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So now I can cook....annoying side effects.

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
I decided to take cooking a bit more seriously about a year ago. I'm not claiming any überskills, or that I could run a kitchen, or anything like that.

But I am competent enough to make very good food.

The first side effect is that going out isn't as fun.

When you are doing a better job at home than the average place for 1/2 the cost, it loses some of the luster going out. Places like outback (at least by me) seem like nothing but a rip off and usually poorly prepared.

Now on the plus side it makes me really appreciate the high end establishments as I can recognize their skill which is well beyond my own, but I've got two kids and a limited budget so I need to limit that sort of dining.

This bit of new found food snobbery is ok, its more of an opening of the eyes.

The real annoying side effect is that I'm gaining weight.

I've perfected a few of my favorites and none of them are really low calorie. On top of it they are good enough that I end up wanting to eat more just because its so good. I have a steak sandwich which I view of as the ultimate steak sandwich and I could eat three of, I recently developed my own 'skillet' style breakfast which I could eat a mountain of, (I've gone from one medium sized potato to two already and thought last time 'it could use more potato'). Even my veggie dishes end up with a lot of EVO, but **** tastey.

I'm not sure if there is a point to the post, or just a ramble, but I'd be interested to hear how others keep the pounds off while still enjoying their creations.
post #2 of 35
A few years ago, I did the same thing, getting Professional Cooking and Professional Chef to go along with my Escoffier, et al.

I found that if I cut out all use of processed foods, especially those with any corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup, I could eat delicious high end meals and I LOST weight. To the tune of over 100lbs.

So I say, "Eat away"!

post #3 of 35
My answer is, If you eat standing up in the kitchen, they are no calories. If you eat sitting down, it goes right to your BUTT. I don't think I have ever sat down in any of the Restaurants I have been involved with and had a full meal. Most Chefs will eat on the run. If your working the froint line, your tasting everything, don't even talk about the crisp bacon looking you in the eye all night. I would get home and my wife would ask, Honey did you eat, my answer was no. I figure I consumed 2000 calories picking all night. I don't know how many times I would put one extra shrimp in the scampi, someone had to eat it.........................Bill
post #4 of 35
The foodservice lifecycle:
1. Having an interest in cooking and looking starry-eyed as people seem to effortlessly move about a restaurant-wow! to be like them!
2. Getting work at a restaurant and feeling like what the other employees seem to have is an education that is well beyond that of normal humans- wow! look at that person chop an onion! and they didn't even cut themselves!
3. Knowing how they do it- the most annoying part- this is the part where people find it annoying to go out to eat with you because the entire conversation is based around "Hey! I know what they are doing back there! Let me tell you!"
4.The jaded part- you know what they are doing, you just don't care. If you wanted to be at work you would be- tonight you just want somebody else to do it!
5. The appreciative part- where you've cooked for long enough and good enough and don't have anything left to prove to yourself, and finally, after so long you can go out to a meal and just go eat and just enjoy it for what it is.. a crummy fast food burger sometimes is the best thing in the world!

Most people think that chefs and cooks eat this amazing cuisine for their dinners. I hate to burst their bubble when i tell them what I have for dinner at work most of the time.... is chicken strips.....and I'll have a lil ranch with that, if thats' ok...
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
post #5 of 35
I think the majority of people fail to realize our customers can afford to dine better on their salaries than we can on ours.
Also, when I finally slow down enough to eat, I want it now.
You're right, something from mickey dee's on the drive home sometimes fits the bill.
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 #6 of 35
Thread Starter 
Back before I went off to school for 7 extra years (stove top stuffing is a complete meal) I worked FOH for a major 'Bistro' for a few years, as did my wife. Obviously working in the food industry is a bit different. I was on my feet 6-14 hours a day and would be lucky to shove something down my throat.

Now its a hobby, I do it to unwind after a day of dealing with other peoples problems and its something my wife and I can share. I think it would be less of an issue if it was my job.

This I kinda disagree with. Not the McD's part but the money part. Now maybe if you are in a very high end establishment, but finding food bargains isn't that hard if you make it yourself.

