingerlemongirl.com: oh my goodness! I would LOVE the AllClad set! I really do need new cookware! As far as a recipe that I would cook & eat artichokes. I love canned artichokes.. but I’ve never braved making one myself… and i’d love to try!

  • Rella: I want to try using a pressure cooker, but it kind of scares me–I’ve read some horror stories!

  • Cathy: Macarons! They look difficult, but I am willing to try!
    Thanks for the awesome giveaway.

  • taylor: I have vowed to use yeast and make my own pizza crust and dinner rolls. But I keep falling back to the breadmaker becase it works! I acutally got regular yeast at the store so my weekend plan is to make something!

  • Jillian: I’m intimidated by frying in anything other than the thinnest layer of olive oil. But there are a few recipes in Ottolenghi’s Plenty that call for frying in a few centimetres of oil, and I’d love to try them. My cooking is pretty healthy otherwise, so I’d like to try those recipes for a treat and a challenge sometime.

  • suncatcher: I would like to be able to make a delicious stir-fry with any ingredients on hand. Not too oily, seasoned appropriately, not overcooked. I can’t seem to get all those components to come together at the same time, and still be warm at the table. This is my summer project so I can take advantage of local farmer’s markets and my own garden raised produce. Fingers crossed ;)

  • Sheri: Macarons. I’ve got all the advice and tools necessary, I’ve just been too scared to make them.
    I promise, I’ll go for it.

  • Naomi: Macarons. I’ve always wanted to but for some reason have never gotten around to it. Too time consuming? Too scared? Who knows. Here’s to taking the plunge!

  • Tessa: I am dying to make homemade pasta as my regular, everyday go-to pasta. I have a pasta roller and some cutters, but I’ve only done it once….and that was years ago. I’m terrified of losing the time though. I know I’ll have to throw at least some batches out. AGH! But I WILL do it. Thank you for the challenge!

  • Carole: Some dried chili peppers that a local farmer gave me last fall. He said they were very hot. I’m scared of them but also intrigued. I think some sort of posole stew is in order.

  • Dagny: gluten free baking! I’ve yet to make any edible gluten free dessert! With a gluten intolerance this skill is a must!

  • Kathy Scott: I am going to spend the summer making pastry to try to perfect it!

  • Chris at Hye Thyme Cafe: I realize this is a no-brainer for most people, but I steer clear of making my own pasta. I have a fear it will turn out very dry and tough. I know it’s not a major investment even if it does go bad, but I keep putting it off! Thanks for the opportunity to win this FABULOUS prize pack!!

  • Dana: Pasta making. I know that it’s easy enough, I know that I can do it, and I know that my fear is totally irrational. Thanks for making me make a promise. I’ll get it done.

  • Leila: baking! I don’t like sweets at all, and have lived for the past 4 years without a functioning oven. Having just moved, I figure it’s high time to start. Looking for not-so-sweet muffin recipes, giving it a go Saturday morning. Yay!

  • Katie McCoy: Pork. I’ve mastered fish, chicken and beef, but the other white meat still scares me off!

  • Ashlley: Pasta making and candy making! I have been out of the country for the last 4 months without my own kitchen. I have spent countless hours online reading food blogs and stocking up on fun new recipes and cooking techniques. I can’t wait to get home and begin experimenting!

  • Flo: Yeast. I have mastered beer bread, but am terrified of the real deal. I bought yeast (again) recently, so I might take the plunge this weekend.

  • Jenny: I haven’t ever deep fried anything…and I would love to make churros or doughnuts!

  • Robin (Hippo Flambe): I have a local Asian grocery store that carries fresh Durian. I have looked at it several times and never bought it. Something about a fruit that smells terrible that I am nervous about trying.

  • debbie koenig: I’m dying to try out a pressure cooker. Great giveaway, JP!

  • Lisa: The one recipe that I would love to make (thanks to Chef Ramsey) is Risotto. I love it but I’m so afraid to try to make it myself. Thanks for the awesome opportunity!

