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Helllpppp! I suck at cooking :(

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
To give some background, I'm 17 years old and have never done any cooking before in my life. None. I've never used a knife before, and my cooking skills are limited to making tea, boiling an egg, and stuffing things between bread slices and calling that a sandwich.

Earlier this year I enrolled into a 2 year cooking diploma, because I want to learn cooking and be called a chef. That's not necessarily something I want to do as a career, but I want to learn cooking, and be able to perform it like a professional chef.

However during my first term (3 months) I was behind all the rest of my class. I cut my finger almost every day, everything I tried to cook was either overcooked and burnt, or undercooked. I didn't know how to present food properly, the sides of the plate would often have food on them. And I didn't know how to clean up at all (not even do the dishes).

As the exams went closer, I started to practice cooking more at home. Cutting a lot of carrots finally taught me how to do Julienne and Brunnoise, though even now the brunnoise don't look even (all different sizes), and I get the same problem with my Julienne. I had similar problems with my other cooking skills, multi-tasking, etc. And when the exam day came, I failed because I couldn't finish in time.

After the exam, I got another shot at it. This time I practiced more, did my planning, and although I finished about 3 times more than last time, I still couldn't prepare all the dishes I had to in the alloted time (only 3 dishes out of 6 done, last time I had only done one - half-cooked). So, I failed again and I was told I had to re-enroll in the term.

This might come off as I don't like cooking, and I don't want to learn to cook. That's not the case. The time I've spent in the kitchen I loved and I love how my teacher can cut everything so efficiently. I crave to be able to do the same things one day! But, I just can't.... while everyone else can.

After I failed the second time I had about 2 months vocation, and during this time I had to do some other work (and had a couple other distractions) so I couldn't practice much cooking. So after about two months, I've now come back and re-enrolled into the term. I have only had 2 kitchen days so far in my first week, and I've been through all those lessons before.

Here's the thing. My knife skills have improved since I had first gone through this term, but I'm still so much behind the rest of the class! Everyone else either has done a lot of cooking at home, or they work at hotels/restaurants/pizza hut and have been doing cooking for ages. I feel like I'm the one behind the rest of the class.

On the first day, I did my Julienne and Brunnoise OK (the sizes weren't equal), but when dicing the onion (onion brunnoise), I completely ****ed up! It all broke apart, and it looked completely ****. And it didn't help that my new lecturer frowned at me as if it was my fault, and made me look like a fool in front of everyone else.

I tried another two onions, paid more attention to how chef did it, and did better than before, but still.. it wasn't the way the rest of my classmates' onions looked.

Then on the second day, I did even worse. We did julienne and brunnoise again, where I had the same problem of sizes not being even, and then we had to segment oranges. Ohhhhhhh.

One of my problems last term was that I can't turn potatoes. I just couldn't go around cutting the curvy way because I'm so used to cutting straight. I'd always cut down straight. So when we were going to segment oranges and we were going to peel them, instead of going along the roundness of the orange to maintain its shape, i cut straight!

It looked so gross. Chef came over and again frowned at me, told me to concentrate, and again pointed it out so everyone else could see. Then when it came to segmenting, I again ****ed it up even though I didn't do as bad as the rest of the class.

With the next orange it didn't go that bad, I did actually manage to maintain 85% of the shape of the orange, but I didn't segment correctly, and when chef came over and pointed out I was doing this term the second time and I should know how to do this, I got nervous and the next segments came out even worse than the first few.

The next was lemon vandyke, and I didn't do so bad at that, but I was still behind the rest of the class. Though with some practice I could've done as good as them. Chef said it 'almost looks right.'

Sorry this post is so long, but I needed to get this off my chest. Please, can anyone tell me what I should do, how can I learn all these things? Please give me some advice. I don't want to fail again!!
post #2 of 13
Practice ?
post #3 of 13

Just keep at it man...hate to use an old cliche, but practice makes perfect.
You story is however a very well written rant. I would be priviledged if you'de go to my blog and post it there too,, it's a new blog started just for dudes to kick it about cookin'

But really man, dont give up.
post #4 of 13
what culinary school are you at? at mine there where lots of times we didnt do things perfect, but thats how you learn, i would practice at home alot and you should improve. about turing potatoes most people cant do it there first time unless you have good dexterity and such. even after my year in culinary school there where lots of my tournes that looked bad, the way i got better was i bought a bag of potatoes and sat and watched nascar on sundays while turing potoatoes. I practice becasue i entered in a competition and that was my weakest knife cut. I definily improved though. Just keep at it and work hard, knife cuts can be hard but there essential to all dishes.
post #5 of 13
If you are not planning on a career and are only doing this for your personal pleasures.. dont sweat it.. Just enjoy what you are learning and keep practicing.




post #6 of 13
No matter the subject, we all enter a learning environment with different skills already in place. Concentration and practice are critical to your success. The classroom kitchen are your sandbox and expectation of the faculty is (or should be) that the students will be making errors - this is how one learns. If he/she is pointing out your errors to the class, I would hope it's for the benefit of instruction and not to ridicule.

You asked for advice. I think everyone will be saying "Practice." You're learning everything new whereas your peers seem to have a leg by having at least some kitchen experience. Just as your carrot cuts improved over time, so will your other cuts. Similarly, practice will help with every other task you are learning.

I'd ask if your textbooks include photos or diagrams of the cuts you're working on. Having the demonstration in class might be solidified if your texts include pictorial views of the techniques. If you're able, and feel it necessary, you might look into a few books.

