Peter Morrell asks the top chefs for their advice on how you can become a better cook at home
As the food editor of AboutMyGeneration I spend a lot of time eating in restaurants, watching cooking demonstrations and talking to chefs. Watching them prepare food, cook it and then to eat it is a constant source of pleasure. Every time I met a chef I asked him or her one simple question
What advice would you give to an amateur chef to help them consistently cook better food at home?
Here are the Top Tips from Top Chefs (listed by last name)
David Adjey is a larger than life Canadian chef who is well known to the public in Canada. He has been likened to Gordon Ramsay, but without the swearing, and has starred in successful TV food programs like Restaurant Makeover and The Opener. I met David at a Canadian lobster cooking class in Billingsgate where he showed us how to cook and present the crustacean on a plate in a highly attractive way.
David’s tip was to treat your spice cupboard like a humidor and clear out any old spices, as they lose their flavour. David will be cooking in Trafalgar Square on 1st July 2012 as part of the Canada Day celebrations. Click here… to read more about Canada Day
Ferran is the driving force behind the world’s most famous restaurant El Bulli. He is the arch de-constructor of food, surprising his guests with unexpected flavours and textures with food forms like caviar eggs that taste of something completely different and savoury jellies
I met Ferran in London at the launch of his latest book The Family Meal. I had to ask the question through an interpreter, his answer was one word – Think! He then elaborated saying when you go through the day think about the food you are going to cook and how you are going to cook it. The answer sums up the mindset of this creative chef. Click here… to read about the El Bulli Foundation
Tim Anderson is a freelance chef, food writer, and consultant based in London. Tim’s cooking is primarily influenced by his American heritage and his love for regional (especially southern) Japanese food, but it also draws on a personal history of worldwide culinary tourism and a keen interest in food science and modernist cuisine. Millions watched Tim emerge victorious on BBC1′s MasterChef in 2011, and he has since enjoyed an exciting career in the world of food. He has appeared on the Gadget Show and the Sunday Times Online. For more on Tim go to http://cheftimanderson.wordpress.com
Tim recently devised an exciting and innovative menu for a pop-up restaurant, Delicious by DS5. This is being run to celebrate the launch of the Citroen DS5 and to support the food charity FareShare. Designing the menu has enabled Tim to give full vent to his creative skills, he has matched each course to one of the five senses. I met Tim when sampling two of the courses, they were sensational. Tim’s tip is to buy a set of micro scales, weigh your ingredients and note down what you use. Doing with will enable you to make your successes repeatable. Read more about the pop-up here…
Alain Bosse is currently president of Alain Bosse Consulting Ltd, food editor for Saltscapes Magazine, past president of Taste of Nova Scotia and ambassador of all things culinary in Atlantic Canada. For the past 3 years Alain has had the opportunity to represent Atlantic Canada in various initiatives to help promote some of our local commodities such as Lobsters, Mussels, Apples and Wild Blueberries to name a few. His travel has included trips to Europe, United States and Canada giving presentations to Chefs, future Chefs and owner- operators on the use of Atlantic Canadian products and their flexibility.His website is www.kiltedchef.ca
I met Alain, aka The Kilted Chef, and resplendent in his tartan, at a recent event run by Nova Scotia tourism at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Fifteen. Alain and Nova Scotia are working with the Jamie Oliver Foundation to help and encourage the apprentice chefs at Fifteen. In 2013 two of the apprentices will visit Nova Scotia and work with Alain to help their careers. Alain’s top tips are:
“Read cookbooks like novels, devour the recipes, ingest the photos then quietly close the book and let your instinct take over. Cook with abandon, show no fear, follow your gut. You will have huge successes and you will have colossal failures but every single dish will teach you something. When the meal is a triumph pair it with good friends and great wine. When the meal is a catastrophe order pizza and begin over again the next day. Never give up and always use the absolute best ingredients that you can afford, this is the secret to great food.”
To read about the Nova Scotia initiative click here…
Celia Brooks Brown’s inventive style of vegetarian cooking has made her an established name on the cookery shelf. She worked for several years as a private chef for the film director Stanley Kubrick and running her own catering business. She has written seven cookbooks, including the international bestseller New Vegetarian. She conveys her passion for food in every way possible, through books, journalism, consulting, live demos. She makes regular TV appearances on Market Kitchen and the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen.