  • Anna: Fancy macarons! They always intimidate me for some reason.

  • emily: I long for the courage to tackle cooking artichokes.

  • Nikki: Creme brulee- it doesn’t seem that hard but I’m so scared I’ll go too far and burn the sugar on top! It’s one of my favorite desserts so I really want to learn how to make it

  • Leslie P.: My husband grew parsnips last summer thinking I would use them. Well, I never could quite bring myself to cook with them. He dug up some that wintered over and they are in the refrigerator waiting for me to get brave.

  • JP: Umm, meat? I’ve been vegetarian or vegan for most of my life, but recently decided (for many reasons) that it was time for a big change. It’s so strange to suddenly have an entire new world of cooking and learning ahead of my at my age!

  • Elizabeth: I really need to experiment with fish! I’ve done cod and a few other white fish as homemade “sticks” or as tacos…but I really need to figure out how to cook other kinds of fish and in new ways. I really really want to try mussels at home too!

  • Melissa Villaveces: Macarons – they just seem so precise and I love in FL – so humid all the time. Also, deep frying at home – just seems like too much trouble and a big mess. Definitely going to try an conquer at least one of them this summer!

  • Carolyn: There are 2 thing I am scared of and haven’t yet had the courage to try – Prime Rib roast and soufle. I will try both before the end of the year.

  • Peggy: hummus and flatbread! My husband had authentic hummus while in the middle east and we have never been able to find any that compares.

  • Kathleen Bennallack: Hard-boiled eggs. They give me the shivers – after hating eggs all my life, I’ve conquered all the other kinds of eggs (especially with runny yolks – I did a complete 180 on that one and now eat them almost every day!) but hard-boiled still defeat me. The texture, the smell…*shudder* Hopefully, it’s just because they’re usually badly cooked, and if I do it myself, it will work out. Hopefully.

  • Dara: I love to eat squid but I am terrified to cook it. It looks so slimy and wiggly and alive. I will try some day, soon I hope.

  • Casey w: Baking the perfect cake. Then frosting it perfectly with homemade buttercream frosting. Always too scared cake will be too dry and frosting too sweet and that in process of frosting cake will crumble away.

  • Jennifer (Savor): Poaching. I know, I know. simple right? but never done it and need to.

  • Erin Quinn Robison: I would like to try raw food “cooking”. I’ve been playing around with organics and clean eating…now it is time to go raw!

  • Sarah: I am intimidated by whipping egg whites, I always end up with a mess… and grilling… I tried egg white a couple times and its usually a failure but I will keep trying till I find the secret and the grill is just scary but I plan on trying to grill this summer.

  • Denise @ Creative Kitchen: That All-Clad cookware is amazing…and I would love to find a place for it in my kitchen. :)
    I have been hesitant to purchase the ingredients for macarons. I’ve heard how difficult they are to make, and have been nervous about attempting them. I am willing to try though! Plus I think I’m nervous I’d eat the whole batch!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1522014263: ugh, I had this whole pretty comment & couldn’t post it, waaah! Anyway, I’ve never canned or pickled. I want to learn how to, and to surprise my sweet hubs w/ some great homemade mustards & horseradish sauce for his birthday in September.
    So thank you for the challenge & the giveaway!

  • Jennifer: What a wonderful giveaway! I’m dying to make jam. I adore a good jam and love the fruits that are just now coming into season. Every summer I say I’m going to do it and somehow I never get around to it, I just never think my version’s going to be as good as those that I purchase at said farmer’s markets. Well, I think this year, I’m finally going to bite the bullet and do it.

  • Amy: Probably baking from scratch. I tend to rely too much on packaged mixes because of the convenience it lends. But I would like to make things more “from scratch”.

  • Zilla Anders: Making bread.

  • emm: Gluten-free sourdough. I have a bunch of recipes, but still just buy pre-made.

  • Rachel: pastry cream and tarts – they always look so beautiful!