"Knife Skills Illustrated" (ISBN 9780393061789) is one such book. I don't own it, but it looks to be very detailed. Jacques Pepin has a book, "Complete Techniques" (ISBN 9781579121655) which (though I don't own) looks fantastic. Julia Child's classic book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" (ISBN 9780375413407) is a book that taught a lot of people how to cook. Julia, of course, was famous for bringing cooking to American television. I own "The Professional Chef 8th Ed." (ISBN 9780764557347) which, although expensive, is an extremely detailed culinary text which deals not so much with knife skills, but many of the techniques behind cooking. It talks about meats, veg, baking, herbs/spices, regional cuisine, and has tons of recipes. I think that any of these books would be ideal to help anyone build their confidence in the techniques of cooking. Confidence is a big deal in the kitchen.

Keep working at it and, if you can, buy produce at the market and practice on them at home. You can use your trimmings and cuts in a variety of soups and sautes. A nice thing about practicing at home is that you are your own critic and your mistakes are still usable.

(Small note about the Pro Chef book: many of the recipes are geared to larger scale production that the typical home kitchen. There is a section that briefly talks about recipe conversion factors that can help convert to smaller yields.)
"Honey, is something burning?" - my wife
"Honey, is something burning?" - my wife
post #7 of 13
Doh! I forgot a simple bit of advice:

I you can (and I strongly suggest you do), try to get a part-time job at a restaurant. I know you said you didn't want to do this professionally, but the experience and practice you'd gain would do good for your confidence. A prep cook does a heck of a lot of potatoes, carrots, and what not. Depending on where you can find work you might be doing garde manger (cold appetizers, pantry) getting dirty working with shrimp, pate, salads, etc.

Talk to the chef. Be honest and explain what you're doing. He just might be willing to take you on as a commis doing prep work.

You might also find professional cooking your calling!
"Honey, is something burning?" - my wife
"Honey, is something burning?" - my wife
post #8 of 13

new here

I'm new to these boards and this is the first thread I read all the way through. Kudos to all of you for being helpful and so supportive! I've been to some other culinary sites with vicious forums. As an ex-teacher, Tarzan, I wish all teachers would be a little more supportive. I learned never to call a student out in front of their peers--it breeds bad blood.

I just like to do a little cooking at home, so I'm not much help there but good luck with your culinary pursuits!

Somersky at Serv-U
post #9 of 13
Where are you taking these classes? It sounds to me like you just want to improve on your cooking skills to a amature level but doing so in a professional level class. I'd suggest taking some baby steps here. I know a small school in my neck of the woods that offers great classes, some skill specific like Asian , Italian, h'orderves/appetizers, and knife skills...try looking them up, Calphalon Cookware, cutlery, bakeware, accessories and kitchenware from Calphalon or basically looking up a local school that does these small intimate classes. Your current school should do some night classes of the same caliber.

I think your pushing yourself a little too hard, it takes time, practice, lots of concentration, and a fair degree of discipline to get the basics down and not everyone will be judge equally in the end. Not everyone learns at the same pace as well. Before I went to cooking school, I only cooked at home as compared to 2/3 of my class whose done some kitchen work. Rethink how much you want to learn and how quickly you want to learn, you may see a big difference. Teaching career oriented students is very different from teaching a foodie though the knowledge is the same.
post #10 of 13
There is no substitute for experience, and that's what is keeping you behind the curve.
Your classmates have more experience than you and so they will naturally be expected to outperform you.
You already know that as you practice you get better.
Keep it up.
Some people have more natural talent than others, but you seem to have a love for this, and that should eventually outweigh natural talent.
Your skill sets will improve, and your love will push you to out-do yourself, and to always look to improve things, even if everyone else is satisfied.
I'll take someone with passion and desire over some someone with talent who is jaded, any day.

You also seem to be your biggest critic.
This will hamper you early on if you don't learn to control it, but will serve you well in later years because you will never settle, you will always look for ways to improve.

Good luck and keep at it.

Oh, and when's dinner?
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
post #11 of 13
Ya I feal your pain, I just started back in september and sometimes you just want to freak out or cry cause you have a chef in ur face, students around you and every ones makeing mistakes. Just take your time to get it right...You need to be fast in a kitchen but If you go so fast you F.... it up then you'll get yell'd at no matter what. As of for cuts..first years...get em alllll the time. and burns. One guy in my class stabbed him self in his armpit. put his pairing knive in his breast pocked blade up and forgot. Bent over to tie shoe...and blam. 10 stitches later. So people do make mistakes heh.
post #12 of 13
I would not only try to get a part time job at some restaurant, even if it's washing dishes...just so I could be in the kitchen observing, but I would also discuss this with your Primary Health giver.

You could be suffering from something "ORGANIC" that limits your attention or your motor skills??

Not everything is about following instructions to the letter.

Also for some of you out there, a lot of these "INSTRUCTORS" are former CHEFS that ruled supreme in their kitchens and their "people" skills are not as refined...

Remember, there is no room for empathy in a crazy busy kitchen!! lol
Food may bring us together, but a CAKE makes it a PARTY!!
Food may bring us together, but a CAKE makes it a PARTY!!
post #13 of 13
It sounds to me like your determined to learn how to cook but I think learning in a professional enviroment isnt going to be for you.

i agree with someone else. maybe look locally to find cookign classes forl iek ah ome cook. You can really learn alot in those classes becuase it is usually people with little or no cooking experience.

I dont want to get you down. Ive had my moments of doubt and the only thing realyl taht kept me going was wanting to be inthis business.

There are alot of instructional videos out there too like on youtbue that can teach you or show you better techniques for something.
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