Want to be a star home cook? Stock your kitchen first

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Want to be a star home cook? Stock your kitchen first

Often when I’m at a cocktail party, meeting new people, the conversation usually comes around to the fact that I cook for a living. Many people are in awe of the fact that I love to spend time in my kitchen. For many, the kitchen is either a place to avoid unless heating up last night’s take out or the bane of their existence, where they spend hours figuring out what to make for their family. Cooking isn’t a pleasure for them. It’s a chore.

Chef’s tools

I love cooking, but I understand how frustrating the process can be, especially if you are not equipped with the proper tools and ingredients. Whenever I meet someone petrified of cooking my response is always the same. I believe cooking is a skill, not a gift. Thomas Keller started out as a dishwasher but studied his craft until he became superior. Being a chef is like being a carpenter. No one is born knowing how to build a house or repair a roof. People attend a trade school or apprentice with a skilled carpenter until they learn how. To be a successful carpenter, you also need to invest in the proper materials and the right tools to get the job done. Cooking is the same way.

Pantry & fridge staples

I’m not the Michelangelo of roasted chicken or the Da Vinci of lasagna. I wasn’t born knowing how to cook. I learned how to make these dishes, and make them well, because I made them many times, tweaking and learning from error. In addition, I spent time stocking my kitchen with the right ingredients and equipment.

This is how you can too. First, stock the pantry. If you go to a grocery store and buy ingredients, you will be inspired to cook them. If your fridge is bare and there are tumbleweeds blowing through your pantry, you will come home tired and hungry and reach for the nearest takeout menu. Instead, have some staples on hand that have a long shelf life. Go to the grocery once a week for the fresh stuff and start cooking.

The pantry

  • Pasta
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Canned tomatoes, crushed
  • All-purpose flour
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Vanilla extract
  • Chocolate chips
  • Wild rice
  • Couscous
  • Chicken stock
  • Table wine, white and red
  • Sherry

The fridge

  • Mayonnaise
  • Lemons
  • Fresh herbs, parsley, cilantro and thyme
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Parmesan cheese, a good hunk for grating
  • Unsalted butter
  • Lettuce (and other salad stuffs)
  • Ketchup
  • Sliced American cheese
  • Protein, chicken breast, steak, ground meat (beef/turkey), fish (buy fresh)

The tool belt

  • Cast iron skillet (I use this every day)
  • Mixing bowls and spatula
  • Food processor
  • Electric mixer
  • A sharp chef’s knife
  • Oven thermometer
  • Cutting board
  • 12-by-18 sheet pans
  • Parchment paper
  • Measuring cups (liquid and dry) and spoons

I know these lists can be daunting, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Chip away at the lists and over time, you will have everything you need for a successful kitchen. At the very least, you can make yourself some scrambled eggs instead of cereal, or a juicy steak instead of reheated Kung Pao chicken at the back of the fridge.

Image: grki