  • T.R.: I’m intimidated by pie-crusts and anything flaky like biscuits or anything requiring yeast. So I’d like to work on pie-crusts and biscuits.

  • Courtney: Octopus…I think it can be so delicious when it’s cooked properly but I’ve never attempted to mess around with it in the kitchen. Just the other day I was at the seafood counter and saw a beautiful piece on the ice, I was tempted to buy it but that little voice said ‘what are you going to do with that?’. I’ll man up and get it next time, thanks for the nudge. :)

  • Wendy: I’m going to try canning vegetables in the pressure cooker this summer. Keep you fingers crossed for me! Oh yes, one of the best give aways ever!

  • Zephycat: Fennel! Have some growing in the garden, but have been too unsure what to do with it.

  • Yoon: Pressure cooker. I’ve heard stories…scary stories. I glance up at my unused pressure cooker at least once daily. Someday…maybe soon.

  • Sharon: I wish I was a more confident meat-roaster. I can braise with he best of them, but I’m intimidated by a roast.

  • Lizette: Fresh artichokes. I don’t even know where to begin!

  • Deborah Hitayezu: I’m a professional cook, and yet pie pastry scares me. That is one of the last “fears” to conquer in the kitchen. And I will. Yes, I will….um….yes.

  • cherese: Fish! I don’t fix it enough because when I do it is always overlooked & mushy. Ewww…

  • Lisa: One cooking method that intrigues, but terrifies me at the same time, is sous vide. I know it’s just air tight bagging, immersing and cooking your food in a long, slow bath, but the equipment, the time-temp, the food safety, can overwhelm when you ‘over think’ it.
    Great write-up and terrific giveaway! Fingers crossed!

  • Amelia: I would work with chocolate and sugar. I have never been comfortable with boiling sugar and metal thermometers, bit too much like my organic chem. classes.

  • Lisa: Sweetbreads are one of my favorite meals, a rare treat, but I’ve never cooked them at home. Would love to learn how to handle them properly.

  • Signe: Shimp paste. I’ve read that it is essential to many Asian dishes but that it should be briefly cooked before using it but that it stinks up the house. Perhaps I should try grilling it outside.

  • Amanda Thompson: Seafood!! I love it but I’m scared to cook it at home because it seems like such a fine line between raw and rubbery…

  • Stephanie: Whole wheat pastry flour. I’ve successfully converted my banana bread recipe so far.

  • Lora @cakeduchess: I have been thinking about trying a gluten-free recipe. My best friend would love it if I surprised her with a GF cake or pie:) My husband might be even happier if I attempted to grill something this summer:) Thanks Jennifer for this wonderful giveaway!!

  • Grace @eatdinner: I love this quote “Chef just another word for boss” To me it means that you can be the Chef if you just take charge of your kitchen and cook for yourself, without judging yourself too harshly. You decide what’s good and what’s good enough. Too many people are fearful of cooking even in a basic way becuase they are intimidated by notions of gourmet.
    In spirit of the contest, I’m not actually afraid to try anything, but there’s are lots of things I don’t do. I’m sure that has a lot to do with fear of breaking out of my comfort zone. So I’m going to say that I would love to learn more about grilling. My husband does most of that, but I’d often like to fire up the grill and make stuff without him!

  • Kathy – Panini Happy: This was a fabulous post and the advice rings true for whatever your pursuits are – don’t stand in your own way, know that you’re worthy of success and happiness. Excellent words to live by.
    I very recently conquered the intimidation I felt over artichokes. I’m a new fan!

  • Naomi: What an awesome giveaway! This summer I would love to get over my fear of cooking okra.

