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How did your story begin?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

At an early age I was cooking in the kitchen with my dad. He gave me the smallest task of melting butter or giving something a quick stir. As I grew I got more and more involved. I quickly learned cooking was my escape from the world and my problems. That's when I felt culinary was my field. How did your cooking path begin? 

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”- Julia Child 
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“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”- Julia Child 
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post #2 of 25

I moved into an apartment with a real kitchen and got really homesick for my Mom's foods.  So I would call her and ask her "how do you make _____" then run out and buy the ingredients and try making it myself.  Eventually I got really good at it and now she calls me to ask for tips and recipes.  

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #3 of 25

I started off by making apple pie with my mam, inclusive of the peeling of the apples.

I must have been 5 or 6 or so and the best part obviously was the tasting :)

 

I also helped my dad with the "normal" cooking and I very quickly found out that if you helped with the cooking you didn't need to do the dishes. A huge incentive!

 

At varsity I did most of the cooking, so at least I knew the food would be edible.

Life is too short to drink bad wine
---Anonymus---

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Life is too short to drink bad wine
---Anonymus---

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post #4 of 25

I used to help my grandma she was Quebecios and my mother was from the UP in Michigan.  I cooked in the Boy Scouts when we camped and later worked in the industry for 5-6 yrs doing carry out BBQ, pizza, etc.  In the 60's Graham Kerr had a cooking show and I was fascinated and later Julia and Jacques as well as Justin Wilson and that experience really made me want to up my game.  I believe I have. 

post #5 of 25

I love how almost all stories start with childhood experiences. Can't make my favorite salad dressing without tearing up and thinking of my Gram. The kitchen is a magical place. I still don't understand why people fuss with decorating the rest of the house. Everyone lives in the kitchen! 

post #6 of 25
I guess I'm the only one whos family didn't teach how to cook. We always watched food network shows together and my mom and brother could really cook well, but they never really wanted to teach me shit. I think it's becoming an unspoken tradition with us though, as my grandparents never taught my mom, my mom didnt teach my brother, etc. They just kind of found their own way.

My exgf's mom actually started me off with some retard-proof recipes(since I was the only one who actually liked cooking). From there I just did it at home and then after I broke up with that chick I ended up pursuing the culinary arts as a career, since it's the only thing I can really see myself doing now.

I still suck at cooking though, both at home and work/school...gonna be a long road yet.
post #7 of 25

Remember what Jiro said - "in order to make delicious food you must eat delicious food"  There's more to the quote, but you get the picture.  It's a process with a learning curve, but not so steep as to be impossible to learn.  Believe me had Youtube existed back then it would have been a whole lot easier. 

post #8 of 25


I lived in a bad neighborhood in NY City(hells kitchen) The local church had a summer camp so mom sent me there to keep me off streets. When I got to old to go as a camper, they put me in as a bakers helper. That started it all That was 1955 doing it since then. I was lucky I learned from the good old timers from Europe that did all from scratch  not celebrity chefs.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #9 of 25

My mum hated deep frying, and I always wanted to eat french fries, which she only made once in my life. She said: If you really want french fries, grow some potatoes, and I'll make you french fries. So I grew potatoes in our backyard, and a few months later she had to make french fries. That's when I realized that if I really wanted to eat specific things I'd have to start cooking. I started with baking, because I was a kid and I always wanted to eat cakes. I became fairly good at baking and even briefly considered pastry chef as a profession... until I was told I'd have to get up early and do long hours. 

post #10 of 25

My Mom cooked every night and let me help. But I think what really inspired me to cook on my own and experiment were books I read. I think I was about 10. I made walnut fritters like the boy in My Side of the Mountain. I toasted cheese on a stick like Heidi and tried to replicate the milk her grandfather gave her that was flavored with the herbs the goats ate. Of course I had no idea what herbs they ate so I used the spices in the cupboard. 

