Do chefs use recipes? I am willing to bet the answer to that question is “no” or “rarely”. This isn’t because recipes are bad or because they aren’t useful. They are and they have their place for sure. Recipes are a great way to pass on a dish and methods to someone else so that they can replicate something of yours. They are like a recorded history passed from person to person. They also ensure consistency which is key in the world of cooking? So if recipes are good for all these things, why aren’t they used by Chefs? The reason can be generally summed up that Chefs have an intuitive sense of cooking and more importantly method. Method and experience combined with creativity allow a chef to free themselves from recipes and cook.
I’ve been watching a lot of Chef Todd Mohr’s videos on YouTube about cooking method. He is keenly focused on the method so that one does not have to worry about recipes and can cook freely. I’ve enjoyed the many videos I have seen so far along with his quirky and enthusiastic explanations of key cooking methods with the aim of demystifying what humans have been doing since the dawn of time. His lessons are many and cover the broad range of topics on cooking and made me think even more about the learning process I am going through.
I recently purchased Michael Ruhlman’s latest book Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking which focuses on a key tool in the chef’s arsenal, the ratios of cooking. The premise is that by knowing key ratios instead of recipes you open up yourself to countless possibilities instead of a finite few. I plan to work my way through the book which will allow me to take the next step in what Chef Mohr advocates with learning method while also proving a great opportunity to use my new KitchenAid mixer, a definite bonus. I hope to gain a deeper understanding of culinary fundamentals that will help me become more comfortable and creative in the kitchen.
I still plan on following recipes as they will allow me to reproduce the dishes they outline. A key benefit of this is that after the dish is created I can use the methods I have learned to provide my own interpretation of the dish and make it my own if I choose. I’ll also be able to better understand the whys of problems I encounter when a dish doesn’t turn out as expected.
Taking blog readers along for the ride seems to be the popular trend these days with blogs like Alinea at Home, 101 Cookbooks and The Julie/Julia Project which has become a published book will make a debut as a major film in August. Following suit, I plan to take you all through Ratio in a blogging series I plan on calling Cooking Through Ratio. Who knows, maybe you’ll see my story in the theaters in a few years. Wish me luck and Bon Appétit!