  • Kimmy: I love that you transitioned your talk from EWR in this post. I think this campaign you’re part of is something worth embracing wholeheartedly.
    I have a confession. I’ve never cooked fish at home. Sad, isn’t it? It’s something my mom never did growing up, and when we have kids, I don’t want them to have the aversion to fish that I had growing up because I hardly ever had it at home.
    So fish, I want to tackle it at home. :-)

  • Chewsmore: Putting the cookbooks away is terrifying! But nothing is more fulfilling that serving up a delicious meal to your friends and family that you “just whipped up” without a recipe.
    Sauces. This is a whole realm I am too afraid to enter without a strict recipe to follow. But now that I’ve admitted that, it might be time…

  • Laura: Making fish and good veggies scares me so much I rarely do it (and by rarely l mean like never;o)

  • Lara: What a great post – and giveaway! It was so nice to meet you this past weekend at Eat Write Retreat!
    I would love to conquer my fear of the pressure cooker. And also make homemade bagels.

  • Terri: I would love to conquer canning. Fresh tomatoes are divine and to be able to enjoy them throughout the year would be amazing, but I am scared of exploding food!

  • Jennifer Smith: Pizza dough….seems simple with a Kitchen Aid mixer, but I have tried twice with dire results. I will keep plugging away until I get it right! Great giveaway!!!

  • Rosemary @ Sprigs of Rosemary: I’m a good cook, lousy baker. Esepcially if yeast is involved. I finally have conquered pizza dough (mostly to please my bf/rm/dh) but I’m still skeered of bread. I’ve made too many bricks. I can’t imagine anything better than the aroma of fresh bread baking in my own kitchen and then having it taste as good as it smells!

  • Karen: I am fascinated by the annatto seed. I am going to try annatto seed in as many different cuisines as I can find that use them. I first discovered that they even existed in a Cuban recipe. Now I am looking for other ways to integrate them into my cooking.

  • Sues: I just made myself this promise!! My issue is that even when I think of fabulous recipes to make, I then proceed to research the heck out of them until I can’t help but use other people’s recipe, measurements, and techniques. From now on, I’m trying to think of an idea and just go with it. Of course, I still need to get lots of basics down, which I think is important to move forward on your own (especially if you’re blogging the recipes and trying to teach others!). Right now, I’m working on more fun desserts that I come up with on my own.
    I was at the event with Tom Colocchio too and wish we chatted. I also wish I had been at Eat Write Retreat. I was actually a BlogHer Food where we had a very similar conversation about making your own recipes with David Leite.
    Thanks for the fabulous giveaway :)

  • Monica Dix: Croissants! I’m a skilled baker of cakes, breads, and I can even make acceptable pie crusts. But though I love to eat them (still on a quest for any as good as the ones I ate in Paris 15 years ago) I have never made them. My baguettes, after 4 years, are really lovely. So. Laminated dough, bring it!
    BTW, my All-Clad saucier is the only pan I use for pate a choux, had it 15 years and it never discolors my dough like other pans.

  • Hiking Lisa: One thing I have been getting to itch to try is making a good, wholesome, homemade rustic style bread. Preferably with whole grains or at least wheat flour. With a new baby on the way, I need to get moving on this one! Thanks for the awesome giveaway!!

  • Jeff: I enjoy grilling, but need to work on grilling fish so it doesn’t get overdone.

  • Monica @MacaroniKidNYC: I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve never roasted a whole chicken. I know it’s supposed to be the easiest thing in the world, but for some reason it completely intimidates me. I definitely need to step up and try it – thanks for inspiring me (as always)!

  • Jennifer: For some reason I’m nervous about attempting to make pie crust. With all of the terrific looking berries in the farmers markets this time of year I think I’m going to have to try making some soon! Super great giveaway!

  • Theresa: Leeks. I’ve read that it has to be washed thoroughly to get the sand and dirt out. Always feared it cause I didn’t want to serve family or guests dirt with their meals!

  • Erin Slattery: I have always wanted to make a Creme Brulee but haven’t because I was told it was very difficult and also I have no idea how to use the torch. I would love to know how to make this as it is my favorite dessert however the cooking method is less then desirable. I am making a pledge to work on this :)

  • Emma: I’ve always been really interested in cooking with fish sauce…though a bit too scared to actually buy it.