The other day I did a seared scallop and veggie salad. Cucumbers, tomatoes, blue cheese, bay scallops and balsamic vinaigrette (maybe it sounds bad but worked well for me, I was just experimenting for lunch). $2 for the cucumbers and tomatoes (actually a bit less), about a buck worth of cheap blue cheese crumbles, the balsamic vinaigrette was $4.50 for the whole bottle of which I didn't use a lot, and a quarter pound of scallops was $1.82. I suppose you need to add the salt and EVO I used on the scallops too. Over all it wasn't much more than a typical McD's combo meal.

To really get fancy the other day I found prime ribeye steaks, at $11 a pound. They were beautifully marbled and tasted great. It was a bit more than I typically spend on steak but prime for $11 seemed too good to pass up. I got two nice steaks out of it for like $13 total, thats two meals for almost McD's prices (ok a tad higher). Normally I get the select steaks which will run about $5 a pound here and are pretty good, especially if you add some blue cheese or the like.

Now maybe its because I'm in a major metropolitan area that gives me access to a lot of different ingredients at a good price, but part of my hobby is not overspending.

When I worked in food service, it was more the long hours and lifestyle that lead to less than 'optimal' eating habits.
post #7 of 35
I have never been thinner than when I ran a fine dining line, double shifts, 6 and a half days a week. Now, I have to watch it all the time, even though I ranch full time and am always outdoors, getting plenty of exercise. I find Michael Pollan's advice is what keeps me in fighting trim: :Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants." We still have one kid at home, a 15 year old boy, and I can get two full dinners for three out of a butchered 5 lb. hen when it's augmented with sauteed greens and a salad. I butcher my own beef, lamb, goat and poultry. A 1lb. ribeye steak becomes enough for three when the beef is good, and mine is. Quality food, eaten with friends and family, is filling from the love with which it's made and company in which it's eaten. Slow down, savor, and you'll recognize, instead of whizz past the point where your gut is as full as your heart.
While your at it, give some thought to all those high glycemic killers: bleached flour, sugar, potatoes, pasta. You know the drill. They'll put pounds on you overnight and leave you hungry for more.
post #8 of 35
I also notice that as my own cooking improves, the food at the restaurants I can afford gets worse. Quite often I find that one of the main annoyances with restaurant food is too much salt and not enough other seasonings. It has been three and a half years since I had a real full time job, so dining out is pretty infrequent on our budget. Maybe I'll start saving up for a dinner at a place here in Salt Lake that cooks WAY better than I do.

In my case, paying more attention to what I cook at home has helped me maintain my weight. I used to be a very active mountain climber and did lots of backcountry skiing. I could consume mass quantities of calories with no noticeable effect. I may have mentioned previously on this forum how much I ate on April 1st, 1977, the day we got back to civilization after a three week winter climbing trip in the Wind River mountains. My last big climbing trip was in 1985, and since then I slowly but surely gained about a pound or two a year, up until a few years ago when I started holding steady. In the last three weeks I lost most of what I gained over the Thanksgiving - Christmas holiday. But I still have 20+ years of sloth to shed off my waistline. I'm sort of working on it.

The good food for minimal amounts of coin was touched on a while back, sparked by the Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial about feeding 4 people a chicken dinner for 10 bucks. The broiled chicken with pan roasted potatoes that I did for sunday's dinner cost me less in ingredients than one of those pre-cooked chickens the local markets offer around dinner time. And I bet mine was a LOT tastier than the store bought. Especially since with a whole raw chicken you get the liver - I love fried chicken livers! Plus my wife and I had leftovers tonight and I'll get another dinner out of it tomorrow. 5 adult meals for about 3 bucks each when you factor in the side dishes and such - not bad.

You know, we're having some guests over for dinner saturday. There will be appetizers, a soup, a salad, a main meat dish with two sides and a dessert. If I remember I'll keep an accurate record of what I spend on ingredients for the evening. I'm guessing it will be more than 3 dollars a head!

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
post #9 of 35
I know, I hate this. I hate paying expensive restaurant prices for something I do much better for a great deal less. I don't mind so much if there's something to justify it: maybe it's a different sauce, or they deep-fry things (which I just about never do), or whatever. I don't mind, really, if they do things about the same as I do them. This is why I don't mind McDonald's and the like: it's not expensive, and I don't do what they do. It's one of the nice things about eating out in Japan: it's generally not expensive, and I can't do what they do very well at all.

What really drives me bats, though, is to go to a high-end "fine dining" establishment, where they charge a lot of money, and I get something mediocre that's been plated to look cute. If the food is good, fancy plating often adds something, but if it's not it's just pretentious. Pretentious and expensive... a bad combination.

