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What makes a good cook?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Forget that chef/cook argument. Let's talk about what makes a good cook and what makes a GREAT cook. My MIL is a good cook, not great by very good. My wife OTOH is a GREAT cook. Me? I'd say I'm a chef and a good cook but I know I'm not a great cook. I do things faster than my wife but her cooking just knocks me out. Jacques Pepin is a great cook, Rachel Ray is good but not great, Julia Child was really great.

So, what makes a good cook, what makes a great cook?
post #2 of 24
Point 1: I find a really good cook can anticipate the outcome of the dish and, subsequently, can make changes to keep it on track or improve upon it. Just a 'cook' on the other hand, will follow the process and procedure regardless of the outcome.

Point 2: We often fail to focus on flavor and maintain a "get it done" approach. A really good cook can get it done AND make the flavor worth the effort.

Interesting thread, Kuan. Curious to see what other have to say.

Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

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Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

My Author Page

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post #3 of 24
knowing when to stop.....when you have good ingred. not altering them so much that they lose their integrity

not only knowing flavor profiles in your head with various techniques so you can give a very educated guess as to the outcome prior to starting but if something happens you can fix it.


timing. getting everything to the table at the right temp

knowing your audience....who are you cooking for and what would they want to eat.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #4 of 24

salt

If I had to pick one things, I would have to say SALT!

A great cook/chef can control salt level to perfection and make all the flavours come out together in harmony:chef: For some cooks this could take a life time!

Most cooks forget to salt their dish properly and create master that turn out a touch blend:smiles:

AND that's all I have to say about that:):)
Martin Laprise
Author of "My daughter wants to Be a Chef!"
www.thechefinstead.ca

“A cook who invest a few bucks every week is a smart cook"
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Martin Laprise
Author of "My daughter wants to Be a Chef!"
www.thechefinstead.ca

“A cook who invest a few bucks every week is a smart cook"
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post #5 of 24
1)I think it is the refusal to compromise. Most of us “good cooks” have a level of tolerance we will accept regarding ingredients, time, authenticity etcetera. I think the greats would rather not produce something than compromise.

2) A complete level of understanding regarding the ingredients that goes beyond knowledge. People like Keller and a protégé of his Grant Achatz have seem to have a deeper understanding of food and it’s potential.
Chef Bob


"Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch?" ~ Orsen Wells (1915-1985)
http://www.frappr.com/cheftalkcafe
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Chef Bob


"Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch?" ~ Orsen Wells (1915-1985)
http://www.frappr.com/cheftalkcafe
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post #6 of 24
A great cook will have a complete understanding of the recipie and techniques involved, s/he will not change things for change's sake but will change if ingredients or equipment are unavailable.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #7 of 24
Its all about the relationship between the person and the expression. Cooking is my lover.....
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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post #8 of 24

Simplicity

Attention to detail.

Ability to "visualize" flavor combinations as well as final presentations.

Understanding of techniques and consistent application of aforementioned techniques.

Attention to detail.

Confidence.
If no one will follow you, you can't be the leader.
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If no one will follow you, you can't be the leader.
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post #9 of 24
Just off the top of my head:

- Confidence
- Mental instability (all the best cooks I've met are crazy)
- Refusal to compromise
- Knowledge of technique (not just how to do things, but also why)
- Vision
- Knowledge of chemistry (relates to technique - everything in cooking is a chemical reaction, it helps to know what is actually happening to the ingredients every step of the way, that way you can anticipate the outcome and do what you need to ensure perfection)

I remember a chef of mine once told me, I'm a poor employee, I'm crazy, I don't do things the way he likes, I've got a poor attitude, big ego, etc..., but I had a job because despite all my shortcomings everything I made tasted good.
post #10 of 24
Love and respect of all the wonderfull ingredience we can get hold off.
A deep respect of the classic cusine for all the basic rules of cooking.
:)
post #11 of 24

People Skills

I think that great cooks are touch crazy, you are right MikeB:):)

I like to see in a cook:
People Skills
Knives Skills
Speed of Execution
A sense of Humor
Flexibility to adapt to situations
Initiative
Ponctual
and great listening skills

That's my ideal cook!
Martin Laprise
Author of "My daughter wants to Be a Chef!"
www.thechefinstead.ca

“A cook who invest a few bucks every week is a smart cook"
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Martin Laprise
Author of "My daughter wants to Be a Chef!"
www.thechefinstead.ca

“A cook who invest a few bucks every week is a smart cook"
Reply
post #12 of 24
A great cook has technique down cold. A great cook knows why things happen to the food he/she is cooking and under what circumstances. A great cook knows ingredients. A great cook does not cut corners, with technique or ingredients. A great cook LOVES to cook.
post #13 of 24
Brilliant.
"I gotta start being nicer to people... this karma thing really sucks..."
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"I gotta start being nicer to people... this karma thing really sucks..."
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post #14 of 24

Cooks!

