The Cook’s Philosophy

If everything that goes in is good, what could be bad?

Valerie Slovak, my first teacher

The recipes in the Cook’s Gazette are meant for experienced cooks who want to focus first and foremost on the quality of the ingredients. A friend told me that when he first began studying piano his teacher said, “Practice on the best instrument you can find, then right from the start you will begin to recognize quality, the potential for beautiful music.”

The same holds true in the kitchen. If everything you use is the best quality—whether you are considering the building blocks like oil, salt, herbs and spice or the center of the plate, vegetables, fish, meats or grain—your meal can only go so far wrong. If everything that goes in is good, what could be bad? Well, a lot really. The other focus of the Gazette is on technique.

Cooking is a form of artifice, because the taste of food is both good and bad. Good taste cannot be achieved unless one knows precisely what is bad about each ingredient and proceeds to correct

Hsiang Ju Lin, Chinese Gastronomy

Technique is the best answer to the cooks’ challenge: How can I maximize the inherent good flavor and texture of an ingredient? If you become skilled at sauté, baking, shallow frying, grilling, steaming; if you know what method to use on which ingredients and why, you will have the keys to improvisation and creativity. You will be set to go to the market, choose what looks best that day, and have at it in your kitchen.

Of course quantities and yields are important, even essential in baking, but the idea is to be free to focus on fresh seasonal ingredients, correctly prepared, rather than being tied down to specific recipes. You will be free to smell when a dish is ready, hear whether it is cooking too quickly or too slowly, feel the degree of doneness of a piece of meat, enjoy the sight and taste of a well cooked meal.

Cook with your whole body. Use all of your senses. Make sure to love the ingredients that are going into your food at every level.

Ilan Hall, Chef/owner The Gorbals, Los Angles

The purpose of the Cook’s Gazette is to aid in acquiring knowledge and ease in the kitchen. US Poet Laureate Charles Simic was asked by the New York Times in 2008 “What advice would you give to people who are looking to be happy?” His response was:

“For starters, learn to cook…sadness and good food are incompatible.”