Yeah, and then be sure to use the bones and scraps to make stock and you get even more out of it!
post #10 of 35
welcome to my world.

we're called "food snobs" by everyone else behind our backs btw.
post #11 of 35
No no, food snobs are the people who don't know that what they're eating is mediocre, and think that the very high prices, ludicrously wordy dish descriptions, and silly plating must mean the food is wonderful.
post #12 of 35
I should have been more clear.
I meant "dine out"
Of course I can prepare it less expensively at home than I would pay for it at a restaurant.
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 #13 of 35
This is the rub though. You will only be talking about ingredients costs. Any restaurant has to also factor in labor costs, rent/mortgage, utilities, equipment expenses, insurance costs, expenses for decor, profits and taxes on those profits, etc, etc.

Labor costs includes the host/hostess, servers, cooks, dishwashers, the utility guy that cleans the parking lot and windows, assistant managers, managers, bookkeepers. These costs are typically accruing before and after service hours with prep work and clean up.

We are not comparing apples to apples here.

Still, I agree that once you know how to cook reasonably well eating out loses some of its luster.
post #14 of 35
I think we can agree that excellent food eaten out ought to cost more, at the ingredient level, than excellent food made at home. The question is whether we're getting something for our money.

At a good place, we are: we get service, ambience, range of choices. The food will be as good as we can do at home, and will be plated attractively. We're paying for entertainment, not convenience: it's not that we're eating at your house and paying not to have to cook ourselves, but that we're being entertained by the whole production.

What's irritating is eating food that costs much more than home but is not good, served badly. Your restaurant may very well be good, but there are lots of places that serve dreadful food over-plated with bad service at high prices.

If you know what goes into a dish, you become more attuned to these things, and all too often to the detriment of what you eat. You eat at a mediocre place, and you end up thinking, "I could do this better for a fraction of the price." But... you eat at a good place, and you think, "wow, I could do this, just maybe, but it'd be three days of hard labor, it wouldn't be this much fun, and I wouldn't be enjoying myself like this." The problem is that all too few places deliver that.

We're just saying, I think, that this is what one should strive for.
post #15 of 35
Thread Starter 
When I say I've been cooking a year, its not like I was working in a kitchen for a year. We are talking a few hours here and there, maybe 3-4 nights a week, 5 tops, an occasional lunch, and only for myself and my wife. I'm a fast study, but experience is just as important.

This is in part why so many local eateries are frustrating. In 'real' cooking terms I've most likely had only a months worth of experience for what I'd get working in a real kitchen.

I see very little excuse for poor quality cooking of basic dishes. A guy working out say outback should cook more steaks on a Saturday night than I do in a year. A few days of that should have them at least on par with a guy who cooks at home. Its not like I spend a ton on the meat or use some slow cook method.

Bah this thread is making me hungry, I think I'll annoy my wife and pick up a nice fish for lunch, she hates the smell of seafood cooking, and hates it in general. Things I should have considered more before I married her :lol:
post #16 of 35
Now, I haven't been really cooking very long, maybe 6 or 7 months. By really cooking I mean doing better than just opening a can or package and heating up the contents. Since I started putting the time and effort into it I find that if I eat out I prefer local dives and diners. The food just seems to taste better to me than the higher priced fancier places. I guess that's what happens when a redneck gets loose in the kitchen. ;)
post #17 of 35
This is exactly why I chose to cook our Valentine's Day dinner. We treated ourselves by purchasing prime ribeyes and had a nice quiet night at home. Great dinner and dessert! The down side is having to clean up the kitchen, which my husband did :)

Still, I'd rather have to cook AND clean than spend a lot of money for a meal I can prepare better myself.
post #18 of 35
I agree that it gets harder to find restaurant meals I feel are worth what they are charging me. It's true that restaurants have a much higher cost involved in the preparation of food than just the ingredients, which is the yardstick most of us home cooks use, but it always, in my mind, comes down to how much money left my pocket for the meal, and when it is significantly more than I would have spent making it myself, then I'd like it to be that much better than it would have been had I prepared it myself. Sadly, this is too often not the case.

I too had the problem of weight gain when I began to cook well. I really like to eat, and when the food's good I don't just appreciate it more, I eat more. And more.