Celia as her own business called “Gastrotours”, conducting tours around London’s foodie hotspots. I have enjoyed two of them, read the review of the Covent Garden tour here… Celia’s tip is “When possible, let ingredients dictate a menu, rather than recipes. Go to farmers markets and specialty food shops and choose produce and ingredients that speak to you, that look prime, seductive and make you go “Mmmm!” Take your bounty back to the kitchen and then reach for the recipe books. That way you’ll be cooking seasonally and from the heart, and everything will taste better. You’ll also be honing your culinary intuition”. For more about Celia go to www.celiabrooksbrown.com
Simon Cottard is the executive chef of Le Café du Marché, the highly popular restaurant near London’s Smithfield market. He trained with the Roux Brothers and has been part of the team at Le Café du Marché for over 20 years now. The food that Simon produces is simple, elegant regional French cuisine and the tables packed with diners enjoying the prix fix menu featuring favourites like soupe de poisson and cote de boeuf are a testament to the restaurant’s enduring popularity. To read more about Le Café du Marché go to www.cafedumarche.co.uk
I have met Simon on a number of occasions and he is remarkably modest what he has achieved at Le Café du Marché. I have eaten at the restaurant and can vouch for the quality of the food as the dishes on the menu are driven by the availability of fresh and seasonal ingredients. He has provided acomposite of tips, they are, that amateur chefs at home should keep things simple, buy good quality food and use a good non stick frying pan. To read the AMG review of Le Café du Marché click here…
Arthur Potts Dawson has been cooking for 21 years. He started with a three year apprenticeship with the Roux brothers, and has subsequently worked with Rowley Leigh, Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers at the River Café, Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall, Pierre Koffman and as executive head chef at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen. Arthur’s passion for sustainability led him to become spokesperson for the Good Energy sustainable cooking campaign in 2011. He is a regular on TV and has published two cook books, the latest Eat Your Vegetables is published on 1st August. For more on Arthur visit www.arthurpottsdawson.com
Arthur created the Good Energy Good Kitchen Guide where he advised on how to lower your carbon footprint in the kitchen. This year he has carried on this partnership to create a series of Low-Carbon recipes. I met Arthur when he was presenting a Low-Carbon Cooking Masterclass and can vouch for the quality of his food and his evangelical zeal for culinary sustainability. His tip is “Be Brave” don’t be afraid of the task ahead. Experiment, open new boundaries, try new flavours and products. For more on Arthur’s partnership with Good Energy click here…
Lisa is a successful model, actress, author and chef. In 2010 she won Celebrity Masterchef and now co-hosts Real Food Family Cook Off on Channel 5. She has recently published ‘Recipes from my Mother for my Daughter’. The book is an emotional journey that both keeps alive memories of her mother, who sadly died when Lisa was 16, and passes on to her own daughter the love of cookery she inherited from her mum.
I met Lisa at an event where she had devised two dishes of a three course meal to complement a cheesecake recipe that had won a competition run by Florida grapefruit. Her tip is keep your cooking simple, be prepared to make mistakes but learn from them and never give up until you have got it right. To see Lisa’s Florida grapefruit recipes click here…
James Golding is head chef at The Pig in the Forest, located in Brockenhurst in the New Forest, it is one of the best ‘restaurant with rooms’ in the UK. James has worked in some of the country’s best kitchens with the likes of Mark Hix, Elliot Ketley and Tim Hughes at J Sheekey. Armed with a burning passion for growing the best possible ingredients for the table and ably assisted by a gardener and forager he produces some memorable dishes. His tenure at The Pig has turned it into one of the hottest foodie destinations around and has made culinary tongues wag around some of London’s most influential dining tables.
I recently went for lunch at The Pig after a tour of the kitchen garden. James was bursting with pride ,and with justification, about his smokery, the quails, chickens and pigs, the heritage vegetables and greenhouses. James’s tip is “Always cook with the produce that surrounds you, weather its using local artisanal foods or seasonal fruit and vegetables from local farmers to finding and using wild foraged ingredients. Sometimes a little research or a foraging course can open up a whole world of exciting and tasty wild ingredients in your area!”
To read the review of lunch at The Pig click here…
Martin is an Austrian with a long career at a chef on cruise ships. His current job is managing 56 chefs of all nationalities on the Fred. Olsen cruise ship Black Watch. With 800 guests being served two 5 course meals a day plus breakfast, coffee and tea and midnight feasts it is an exacting job.
I toured the kitchens of the ship during a cruise to Norway and was amazed by the military precision needed to deliver quality food consistently. His tip was a simple but very important one. When you are cooking always put food into something hot e.g. oil, water, the oven or a grill. Click here… to read more about Martin
Scott Hallsworth is owner and head chef of the the sensational Wabi restaurant in London. He is a highly skilled and experienced exponent of Japanese cuisine with a passion for pushing gastronomic boundaries, Australian-born chef Scott Hallsworth spent six years at Nobu London before being handpicked by Nobu Matsuhisa himself to launch Nobu Melbourne.
