I can’t cook. I mean I really can’t cook. I burn garlic bread and overcook pasta. When I announce dinner plans that involve me in the kitchen, I am always met with moans, groans and a few eye-rolls from my otherwise polite children. It used to really hurt my feelings. How could they insult my cooking with such ease? Didn’t they know I was really trying?
I buy only top-shelf ingredients and I follow recipes as closely as humanly (albeit a human with poor attention to detail) possible, to no avail.
One day, I asked my kids, “My food isn’t that bad, is it?”
“Mom, last night’s chicken had raw spots inside. And you expected us to finish it!”
I bowed my head in defeat and thought about accepting the inevitable. I am a bad cook and always have been. But maybe I don’t always have to be? I still believed there might be hope for the culinary-challenged parents like myself. So I reached out to restaurant and business strategy consultant Baron Christopher Hanson, author of the book How to Be A Rock Star In The Kitchen (scheduled for publication in 2020) and asked for his tips for the bad cooks of the world. Here’s his best advice:
Hanson suggests that bad cooks are actually afraid of cooking, or more specifically, of the end result. This is not something I ever considered myself, but it’s true that every time I prepare a dish for my family I set myself up for failure because I don’t believe in myself. I am always afraid of what the meal will look (and taste) like. I cook anxiously.
Underneath the fear is a lack of confidence, which Hanson insists will sabotage your meals. So, next time you are in the kitchen, take the pressure off of yourself, focus on the process not the result, and have fun. “We all first need to fall in love with working with food, preparing and cooking food properly, and most importantly being proud of the results in terms of flavor and presentation,” he says. Put your fear aside and try to enjoy the art of cooking.
Hanson stresses the importance of focusing on the art of cooking. “You cannot be watching TV, tending to toddlers, or texting in the kitchen,” he says. “The biggest disasters in the kitchen stem from a lack of focus, and perhaps people around you who are not respecting your focus as the chef.” Ahem, my kids!
Hanson suggests channeling your inner sushi-chef and focus, focus, focus. “Sushi chefs meticulously curate, cut, and clean their knives as they work to prepare and serve each dish,” he explains. “Are they tweeting, texting, or watching Kardashians? Of course not.” Now this makes perfect sense!
Read About (or Watch) Great Cooking
“Want to make the world's greatest lasagna? Read an article or book about it,” says Hanson. “Want to know what this kitchen tool or that appliance or this ingredient will help you serve up? Google and get busy learning. Want to bring home and filet a whole fish and bake it Asian style? There's an article, book, or YouTube video on that, too.”
Scour the internet for the perfect recipe book, ask friends and relatives for their recipes, and read the recipes a few times before you prepare the meal. Or tune in to some of the best cooking shows and take notes. Hanson suggests watching the movie Julie & Julia, which explores how a young woman overcomes her fear of cooking with the help of Julia Child.
Practice Makes Perfect
Hanson ensures that any meal your family loves can be cooked perfectly in your own home, just don’t expect to be America’s next Top Chef instantly. “Perfect cooking won't happen overnight. You must practice, and try, try, again.”