A couple of years ago my wife and I both felt we had to do something about our weight. We weren't way overweight, maybe fifteen pounds or so, but we could see the direction things were going and thought we'd better do something about it. We joined Weight Watchers and it worked. The thing I did was change my focus from cooking really great food and the heck with the calories to making it a challenge to cook good food that was made from lower fat, lower calorie ingredients. I found that some of the Weight Watchers recipes were really very good. Some of them weren't too good either, and that has to be said. They have a lot of cookbooks, but I think their New Complete Cookbook is the best.

Anyway, I learned a different way of cooking during that time, and have stuck with it, for the most part. I still make extravagantly rich dishes at times, and love them, but most of my cooking efforts have changed to making things simply, with a lot of flavor, but with ingredients that don't go straight to my paunch. It's a challenge, and it's kind of fun.
If you can't put it on a plate, it probably isn't all that important.

If you can't put it on a plate, it probably isn't all that important.

post #19 of 35
Thread Starter 
Slake - Yea we are in the same boat. The wife is doing weightwatchers, and its working for her, mostly to get off the last of her baby weight and I've been toying with it.

I'm about 15 from ideal, so not fat, just again the trend has been slowly up the last few months.

We have found a lot of the weight watchers recipes surprising good. Their turkey sloppy joe is very nice as were a few others we tried.

Likewise I've been trying the 'big' flavor over portion size but that is more of a challenge. My wife and I refer to that as 'cooking french' as an inside joke. I want to focus my efforts in that direction.
post #20 of 35
lol, welcome to educated foodieism. This is an issue you will struggle with for the rest of your life. The best course is to keep your mouth shut when around people that don't know better...especially if you are currently IN an Outback Steakhouse and they are picking up the check. Otherwise you will find out that; A. most people want to enjoy going out and having someone else do the cooking. and B. you will spoiil it for them if you tell them anything about it.
went through this with my wife..she finally spoke up and said i had ruined all her old favorite restaurants. Some of these places where supposed to be "fancy" but i could place out of season veges, canned sauces, prepackaged soups and lackluster plating signifying "ripoff eatery". sigh. Bonus here was, I started shopping for places to eat. I almost never ate at the same place twice for over a year. now I have a short list of local restaurants that cook GOOD food at prices ranging from cheap to OMFG.

As far as weight goes..I am a proffesional cook....which means I too don't eat unless its my day off. I taste food all dam day, and yes a McD double Cheese on the way home is good. Mostly cause it doesn't smell like anything I make in my Kitchen so I can handle eating it.
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
post #21 of 35
The fun part is learning to cook, then going out and eating something wonderful, and thinking, "Now I can try to make that at home."

Sometimes I can, sometimes I can't, but it's fun trying, and I usually learn more along the way. :chef:
post #22 of 35
My only half-joking rule about eating out is that it should either cost under twenty dollars or over two hundred. Everything else leads to disappointment. Learning to cook better, I think, comes in a series inclines and plateaus. The initial learning curve is really engaging and fun. But eventually the self teaching model max's itself out. Bad habits become technique. That's the first plateau. Learning from others, and refining is the next slope. I'm at a point now where I cook like a demon on my few days off, playing with ideas I don't get to at the restaurant. Its less about eating than it is about research. Its actually hard for me to enjoy the eating part of a meal right now. I think its a side effect of the tasting food off on the line. My palate gets "bored" very easily, a few bites of most food leaves me satisfied. Aside from diner style breakfasts, the only real fun I have eating out now is tasting menus.

Another sad truth I've learned is that I can't provide restaurant grade food at home. I don't have a flame grill that shoots at 700 degrees, or an oven blasting at 500 all the time. I don't have the luxury of twenty saute pans than I can use and throw into a triple sink to be delt with latter. The war zone I would turn my kitchen into in order to have that level of timing, of every element on the plate coming out exactly right, at exactly the right time would require a clean-up that would deflate any pleasure from the meal. Mind you, I'm not talking about one pot meals, or bistro style fair. I mean recreating the sort of cuisine we do at work.

post #23 of 35
Last year I was playing around at home for ideas for new dinner menu items and on 3 or 4 occasions did a 5 or 6 course meal at home with a group of friends. I'd usually get started prepping right after lunch and it would be close to midnight by the time we'd actually be to the entree. And the mess in my little home kitchen was best described as "epic". It's so much different at work having my 8 burner range, flattops and 3 ovens and tons of counterspace and my dishmachine and prep area etc etc etc. And being able to pay people to clean up the mess!
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
post #24 of 35
Cooking and costs and the final selling price in a resto are not in anyway related to cooking at home. Period.