  • Aibrean: I’d like to experiment with veggies. I’m pretty confident with meat, pasta, and baked goods, but when it comes to vegetables, I tend to consider them a side and don’t do much to them. I’d like to change that and start making my veggies the stars of my meals.

  • Shira: I’ve been a vegetarian my entire adult life, but my husband and kids are not. I’ve mastered chicken and fish, but I’m still afraid to take on red meat, with the exception of throwing steaks or hamburgers on the grill.

  • Julia Yates Brunet: I would like to cook some delicious vegetarian main dishes that my husband would eat!

  • Lindsay564: Home canning – I’d love to preserve lots of the local produce, but I’m nervous about tackling the canning process. Luckily, I have a few friends this year whose families have been doing it for years and are going to help me learn.

  • Esther: Summer meals. I am such a slacker in the kitchen during the summer months, and yet I have a garden full of tasties just longing to be combined into some fantastic meal.

  • Marilyn: I’ve always been an adventurous cook/baker, but I’ve always been scared to make an omelet. I have no idea how to fold it in thirds like you’re supposed to, and I’m always worried it will stick–eek! But I’d love to try it one day!

  • Susana Juarez: Wow! Awesome giveaway! The ingredient I would like to conquer is fish. As a kid I’ve been scared of trying it out due to it’s smell and looks. As an adult, every time I go to market, I quickly past the fish section before the fish can look at me.

  • Piercela2: I’d like to be able to cook seafood. I’m down with fish and shrimp but the crustaceans still scare me, afraid I’ll completely overcook them. I suppose being raised on the water, I should over come this fear, here’s to that!

  • Kelly: Avocados. I am trying to like eating them(because of their healthful qualities), and I would like to try a recipe that makes me enjoy them more.

  • Star Hughes: Such an inspirational post! Thanks for the positive encouragement – that is so sweet and motivational, and I love seeing such special blog posts!
    I am afraid to cook fish – I can handle shrimp, and most other types of meat, but have never cooked a true slab of fish – I’m hoping to get it figured out soon!
    Thank you for such a great giveaway opportunity!!
    Star Hughes Living

  • jenny: I am also scared of the pasta making – I have the tools- it’s just sat in my cupboard for way too long. I think it’s time to pull it out- especially with all the vegies that I am about to get from my CSA basket- it will make a great summer meal!

  • Stephanie: Rhubarb! The stuff looks like a terrifying mess when it’s not baked into a pie, but I’ve heard it’s delicious with vanilla.

  • Joan: I would like to experiment with a pressure cooker but the device scares me too much.

  • Angela@spinachtiger: I’ve conquered quite a few things since I started my blog. Souffles, baking from scratch, making pasta, but I still am shy when it comes to making jams or preserves. And, then there is the croquembouche that is on my bucket list. What a wonderful give a way.

  • elizabeth f: Home made “mole” sauce. My husband likes it…recipes seem to vary and am not sure which is the definitive one. I did try once about 20 years ago, did not have all the correct ingredients for that recipe and did a couple substitutions. Not quite right, he said.

  • Hanna: Curing meat scares me, but I’d like to take the plunge some day.

  • Alejandra: I’ve been wanting and planning to make homemade croissants forever. I’m super impatient when it comes to delicious things that I just want to put in my face, so all the steps and hours of waiting in between them have kept me from just going for it. But I’m determined to do it!

  • Jess T: I love Thai curries, but the idea of making a Thai curry paste from scratch is daunting… Clearly it is time to bring out the mortar and pestle!

  • Sharon: Dough! My grandma used to make the fluffiest tastiest biscuits and she was always whipping up homemade pies and breads …and although she tried many times to explain “the essence” of dough to me (and I think of myself as a pretty darn cook cook otherwise!) …I just never got the hang of it. My biscuits come out like lumps, my pie crusts are anything but light and flaky, and it’s the one cooking area where I am intimidated.
    For you and my pact, I will redouble my efforts and refocus (and maybe watch some youtube videos on technique).
    Thank so very much for the entry into your giveaway. :)

  • Josie: Lobster, I’d love to be able to buy a fresh lobster and cook it from scratch especially to be able to chop it in half, stuff it and cook it that way.