Scott’s love affair with Asian cuisine can be traced back to the 1990s when he was asked to promote the Australian-owned Hayman Resorts in Singapore and Taiwan. He then fine-tuned his skills, launching a number of ground-breaking Pan Asian restaurants in Zermatt, Chamonix and Toronto. In 2001 Scott moved to London and within a week he had a job at Nobu.
Scott would spend six years here, working his way up from chef de partie to head chef. In 2007 it was all change again when he was asked to set up Nobu Melbourne. Prior to arriving back in the UK to work on the Wabi concept, Scott was executive chef at the Mirai Restaurant Group in Dubai and Bahrain. Here are Scott’s tips:
‘There are a few things that will set you up for better consistency when cooking at home. Have a good basic store cupboard, have a small stock of basics and any quirky little bits you pick up on your travels. Search out great ingredients and do your best to look after them properly. Take your time and put your heart and soul into your creations. At home I’ll turn on some music, have a glass of wine and try to imagine the best possible version of that dish as my bench mark. Most of all, try to enjoy yourself, things always turn out best when your fully engaged and excited about what you’re doing.’
To read about Wabi click here…
Reiko has been teaching people the joys of Japanese cooking for over 12 years. In that time she has set thousands of students on the path to creative and accessible Japanese cooking. Reiko has appeared on television many times including Good Food Live and The Great British Kitchen. She has recently published ‘Hashi’, the definitive Japanese Cook Book
I attended one of Reiko’s cookery classes and she helped me lose my fear of Japanese cooking. Her tip is to combine textures. The textures of a dish are extremely important in cooking. The right balance of textures can really take a dish to the next level as does the right amount of seasoning. Over-seasoning can definitely ruin the dish but under-seasoning can equally lead to a disaster. The key is to keep tasting the dish at all stages as you cook. Read about Reiko’s cookery school by clicking here…
Ken Hom was the first chef to demystify Chinese cooking for me and I have a lot of respect for him. My wife contacted Ken before my 40th birthday to see if he ran cookery classes, he didn’t but he very kindly send her a signed copy of his latest book as a present for me. I am still cooking recipes from that book 20 years later. Deservedly in 2009 Ken was awarded the OBE by the Queen for his services to the culinary arts.
Ken’s tip, which is a double, is ‘Two things… it’s important to cook what you want to eat and second… practice, practice, practice. Practice makes for perfect consistency!’ Click here… for Ken’s Chinese New Year food and menu tips.
Chef Michael Howell is the principal of Tempestuous Culinary, a culinary consulting company. In 2002 Michael opened Tempest Restaurant in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, it quickly became one of the best known restaurants in Canada. He is a strident advocate for supporting local food, family farms and personal relationships with food producers and fishermen. Michael is the leader of Slow Food Nova Scotia, is on the Board of Directors of Taste of Nova Scotia and is President of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia. Michael appears regularly on television, radio and in print. Michael’s first cookbook, ATLANTIC SEAFOOD was shortlisted for the 2010 Cuisine Canada Cookbook awards. His website is www.tempest.ca
I met Michael at a recent event run by Nova Scotia tourism at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Fifteen. Michael and Nova Scotia are working with the Jamie Oliver Foundation to help and encourage the apprentice chefs at Fifteen. In 2013 two of the apprentices will visit Nova Scotia and work with Michael to help their careers. Michael’s top tips for seafood are:
Tips for seafood:
1. Know your fishmonger! Wherever possible try to source your seafood from a reputable fish monger or market where they make concious choices about where THEY buy their seafood. Buying sustainable fish contributes to the future of fish stocks and guarantees fresh products treated with care. If you are buying fish harvested by an inshore dayboat you can be guaranteed that the fish is fresh, rather than having spend weeks in the hold of a large ship on ice.
2. Eat smaller fish. We all know and love a big pieces of glistening rare Bluefin Tuna, but this is not helpful for the seas or fish stocks. Better now that we eat small, more flavourful fish like Branzino, Mackeral and albacore tuna. This also challenges our cooking abilities and so find a good cookbook that offers recipes for these fish
His own cookbook, Atlantic Seafood, offers many recipes for sustainable seafood
To read about the Nova Scotia initiative click here…
Nicolas has had an illustrious career in both Paris and London and is now the head chef at Le Boudin Blanc in Mayfair, London. I have had the pleasure of eating Nicolas’s food and it is exceptional.