A great cook may not compromise, as some may say in a kitchen that supplies them with ingredients that doesn't allow or give them an oppurtunity to compromise. I say those cooks are narcissistic brats!!
A great cook can look through your cupboards and make a great meal out of nothing. A great cook can look at almost impossible odds and somehow forge an unforgettable meal. A great cook has an intimate knowledge of FLAVOR. Whether it comes in a pinch of salt or reducing a stock to its final and ultimate rich expression across your palate. A Chef in my opinion needs to be a great cook FIRST before being a Chef.
Techniques are important to a professional but my Mother never had any use for them yet she made some of my most memorable meals that I had in my lifetime. Knife & people skills?? My mother assigned me my station, no argument or questioning, just do it!! I learned knife skills years later. People skills?? Just do more dishes and try to learn from a demanding Chef. He isn't your friend and doesn't want to be. That is your lesson in people skills.
Great listening skills. Now there is the crux of the matter here. Without listening and comprehending you are nothing more then a machine to be programmed on a daily basis. (I call this being "reborn")
I learned a lot from my Mother and Grandmother just by observation and listening. I was able to use this adapted skill and learn from Chefs that I worked or apprenticed under.
Initiative is another loaded word. This is what it takes to be where you want to be. Without it you would be on welfare and bitching about life.
Vision is important but not the most crucial matter. Knowledge of Classical cuisine only gets you as far as the Chinese Restaurant that you are now working for so although it is important you can't say that all food revolves around Classical cuisine. These days there are far too many facets in the culinary scene. To sum it up a great Chinese cook does not a French Chef make and vice versa.
Confidence is good but does not prove that you can cook.
Attention to detail??? Okay so I put the parsley garnish on the plate, now I am a great cook???

Look folks and fellow culinarians. Remember one of the oldest culinary stories around?? It was called "STONE SOUP".

To summarize, three starving Soldiers walked into a town and tried to convince the townsfolk to feed them to no avail. One Soldier offered to make stone soup with a stone and some hot water. The townsfolk were eventually curious and offered to help out. It turned out to be a great feast by the end of the day because everybody chipped in and made it happen.
The point to this story is that the Soldier was able to create an atmosphere of TEAMWORK by his VISION and INITIATIVE of getting fed and not succumbing to starvation. He also CREATED a great time for all to enjoy by his INTERACTION with the townsfolk. He was also FLEXIBLE enough to adapt to his situation and use what was at his disposal and not demand the best of ingredients, so on and so forth. Remember ingredients were not at his disposal he just had a stone to start with. Everybody else provided the INGREDIENTS.
SO what is the moral to our search of what is a great cook? IMHO:
One who knows how to, or to create,
COOK
FLAVOR
TEAMWORK
VISION
INITIATIVE
CREATIVITY
INTERACTION (whether listening to guests, cooks, waitstaff or just Mom)
FLEXIBILITY (Hey, sometimes you just don't have the best stuff and you have to use what you have and make a GREAT MEAL)

and last but not least
INGREDIENTS

Without the above you will go nowhere in this business.

Your humble cook
David
Hard work never killed anybody but it sure has scared a lot of them.
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Hard work never killed anybody but it sure has scared a lot of them.
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post #15 of 24
A chef is in business for themselves.. A cook works for someone else.