  • radhi: i know this is such a wimpy fear, but i’m scared to poach an egg. the thing is, i’m not even completely smitten by poached eggs, i just think it would be a useful technique for brunch every now and again. “love you veggies” is an incredible campaign. thanks for that & the giveaway!

  • Dd: Interesting to know that Chef Tom is not formally trained….there is somehope for all of us…

  • mizz: i should like to take the hot boiling plunge and learn how to make a decent poached egg.

  • Angelle: I would like to make sukiyaki from scratch, including the dashi stock, but it seems so complicated and time-consuming.

  • Gayle Stuhrberg: I recently bought What Cooks Love because of the chapter on grill pans, trying to get my nerve up to buy one thereby committing to learning how to use it.

  • Leigh: I would love to perfect the buttery flakiness of a croissant!

  • Elizabeth: I love croissants and want to try them at home some day!

  • aaron rishell: Ithink the next new thing for me to try would be making fresh pasta. I have bought a roller and books on how to do it I just haven’t taken the plunge. Hopefully this is the boost I need.

  • Emilia: Deep frying scares me, but I really want to make homemade doughnuts sometime soon.

  • Maureen: I consider myself a pretty good cook, but I’m ashamed to admit that I can never seem to crimp a decent edge on a pie crust.

  • Donna B.: Souffle. I want to make a souffle in the worst way but it scares me to death. I just know it’ll be flat :(

  • Marianne Adam: I would love to be able to make pizza/bread/pie. I cannot roll out dough. The dough is my enemy but I have asked the pizza guy if he would teach me. So I will become the dough master!

  • Brandi: I am scared of greens other than collards and turnip greens (I am, of course, a southern girl). Which is absurd. And I have a fridge full of kale and chard from my CSA which has to be used up!

  • Jacquline @Seemingly Greek: WOWZER!!! I won’t go on and on about how incredible this would be to won, I will leave it at – life changing :) And one ingredient that I am not so familiar with is probably: seafood and the one cooking technique I want to learn is: making a soufflé.
    My fingers are crossed as tight as possible!!!

  • Gail: I would love to learn more about pasta making. My mom and I obtained one of those pasta makers… the ones where you turn a crank and feed the dough and it just works… or so the directions claimed. We spent most of the time juggling long sticky pieces of pasta that ripped. We pulled out the clothes drying rack to dry our pasta and ended up with pasta that was too brittle to handle. We’ve tried several different recipes with limited success. I think it’s an issue with how we handle the dough, not the particular recipe.

  • Lauren @ Healthy Delicious: I’m pretty adventurous in the kitchen, so there aren’t a lot of things that I haven’t tried yet (or wouldn’t try if I actually wanted to). I’d have to say baking in general… I’d love to be able to bake a cake that actually tastes better than a box mix. Mine are always so dry that I usually just don’t bother and go right for the box.

  • Tom: I’ve got an aversion to mushrooms. Maybe because I know they’re a fungus and they just seems so unappealing. I can’t bring myself to eat one..
    But I know they can’t be that bad because they’re used in so many dishes. I probably need to start very simply – say button mushrooms in a stew.

  • Jess: I’ve always wanted to bake bread, but it’s always scared me off! This summer is going to be it though… :P

  • KaeleyAnne: I want to make a cake without using a box mix. It should be pretty easy, but I haven’t done it yet; I always just buy the mix, even though I know that want to try an actual recipe. Since I usually only bake cakes for birthdays, I think it’s the fear of messing up someone’s birthday cake that’s getting in the way. Time to bake a cake for no special reason!

  • Michael: Having only dipped my toe in the wading pool of Indian cuisine, I’ve failed more often than succeeded. I’ve learned from each of those failures, but it has kept me from returning. The irrational fear of failing is a powerful thing, but I’ll keep trying.