 

I also used to pick mulberries and made pies from them. I wanted to make pie out of red haws but they are so small. I picked dandelion greens. I guess I was always interested in foraging. Some of my earliest memories are picking and eating chive blossoms, the lemon flavored wood sorrel. Eating wild grapes by pinching so the flesh pops in your mouth and the skin stays in your fingers.

post #11 of 25

I spent a day in the woods picking wintergreen berries once and my grandma made a small pie from them.  It was minty . . . and delicious and I can still taste it in my mind all these decades later. 

post #12 of 25

When I was 11, my father was on strike with United. To make things work for a family of 4, he took a job at a service station and then worked out a deal with the station owner knowing he could make the owner more money doing major service and fleet maintenance in the evening shift if he didn't have to work the pumps. Cue to me to work the pumps. He kept the job and I stayed as well for the next 5 years so when I was 16, I said to myself; what could I do in life that would be more destructive to my health, paid less money, garnered less respect and made me as dis-functional a person as could be....well.....I stepped right into the restaurant business of course. I did try to go into graphic arts through a H.S. trade school program but the dang industry went computer my senior year and I was screwed. I spent 4 years learning everything about a field, and....... expecting to land a good job right out of High School.....I found myself pushing a broom trying to relearn everything about a field. That was when I fell back on the industry.  Funny thing was, I said when I was 14 years old I was going to be a Chef.....and look what happened.

 

Actually, the joking truth aside......the bare-bone truth is I wanted to try and bridge a gap between my father and I. It was a typical "butting of the heads" between the first born and Father and the change in chosen field didn't help. Anyhow, I really thought it would be something we could come together on since I didn't chose the family business......no....not that family business....aircraft Airframe and Power plant.The big prize was to get my folks to start a new family business since they always talked about opening a little Italian place but that never happened.

 

On top of that, my father had a good start in the industry himself. He attended Antoinette Pope School of French Cookery in Chicago around the time I was born so, attending culinary school, I figured it would give us something more in common. I also remember during a strike a couple years earlier that the time above...probably around 1967, he was the night chef and manager for the Little Corporal Restaurant located at One East Wacker Drive, caddy-corner to the United of America Building in downtown Chicago . Then, about the same time, he had to make a choice between the restaurant bizz or UAL........UAL won. Better choice as far as I'm concerned.


Edited by oldschool1982 - 9/17/14 at 7:03am
post #13 of 25

I really have no idea what it was that got me into cooking. I've related before the story of my dad and his friend going mushroom hunting one Saturday, and me walking into the kitchen as my mother was cooking them in butter. No, I was NOT delighted, I said something about the horrid smell. Amazing how much I love mushrooms now.

 

And there was my grandmother, Anna Lutz, who ran Lutz's Country House just a bit north of Dowagiac, Michigan. Uncle Bob's Lutz's Drive Inn is still a going concern as far as I know.

 

But I really can't refer to one precise memory of why it is that I do what I do. It just sort of happened along the way.

 

mjb.

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #14 of 25

I am from a family of six kids. My Mom cooked for eight (or more) every night. I watched her work(and she did) and wanted to help so she didn't have to do it alone. While my brothers and sisters were out playing, I was starting to learn how to make the best mother sauces, Chicken Parmigiana, Stuffed Eggplant, Salisbury Steak, Pasta Fagioli, I have ever known. "Never do anything you cannot do right." was what I always remember my mother telling me. My passion started from the love for my mother, and is now grown to a passion for what she had taught me. Food is one thing we all have in common, and it will always be the glue of my culture.;)

post #15 of 25

I was 19 or 20 in 1979 or so and had been vegetarian for awhile and eating pretty bland food (anyone remember Diet for a Small Planet? Yuck.) I also had to have my tonsils out. On the way to the hospital I picked up a copy of Anna Thomas's Vegetarian Epicure cookbook. It is very painful to have your tonsils out as an adult and for 2 weeks I could eat nothing but crushed ice and pureed foods but I read my way through every word of that cookbook and fantasized over the descriptions of food.  I still have that cookbook--which is quite joyful and not at all bland-- and there are still things I make out of it. It was the beginning of my love affair with the promise of a new cookbook--painfully choking down just enough pureed peas to keep from starving and dreaming of something delicious to eat.

post #16 of 25
I quit my first job as a corner store clerk (I was 20 and still lived at home) and was broke for two months before a friend of mine got me a job ss a prep cook where he was working... I was gonna get laid off after christmas, but everyone else that worked weekends quit! Lucky me got to stay. After s year i got a job at a breakfast place and went to culinary school during the week. Something about the nature of the work appealed to me... food came later
post #17 of 25