Here are his tips
- Always use the best ingredients you can find, products in season are always at their best
- Take the time to read and understand the method and order of things to do in a recipe as often people cook along as they read and then realise that they started the wrong way but then too late
- Be careful with salt and spices at the beginning, you can always add more at the end but can’t take it out
- Make your own stocks as a base for best flavoured sauces, and if you have left over stocks at home but want to save them for another day, reduce them down to a glaze and pour into ice cubes trays, keep in your freezer and take an cube whenever needed for a sauce, they are better than powdered sauces
- Certain fish such as monk-fish, cod and hake have a bigger water content in the flesh so before pan-frying i usually sprinkle them with a bit of sea-salt and leave to stand for about 10mn which releases the excess of water, brush it off with a towel and roll in a little flour prior to cooking
- When doing a roast, leg or rack of lamb, beef etc… always best to cook the meat on the bone as you will get all the juices and flavour from the bones coming through, the roasting tray will then be the best pan to finish your sauce into
- We make a lot of onion soup in France so it is important to be prepared when peeling onions, if you can not bare the tears then just bite in a wooden spoon as you peel. Breathing through the mouth avoids the discomfort
- For a more authentic potato flavour in my mash, rather than boiling them peeled and lose flavour in the water, I prefer to bake them first as you would a jacket potato, in the skin, wrapped in foil and in the oven, when cooked i then scoop out the pure potato flesh ready to mash with milk, cream and butter
To read the AMG review of Le Boundin Blanc click here…
Jean Christophe was born in Arras in France, moving to the UK in 1983 to run a restaurant for Keith Floyd. Since then he has gone on to become one of Britain’s best known and success chefs. Jean Christophe also looks remarkably youthful (he was 50 in 2011). To mark Orangina’s 75th birthday he created a number of dishes including duck glazed in France’s most popular fruit soft drink, it was delicious.
The tip from Jean Christophe is philosophical and simple, he says ‘Cook to express not impress’. Click here… to read about Jean Christophe at the Orangina celebrations.
Silvena Rowe is the exuberant Chef Patron at the highly rated Quince restaurant in London’s May Fair Hotel. I met Silvena, the queen of fusion cooking, at a dinner to showcase the versatility of Kikkoman sauces. She had cleverly created a menu that included marrying traditional Cote de Boeuf with a soy sauce marinade.
Silvena’s tip is “Make batches of chicken or vegetable stock and them store in the freezer in ice cube trays. That way you can make delicious and tasty soups or risottos flavoured with home-made stock in no time.” Click here… to read about the Kikkoman dinner
Nooror Somany Steppe is the renowned Thai chef and the award-winning founder of the Blue Elephant group, she has been regarded as the Culinary Ambassador of Thai Cuisine since 1980. The passion and skill that Nooror has for Thai food has been the driving force behind the Blue Elephant group. Its international chain of 12 restaurants including the iconic London branch, cookery schools and range of authentic Thai food ingredients are proof positive of how successful Nooror has been in bringing Thai food to the world. For more information go to www.blueelphant.com
I met Nooror at the Khuan Ban Mai or house warming of the new riverside location of the Blue Elephant in London. In speaking with her she is passionate about Thai food and for the new restaurant has devised a menu representing traditional Thai dishes, the food of today and a glimpse of the Thai kitchen of the future. Nooror’s tip is, when you are preparing a paste or sauce always use a mortar and pestle, doing this will fully bring out the flavour of the ingredients. Nooror uses this technique extensively in her book, Cooking from the Heart. To read about the Blue Elephant house warming click here…
A member of Craft Guild of Chefs, Chris joined Stoke Park, the beautiful mansion / hotel in Bucks in 2003. His impressive culinary background includes the role of Group Head Chef and right-hand men to French chef Jean Christophe Novelli. With Novelli, Chris has worked in various Michelin-star restaurants and in 2005, Novelli invited Chris to appear with him on TV’s Hell’s Kitchen. Chris pays close attention to only using quality ingredients that are local, fresh and seasonal.
I met Chris when I had lunch at Stoke Park’s restaurant Humphry’s, Chris is charming and his cooking is a sensation. His tips are
- When cooking swede add a little turmeric – this give a better colour and improves the taste
- When doing a dinner party try to do as much as possible the day before, so you can enjoy the party as well
- When using pack gravy add some reduced red wine to it
- When scaling fresh fish put the fish inside a supermarket bag and scale the fish inside the bag in the sink and you will not have scales everywhere
- When making a fresh pizza dough add a little milk, this will make a lighter and crispier base
To read the review of lunch at Humphry’s click here…
Marcus is a talented New Zealander who has recently been appointed Head Cook at Roast in Borough Market. Marcus is an avid supporter British produce and a keen forager. So his restaurant above Borough Market gives him access to some of the UK’s best ingredients.
I met Marcus on a Roast Treasure Hunt where we had to buy food from the market that he then prepared. Unsurprisingly Marcus recommends buying the best ingredients possible, don’t scrimp on them, and also adds that using your common sense in the kitchen is vital for successful cooking. Click here… to read about the Treasure Hunt