Good Eats with Alton Brown was certainly a big influence, as well as Iron Chef America, and I can't leave out James Peterson's book Cooking, but what really did it was simply having my own place and my own kitchen My mother wasn't very fond of cooking, so we often ate out as I was growing up. About a year or so before I moved out of their house, I was itching to get better in the kitchen, but was difficult to go about doing that in that house. Now that I've moved, living with my wife, I've got my own kitchen space to spread out and experiment, and I've been loving every moment of it.
At first, I focused more on Italian dishes and tried perfecting my own alfredo sauce. I got the alfredo down, now I'm splitting my time between Asian and French culinary traditions. If I had a favorite ingredient right now, it would be hoisin sauce.
A very interesting road, Stephen. I only recently acquired the same Peterson book and find it very useful for basic technique. I'm sure I have a few years on you (!) so I've been cooking for several decades. Still, there's always more to learn. I've learned so, so much from Chef Talk members! While I was an okay home cook, I"m now much more knowledgeable and feel confident to try new things. I hope you gain the same from this community.