My grandmother was known for her cooking, both quality and quantity. It was old-fashioned Eastern European Jewish cooking mostly, but she picked up some recipes from the ladies in the little Iowa farm town where she lived as a young bride and mother. My mom learned from her mom but had more sophisticated tastes. She read the New York Times Sunday paper (it arrived in our Illinois home promptly each Tuesday) and eagerly looked for Craig Claiborne's latest recipe in the magazine. We were eating Chinese, Greek, Italian and other "ethnic" food in the early 50s when everyone else was eating Velveeta mac and cheese or casseroles made with soup. (Not to disrespect those, but we never ate "typical" American meals.) My mom and I didn't have a good relationship except in the kitchen. Until the day she died so long as our conversations stuck to cooking (and politics), we got along great. I put my first family dinner on the table by the time I was 10.

 

In college I had a summer job in a little diner cooking lunch. It was great and I enjoyed it, learned a lot. I also waited tables. Learned a lot doing that too!

 

Now I cook scratch meals most weekdays for myself and my husband. I've learned more about baking, mostly because of people who've coached me here at Chef Talk. I even had a brief gig baking rugelach for a deli here in town, but mostly I cook and back for my family and my own enjoyment. I'm trying to get more comfortable with yeast doughs.

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post #18 of 25
My Grannies, on both sides of the family were amazing cooks, particularly baking. I started by watching them.... Then 'helping' them. We made shortbread, scones, soups, stews, breads, etc.
My Mum was also an amazing cook! We also have a family recept book that starts in 1816, which I still use all the time.
post #19 of 25

My mother died when I was about 8 (brother 5 and sister 2).  Dad's mother, Nana, stepped in and pretty much ran the ship until we were old enough to be left "home alone" while Dad worked shift work at an oil refinery.  She was a great cook... tho had a bit of a rep for occasionally burning something & then laughing about it.  Nothing "fancy"... basic stuff.  We 3 kids had ALL the basics of cooking down pat before even close to moving out on our own.  Coulda made Thanksgiving turkey, with all the sides, at maybe 12.  Knew what to do with a chicken... whole or pieces.  Could make meatballs, meatloaf or stuffed peppers from package of ground beef.  Could make veggie/beef, split pea or navy bean soup (with ham bone, of course).  Knew how to make grape jelly... after battling yellow jackets picking the Concord grapes from her back yard.  Knew how to make crab cakes and KNEW ya shallow fried in bacon grease... also knew ya NEVER thru bacon grease away!

 

When I went away to college, didn't have need or opportunity to cook first 2 years.  Jr. year moved into a BIG old house, converted to sort of a dorm, with 15 other girls.  THAT'S when I learned I was about the ONLY one in the house remotely comfortable cooking?!?  How does someone get to be 20 yo and NOT know cooking basics??  Came back after a weekend at home with 2 lbs of short ribs, a big onion, a big bell pepper and a big can of tomato something... sauce, puree, whole, can't remember.  Didn't have much in the way of cookware but did have a stove/oven.  Roommate and I ate WELL and I "stunk up" the place REALLY nicely while they cooked.

 

I don't do a lot of measuring when I cook.  Experience and knowledge I got from Nana set me on path of just knowing what would (probably) work well together.  Say a recipe had tomatoes, onions, peppers in it... something slow cooking maybe... mushrooms would HAVE to be good.  Niece didn't get any of that from her mother... rough growing up.  When she got married, she got EVERYTHING for a great kitchen by way of gifts... NICE cookware & knives, KA stand mixer, food processor, etc. When she was expecting first child was kinda "whining" about how she wished she could be a "stay at home mom", but couldn't afford not to work??  I kidded with her that she wasn't very good at math.  Her low paying job at a day care paid significantly LESS than what child care was gonna cost... it was gonna COST her to work?!?  Told her she hadda toss the drawer full of take-out menus and get in that kitchen and "rattle them pots and pans"... that scared her to DEATH!?!  I would bombard her with EASY recipes that were pretty much fool-proof.  I think when I showed her that ALL she needed to do with a whole chicken or parts was season well and BAKE till done, she got motivated.

post #20 of 25

I did occasionally help in the kitchen as a kid, but that didn't really stick. I learned to cook when I moved out for university and realized rather soon that living off frozen pizza was not a way of life. Incinerated quite a lot of stuff in the beginning. Now I am rather teaching my mom - she does kick-ass bavarian classics, but apart from that, home cooking was never that adventurous with my parents. They do love my smoked, cured and fermented stuff I bring home when I visit them, now :)

post #21 of 25

I was fresh out of the Marine Corps, was looking for an easy school to make my GI Bill money, figured I'd go to culinary school, slept through most classes, did the bare minimum, and got paid. 

