Cooking schools like universities can only produce top chefs if the students are passionate about cooking and of becoming a chef. For this reason, not all cooking school graduates end up becoming top chef. In the same way as not all doctors are great.I am a dietitian by trade, and also a certificated chef from Cordon Bleu,Paris,France.I chose to hone my dietitian skills and kept my cooking skills on the side.
Most of the top chefs went to cooking school with the exception of Rachel Ray who had a personal mentor, her Mom. Cooking school teaches you the basics, how to make sauces , techniques in cooking and taste of food, role of spices and ingredients,equipments and presentaton. Here you have a paid mentor who guides your steps using a lesson plan. Creativeness is individual and will eventually come out of you in time. When I went to cooking school, I did not even know how to break an egg.
After finishing cooking school, I pursued graduate studies and put aside my chefs hat. I worked in many facets of nutrition,but my interest in food prevailed. As I mature in my career, I seek for management positions so I can influence the food preparation sector of the hospitals where I worked and get involved in menu development and training of the kitchen staff. Since hospitals have a lot of restrictions on food due to the type of clientile we serve, the directions I ventured in is the cafeteria and catering sector, where with limited budget, and inexperienced staff, I produced and presented fabulous meals that awed our guest I wrote the menus and food specifications, worked with vendors to get the right product and or reasonable alternatives. I wrote easy to follow recipes to guide the staff on food preparation and worked with them in set ups and presentation. I was tired, but I was in cloud 9 . I knew in my heart that If I took a clinical dietitian job, I did not have to work hard, will get paid equally if not more, but I will be bored.
I have influenced many cooks in my career, a few now work in restaurants and others are now chefs. During my hospital adventure, one of the cooks came to me and asked how I coined the names of the dishes in the menu I wrote. I look at him and said, I did not create the dish, the names of the dishes either came from there creator, or someone who is responsible for making the dish popular. For example Chicken Doria, was named after Chef Doria who created the dish when he was the chef at Waldorf Astoria. Lasagna bolognese, is an italian dish that was created by a famous chef in Italy. People who are in the food industry recognize dishes by there names. Chicken Doria is chicken with cucumber sauce. When they eat the dish,they know how it should taste. This is called an educated palate. If you have not tasted chicken Doria it is hard for you to judge if the Chicken Doria served to you taste right. The judges in the food network cooking contest have educated palates, they are either chefs or food connoisseur, otherwise how can they rightfully judge?
If you want to pursue a chefs career, get interested in food. Dine out to experience the taste of different foods. This will educate your palate. Know the food trends. Work as an apprentice in a restaurant. Many of the top chef’s worked in restaurant here and abroad to learn the business. Some started as dishwashers. Watch what the chefs are doing,know the names and taste of the food. Osso Bucco, is an Italian dish made from veal shanks. To know how it really taste is to go to a real italian restaurant which is quite pricey. Working in a restaurant that serves the dish get you to taste it for free.
If you watch the Food Network, Iron Chef contest, the chefs in the contest are presented with a secret ingredient which they have to use in the dishes they prepare. They have one hour to prepare the dishes.There is no time to check the computer for recipes, or call a friend for advice. A seasoned chef looks at the secret ingredient and already have an idea what food or ingredient marries well with it and how best to prepare it. Years of experience in cooking molds a person into what one can call an expert ,in this case a chef.
One day,I overheard an acquaintance say,” I bought Julia Childs cookbook so I can cook like her”. French cooking is one of the most complicated cooking style to follow especially if you are following a traditional recipe. Second, to know that you have succeeded in cooking the dish you need to have tasted the food so you have an idea of the taste, and how the finish product looks, and third, this is my own personal test, is when my children eats it.
Cook as often as you can afford. Julia Child’s boeuf bourguigon is a classic. Instead of serving beef roast to your family, prepare boeuf bourguigon. When serving your family at home, garnish the plates to practice your presentation. Invest on white dishes so the food can present well. Learn what capers, juniper berries, saffron, truffles and other ingredients can do to food. Read about it, buy and cook it if your budget can handle it. The people that joins the baking contest for pies and cake,bake everyday to hone there skills. Practice makes perfect applies to cooking as well.