If you have not cooked professionally, a lot, you have no idea and only a lack of experience would allow someone to think they know when they obviously don't. We do find it amusing though:D

If Outback was/is on the list of "good resto" you have a long way to go.

The techniques of cooking are just one aspect of the resto work. Handling a kitchen is not like cooking at home and being happy you put a meal on the table for two to five people. I can teach anyone to do that.

Commercial cooking is being 20 tickets down on the line, seriously in the weeds while the cold food prep just quit and walked out the door, the saute' prep is out sick, the salamander is down for the night, the walkin is at 50 F and no one knows why, but it is coming up on its second hour like that, the grease trap backed up onto the kitchen floor and the dishwasher is still one neuron short of a complete synapse.

Under that you still put it out, put it out correctly, and put it out hot.

I can teach a monkey (and have based on some of the people I have had to train) to season and cook. Hanlding a brigade is different.

You will get to the point of satisfaction when you get more knowledge. You will walk into a place and know its niche, you will be able to judge its food based on the demographic is is trying to serve. You will know if they are doing fried chicken the way it should be done when it is being sold for $9.95 per basket. You will know if they are using the correct grade of beef and beef cut for the mongolian stew you just tried at $6.75 per bowl. You will understand if the $55 per plate you just spent was the correct grade of meat, correct balance on the plate, correct presentation, and you will look for what the chef did to make the dish his/hers in the background.

You will then grow to the point where you can actually find a bunch of smaller places where the chef does interesting things that you enjoy trying. You will have the experience to look around and watch and realize there are two plus a dish dog in the back covering 10 four tops and putting the food out in 12 to 16 minutes, you will understand the menu has 18 selections on it, and know what that means to the back of the house, you will know they are doing the job and rocking on that evening. You will know when they are off as well. You will understand that price of the place does not have much to do with what you will enjoy, only the quality verses the price. And mostly you will realize that making it at home for less is what everyone can do.... homes don't have a large walkin coolers running round the clock, or a 4 inch gas line coming into the place to feed hungry appliance that need to be up and running for the entire time the place is open....etc etc etc.....

'til then, you make a lot of us laugh!

Phase two can be posted if you can take it!
I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
post #25 of 35
throw in offsite catering Bbally.....now that's extreme
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #26 of 35
That is what I do!
I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
post #27 of 35
My thought on the weight gain, and it's been mentioned as a side thing already . . .
Why not turn your skills more in the direction of less fattening foods? For example, why not learn to make a black bean and rice burger that you can be really happy with? Not all the time, of course.

Another example--I'm not vegetarian, but I love Indian vegetarian food. I would hardly ever miss meat, cheese, etc. if I had that a lot, well prepared.
post #28 of 35
Thread Starter 
Exactly who are you addressing because it doesn't seem to be based on anything I posted.

I don't think anyone here was calling outback 'good' or claiming that being able to cook and run a kitchen were related skills.
post #29 of 35
Of course it was you I was addressing, you started the thread.

This is one of the annoying side effects, that going out is not fun now that you can cook better? That is the way I read it. As you get better at cooking and understand a lot more it will get fun again, as the food is really only a little part of running a successful resto. If you continue learning you will get to the point where you appreciate all the different venues.

This is the statement I was commenting on when it came to cooking better and cheaper than a resto. Eventually the game may become, are they doing the low end the best it can be done? Are the doing the mid range correctly? etc etc.

This would seem to indicate that prior to the cooking knowledge you have obtained this was not the case, but now with the knowledge you have gained it now seems like a ripoff and poorly prepared.

And this leads me to believe you are still on the quest for more knowledge in the culinary arts. You can learn to cook like this as well with more experience even on a limited budget as you move forward with the learning.

It is very amusing to watch people go through these stages as they get knowledge in the culinary arts. It makes chefs laugh at the end of the day.:D

There is a good bit of Chef snobbery too ... its ok as well.
I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
post #30 of 35
We don't need this sort of point by point rebuttal type bantering here. It's one thing to explain the workings of a professional kitchen, it's another to belittle those who genuinely want to know. A little more guidance and a little less "chef snobbery," as you put it bbally, please.

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