Steve :smiles: :smiles: :smiles:
post #16 of 24
We should not be judged, Our results should be. So, Does a chef or a cook produce finer results ?:chef:
http://www.frappr.com/chefsunited
One time a guy pulled a knife on me. I could tell it wasn't a professional job; it had butter on it.- Rodney Dangerfield -


'We're ALL amateurs; It's just that some of us are more professional about it than others'. - George Carlin
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http://www.frappr.com/chefsunited
One time a guy pulled a knife on me. I could tell it wasn't a professional job; it had butter on it.- Rodney Dangerfield -


'We're ALL amateurs; It's just that some of us are more professional about it than others'. - George Carlin
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post #17 of 24
These two are the best posts I've seen here. Which is to say they are the ones I agree with. :lol:

All I can add is: A great cook understands the importance of TEXTURE and APPEARANCE as well. And: A great cook is one who follows my orders without giving me an argument, because s/he knows I'm right! :lol:
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #18 of 24

The six "P"'s

What makes the difference is obeying a few cardinal laws. First and foremost is Mise en plas which emphasizes the importance of forethought. This brings us to the six "P"'s: Propper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Second is balance in flavors and seasonings.I.E.; never season your stock. Allow the natural flavor of your stock to enhance your end product; you can always add, but not take away. And third, respect for your knives and other equipment. As far as difference between a chef and a cook is that a chef a is a great cook that works as a manager.
post #19 of 24

great cook vrs good cook

personaly i feel that a GREAT cook is:

clean- keeping a clean station while you are getting raped by a wave is not easy but extremely important

fast- can think on their feet even in one of the hottest, most stressful, and dangerous professions around

controlled- even though all the best cooks and chefs i have ever met are a touch crazy when the pressure is on they know just how to control the situation and themselves

forgiving- even though we get realy pissed at eachother from time to time on the line the next day there are no grudges, its a new day and a new series of stumbling blocks to overcome

jovial- nothing helps a hard push like a good laugh

burns/ battlescars- a good set of burns means dedication to the profession, mistakes that hopefully lessons have been learned from and bragging rights (i had 400F pomodoro sauce land right here its like Napalm! had a blister 1/2" high!)

and last but certainly not least
PASSION- the passion for cooking is something that cannot be taught and it cannot be forced the love and caring for the items not just at the final stage but all the way through the cooking process from prep to plating and feeling your heart sink into your chest when a dish comes back and the guest didnot know that pitsburg means black and blue litteraly
i pledge my professional knowladge and skill to the advancement of our profession and to pass it on to those that are to follow..... ACF pledge
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i pledge my professional knowladge and skill to the advancement of our profession and to pass it on to those that are to follow..... ACF pledge
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post #20 of 24

Good cook/great cook

I would have to requalify Julia Childs as awesome.

A chef is a great cook with artistic flair. (...and a little bit of creative insanity, artistic license, fancy schmancy...whatever)

A Good cook is someone that can follow a recipe.

A Great cook makes it better.

A Good cook sees a plate of food as ... well... something to eat that tastes good.

A Great cook is someone whose whole being envelopes every dish they prepare.

A Great cook cooks with passion.

A GREAT cook's whole life is preparing great food.

Smell, touch, sight, taste...
Very sensual....
:lips:
April
post #21 of 24

Attitude

One major thing that can make a difference, "ATTITUDE"

if you hire a cook with the right attitude, you are half way there. You can teach cooking skills, but attitude is not an easy thing to teach someone.:smoking:
Martin Laprise
Author of "My daughter wants to Be a Chef!"
www.thechefinstead.ca

“A cook who invest a few bucks every week is a smart cook"
Reply
Martin Laprise
Author of "My daughter wants to Be a Chef!"
www.thechefinstead.ca

“A cook who invest a few bucks every week is a smart cook"
Reply
post #22 of 24
My chef taught me to use seasoning salt on every thing because its more forgiving if i over do it... Not sure if i agree with it (I personally have low salt tolerance, I hate really salty food so I need assume people like it more salty then me)
Just another young apprentice eager to develop into the master.
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Just another young apprentice eager to develop into the master.
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post #23 of 24
Perfectly said, attitude is everything. With the right attitude you can do everything.
My life, my choice.....
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My life, my choice.....
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post #24 of 24

Attitude

I just spoke at another high school about becoming a chef, too funny! This time it was a great group of kids with good questions...

I could see 3 kids with amazing attitude that would make great cooks...

I have seen poor attitude on amazingly talented cooks and they get nowhere... No one wants to promote a cook with a bad attitude!:eek: The last things they need is more power to mix with a poor attitude:):)
Martin Laprise
Author of "My daughter wants to Be a Chef!"
www.thechefinstead.ca

“A cook who invest a few bucks every week is a smart cook"
Reply
Martin Laprise
Author of "My daughter wants to Be a Chef!"
www.thechefinstead.ca

“A cook who invest a few bucks every week is a smart cook"
Reply
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