  • Ali: Sauces. I have spent a lot of time learning how to cook various proteins, fruits and veggies, but I would use this stuff to learn how to make sauces to bring all of those other elements together.

  • Adina: Wonderful post! Thank you so much for the insight and motivation!
    I’ve tried baking gluten free cakes from scratch twice now. Both were flops. I used to be a wonder at gluten-full cakes, but gluten-free cakes are proving to be quite a puzzle for me that is becoming rather painful.
    But I taught myself to make tamales and gluten free finnish buns this weekend, so I’ve got to be able to conquer gluten free cake sometime!

  • Rachel Kenison: I have conquered a lot of fears in the lasts year but I have 2 hold out: baking and Indian food. All I’ve ever made is curry and it’s all thanks to Penzys Spice. Baking to me is a scary science and whenever I’ve improvised it comes out awful — bread that weighs 2 lbs and is practically a rock. I want to get more comfortable baking and less afraid of screwing it up.

  • Jenni L: I would like to try to try homemade pasta, we even just got a pasta attachment from a friend last week.

  • Beth: The perfect baguette. I’ve mastered so many other breads, and yet the magical crustiness of a perfectly done baguette manages to elude me. Sigh. (amazing giveaway – amazing!)

  • Katie: I’d love to master bread-making, and conquer managing all the veggies I’m receiving in my new CSA.

  • Monica Bhide: Deepfrying a whole fish! I am going to try that this year!

  • ilinap: Baking bread intimidates me, but I have a few recipes from friends that I’ve committed to trying this summer.

  • kia: Marinades. I don’t invest enough thought or time into marinades. I cook items well. My go-to is fresh cracked pepper, sea salt, olive oil and white balsamic for like EVERYTHING. I can do more and should.

  • Brannon: I do loads and loads of scratch cooking (and this set would be GRAND to have!) but for all the food I cook, I’ve never made fresh pasta. It looks simple enough, yet I’ve never taken the plunge. I think it’s time.

  • Rochel @ barefootandcooking: Quinoa… It’s healthy. Everyone loves it. I’ve had it twice (both times made by someone else) and it was awful. I haven’t yet had the courage to try it myself.

  • Christina: This weekend I headed to the Farmer’s Market over in Williamsburg and decided to do exactly as you mentioned above! I looked for ingredients that intimidated me or I’ve never seen before and picked them up to try it out! I actually wrote about it yesterday :)
    As a food blogger myself, I also think we sometimes stick to what we “know” and get sort of comfortable. I got sick of recreating the same dishes and I picked up rhubarb, which quite honestly, I never really tried it and liked it, beet greens (never saw before) and fresh chamomile! I’ve never before seen chamomile outside of a tea bag so I’m super excited to use this! I actually threw a few sprigs on my lunch salad so we’ll see how that pans out.
    And of course, GREAT giveaway! I need a new pot set like its nobodies business!

  • Christina: Oh and also, I thought you were amazing on the panel of EWR! I love how you’re so honest and you really can just see the passion when you talk.
    P.S. I sat at your table when we tried to explain bamboo rice ;) I kept referring to it as the pebbles of a fish tank! HAHA!

  • Kathy Baker: Preserved lemons. I am at a loss how to include
    In recipe, but love them.

  • Jenn francella: I am afraid of braising!! I love cooking but I dont even know what it means or where to start!! I have 1 good hand me down pot and 2 frying pans. LOL I am thrifty

  • Niv Mani: I love eggs, yet border on being terrified when called upon to use them at home, on the rare ‘blue moon’ occasion that i did try, I found myself prepping the kitchen as if to clear a land mine!

  • Broadsheet: Making my own sausage. I’ve been following the folks on Charcutrepalooza and am inspired by how easy it seems to be. Would love to butcher a whole hog and cook every part of it.