Then I saw a student (who happened to already be an executive chef at a sushi restaurant) who's plating was amazing and made delicious food. I asked him where he learned how to do that, since culinary school clearly didn't teach that. He asked me to come by his restaurant and work for him for free a few days, I fell in love with sushi, he hired me full time, I prepped most of the time, but eventually he showed me how to break down the fish, do rolls, and since then I dedicated my life to Japanese Cuisine, learning sushi and kaiseki, cooking techniques, presentation, vegetable carving, I've been making it for a bout a year and a half now, working full time at night, and taking up apprenticeships at Japanese restaurants in the mornings. It's nice to get away from making bad Americanized rolls and deep fried gyoza  and learn the traditional art and techniques.

post #22 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefTorres87 View Post
 

I was fresh out of the Marine Corps, was looking for an easy school to make my GI Bill money, figured I'd go to culinary school, slept through most classes, did the bare minimum, and got paid. 

Then I saw a student (who happened to already be an executive chef at a sushi restaurant) who's plating was amazing and made delicious food. I asked him where he learned how to do that, since culinary school clearly didn't teach that. He asked me to come by his restaurant and work for him for free a few days, I fell in love with sushi, he hired me full time, I prepped most of the time, but eventually he showed me how to break down the fish, do rolls, and since then I dedicated my life to Japanese Cuisine, learning sushi and kaiseki, cooking techniques, presentation, vegetable carving, I've been making it for a bout a year and a half now, working full time at night, and taking up apprenticeships at Japanese restaurants in the mornings. It's nice to get away from making bad Americanized rolls and deep fried gyoza  and learn the traditional art and techniques.

By all means, share some of your Kaiseki dishes.... Most beautiful cuisine of all!

post #23 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by GeneMachine View Post
 

By all means, share some of your Kaiseki dishes.... Most beautiful cuisine of all!

Probably the dish I enjoyed making the most was a leafless tree for a base, we put in a potato string nest at the top, with poached quail egg wrapped in gold, then thinly sliced tempura fried vegetables acted as golden autumn leaves with bits of green and orange showing through (carrots, zucchini), inside we had small tray for Salmon Nigiri with mustard leaf. I wish I had a picture, it was beautiful.

I do have a picture of one, we were pretty busy with making the next dish, so little time to snap photos, but we had a chawanmushi served in hollowed out sea urchin shell, sitting on a bed of sea salt and seaweed with seared sugar coated uni inside. Was pretty delicious: https://scontent-b-lax.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpf1/v/t1.0-9/1898048_1513141758912162_1728992017_n.jpg?oh=55c3a9e005af19d323715593c27e029a&oe=549918FD

post #24 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefTorres87 View Post
 

Probably the dish I enjoyed making the most was a leafless tree for a base, we put in a potato string nest at the top, with poached quail egg wrapped in gold, then thinly sliced tempura fried vegetables acted as golden autumn leaves with bits of green and orange showing through (carrots, zucchini), inside we had small tray for Salmon Nigiri with mustard leaf. I wish I had a picture, it was beautiful.

I do have a picture of one, we were pretty busy with making the next dish, so little time to snap photos, but we had a chawanmushi served in hollowed out sea urchin shell, sitting on a bed of sea salt and seaweed with seared sugar coated uni inside. Was pretty delicious: https://scontent-b-lax.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpf1/v/t1.0-9/1898048_1513141758912162_1728992017_n.jpg?oh=55c3a9e005af19d323715593c27e029a&oe=549918FD

Found the other one: https://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xpa1/v/t1.0-9/10632798_1627227110836959_3992439333292405298_n.jpg?oh=0bf92f18f456bb96e40eb8e5fe19d68a&oe=549EA8F8&__gda__=1419358610_7900e6390c63466ab21ba575686b9665

post #25 of 25

Nice! Going to spend 3 or 4 weeks in Japan next year. Can't wait, really.

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