“Anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great.” Auguste Gusteau (Ratatouille)
That’s the whole premise of the animated movie – in essence, you can cook! But not everyone can run and manage a restaurant. It takes more than a culinary degree to operate a profitable business daily – from updating the interactive food menu to guarding against employee theft.
That does not mean that you cannot pick up a few tricks that professional cooks and chefs for your home cooking.
Everything in its rightful place
If you happen to catch a glimpse of a high-level restaurant kitchen, you can’t help but admire how the cooks and chefs seemed to thrive amidst the chaos, especially during peak hours.
One reason behind that is the mise en place. Essentially, a mise en place is a chef’s basic setup, from the most-used ingredients and spices down to his trusty tools. This allows him to grab everything within arm’s reach without needing to scramble all over the kitchen or pantry.
At home, you can also have your personal setup by organizing your kitchen workspace. Make sure that your most-frequently-used ingredients are readily available, allowing you to breeze past through any recipe.
Keep your knives sharp
Quite simply, a sharp knife is an efficient knife. If you take the time to sharpen your knife sharp, you’ll be able to breeze through prep time, and easily handle just about any ingredient, from veggies to meat.
Invest in the essentials
When you are just starting, it can be tempting to splurge on various kitchen tools and implements apart from your knife.
However, you should stick with the basics first, with a keen sight on the things that will provide you with the most value. These include whisks, tongs, mixing bowls, and sheet pans. As for your pantry, make sure you stock up on essentials that you can use for a diverse array of dishes. These include eggs, quality bacon, pasta, and flour.
Measure twice, cut once
Professionals need to churn out dishes within a limited time, often with significant consideration of the patience of the diners. That leaves them with little room for error.
At home, make it a habit to plan your cook time. This makes things more efficient and prevents untimely trips to the local store for ingredients that you forgot to buy.
Another good way to become more efficient in the kitchen is to start cooking dishes that take the longest to cook and prepare.
Keep a clean kitchen
Don’t wait until you are done cooking before clearing the clutter and washing the cookware that you’ve used. You’ll only face a formidable challenge that way.
Follow the principle of clean as you go. Keep a piece of cloth handy to clear up spills and other messes. Wash cutting boards once you are done using them and in between cutting different ingredients. Once you are done, you’ll be left with little to clean up.
Down to the last drop
Food waste is a critical area of improvement in many restaurants from around the world. Many establishments are trying to combat this problem by getting more mileage out of each ingredient used in the kitchen.
At home, instead of ditching what you may think of as scraps, consider turning these into ingredients for other dishes. For example, bones can be used for making stock while stems, leaves, and vegetable tops can be used for making sauces.
Taste and adjust
Professionals don’t wait until they’re nearly done cooking to taste their dishes. Instead, they taste the food along the different stages of cooking. This allows them to make the necessary adjustments before calling in the servers to give these to the guests. Do the same at home.
As for ingredients, you might have a few that you dislike. Don’t write them off until you try prepping and cooking them differently. You might be surprised by what you might be missing.
Widen your seasoning palette
Go beyond salt and pepper when you are seasoning food. You’ll soon be amazed at the different spectrum of flavors that you can access by trying different seasonings, from herbs to pickled veggies.
Just make sure that you buy only the freshest spices from reputable sellers. As a rule of thumb, buy only as much as you will readily use, especially when it comes to dry spices. These ingredients tend to go stale or lose their flavor eventually.
Let proteins reach room temp before cooking
The pros do not cook meats and fish when these are still cold. Instead, they allow these ingredients to reach room temperature before prepping and cooking these.
When proteins are at room temperature, you’ll be able to cook them faster.
Learn to dance in your kitchen
Cooking at a high level requires poise. Quite simply, you can’t thrive in a professional setting based on skill alone. You have to have grit and smarts. Follow these tips, and you can perform like a pro in your kitchen, whether you are cooking for your family or preparing a small banquet for friends and loved ones for a special occasion.
Ahmad Alzaini is the co-founder and CEO of Foodics, a fast-growing foodtech startup. A businessman by nature, Alzaini is an app aficionado, developing businesses in Saudi Arabia within several industries. Today, Foodics has extended to new markets across the MENA region, processing over 1 billion transactions, and offering the latest technology in POS and restaurant management.