  • Jessica: You know what terrifies me: the grill. I’m always so paranoid that I’ve done something wrong, did not cook something correctly or will set the entire neighborhood on fire.

  • Cynthia Bingaman: I love cooking and recipe creation, but I have always been scared to try to bake bread, probably due to experiences using a breadmaker years ago.
    I did receive a cookbook on baking bread for Christmas, and my goal for June is to crack it open and *use* it!

  • Courtney K.: Great post! Tomatillos always intrigue me at the market but I’ve never tried cooking with them.

  • Mary: I want to smoke my own meats. But the idea of spending hours and hours tending to the charcoal with the potential for a failed piece of meat is a bit paralyzing.

  • Amanda: Artichokes. They prick me every time I pick them up at the grocery store.
    Challenge accepted.

  • Liss: Working with anything that has to do with frying. I made salmon cakes this weekend and i just can’t seem to get the crispy, golden brown texture right! ..and vegan donuts are the bane of my existence!

  • Erin Sloneker: I would love to tackle dreaming up some original recipes. I started to get into it last summer, but after a couple of less-than-stellar first tries, I reverted back to by-the-book cooking. I want to try to go simpler, but fresher this summer – what’s the point of living a hop, skip and a jump from the Union Square Greenmarket if I don’t DO something with it??

  • Nancy: Rhubarb and fiddlehead ferns. I walk past them each year at the farmers market and never take the plunge. I know Rhubarb is a no brainer for most but for some reason I find it a bit intimidating.

  • Marisamoore: Homemade bread! I love bread in all shapes and forms from a good multigrain grain bread, decadent cheese bread with herbs to pizza crust. I just haven’t been able to get passed the apprehension of using yeast, the kneading, the rising…

  • Jan: This tickles me. I can’t think of only “one” thing. But the first thing that came to mind was curry. I love it! I’d like to try all kinds of curry recipes. As far as mastering anything…that’s laughable! What an awesome giveaway! Hope I win!

  • Suziee: Baking with yeast has always scared me. I swear, I’ll give it a go…. some day!
    Great giveaway.
    Thanks.

  • Jesse Clark: Orzo. Strange, right? My girlfriend made a comment the first time she showed it to me that it was difficult to cook, and I’ve just been kinda scared off ever since.

  • Amanda P.: I know this might be the most random ingredient on here, but anytime a recipe calls for clam sauce, I freeze up and skip to the next one. It just sounds, smells and looks too weird for me….BUT I love all types of Asian food and would love to learn how to incorporate this!

  • Brendy: I would love to be more adept at making homemade bread and cooking with meat. I love to try new things!

  • Jennifer: I’d like to try my hand at canning. I’ve been a little intimidated by the whole process, not yet taken the plunge.
    Another thing..breaking down a whole chicken. I always wind up buying pieces but really need to just to tackle a whole bird. What a great challenge! Thanks for the kick in the pants (and the giveaway!).

  • Tanya: I love to eat artichokes in restaurants but the thought to cook them scares.

  • Lisa S: Canning (does that count as a cooking method?)….anyway I’ve always been afraid to try. I promise to try this summer!

  • donsterb: I want to bake a cheesecake from scratch.

  • atlkristen: Baking bread. I want to give it a try, but always change my mind.

  • Caleen: I wanna try more homemade breads, pastas, and pie shells! I love using them in cooking (or just eating) but would like to master them–I love knowing exactly what ingredients are in something I’m eating!

  • Twoburners.wordpress.com: lacto fermented veggies! I’ve done canning/processing bit but I want to venture out into the unknown!

  • renee: I have always wanted to make Moroccan preserved lemons. I always think I’ve worked up the courage and then…..I get scared and the lemon season is over. I have some beautiful lemons in my fridge now waiting to be preserved. Any encouragement out there for me?

  • EE: Sounds silly, but I’m scared of deep-frying! How do I know my food is cooked through? Will I upend the hot pan of oil and burn myself? Ay-yi-yi! Time to get over it, I guess… First stop: fried plantain!