I want to cook like the kids on "Man vs. Child"

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Joined Oct 29, 2012
I just got done watching this show on fyi and got a little jealous. I am 17 and have been cooking since around 4 but my family has always been a little iffy when it come to money and I haven't been able to hone my skills in a lot of the fancy cooking that you see on Iron Chef and what not. Also, my knife skill are atrocious because I haven't found anything to help me learn them. Does anyone here have any sources to help me become more of a five star chef rather than just a cafe chef, whether they be books, online videos, tv shows, or anything else? 
 
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This suggestion is not a source but a well hnown method: get a job in the industry. Start at the bottom if you must. Even working in a fast food environment will teach a willing student valuable life skills. At home - practice, practice, practice. If you have a mom or grandma who cooks - pay attention and learn the family recipes. If not, get a job in the industry and pay attention at all times. Don't let any kitchen task be "beneath your dignity".
 
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P. S. I haven't seen that show yet. Saved it on DVR but haven't had time to watch. Is it any good?
 
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Another good method to improve skills: eat out a lot, especially at the better restaurants that serve the cuisine you want to master. Eat everything you can whenever you can. This tends to be an expensive education but with the right dining partner it can be quite enjoyable as well as educational.

Then imitate!
 
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But in terms of sources: subscribe to Fine Cooking magazine. It has a breadth of information and recipes ranging from basic to advanced gourmet. Also has occasional articles that teach options and flavor layering/matching.
 
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Skills are definitely an asset in the kitchen. I personally think that timing is just as important. I would make an effort to achieve good timing.

  Maybe take a trip and grab an upfront stool at your busy local Diner, Waffle House, or somewhere you can observe someone prepare food.

Don't evaluate the food just watch the timing of the cook. A good Diner cook will usually preform what seems like some sort of ritual dance. 

He or she will always know their next move. No wasted movement.

Whenever things get scattered with me, I will do just that. It grounds me.
 
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Skills are not directly related to the price of ingredients used. Skills can be honed with humble inexpensive ingredients. Skills are the foundation upon which quality cooking is built, whether it is simple or fancy.

poaching: eggs

braising: pork butt

emulsifications: warm/ hollandaise    cold/ mayonnaise

stock: chicken

etc,

The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer is a book that is easily found because it is so widely published. A used bookstore is pretty much guaranteed to have at least one copy. It is a great foundation book with a wealth of information and recipes (while not cutting edge) that will help you to hone your skills.
 
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There are tons of knife skills videos on the internet.

You don't need money to go to the library to check out cookbooks and books on technique. 

Joy of Cooking, as mentioned, is a great book for learning basics. James Peterson's books on technique are great. So are Anne Willan's La Varenne Practique and Madeleine Kamman's The New Making of a Cook. All of them are timeless. Peterson and Willan are chock full of photos that will show you how things look. 

Going to high end restaurants might be out of reach but if there are small, inexpensive ethnic restaurants near you, check them out to learn about different flavor profiles. Ethnic cookbooks will help you learn how those flavors come together. As an added bonus many if not most iconic ethnic dishes are what might be considered peasant food, made from inexpensive ingredients.
 
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Google up Chef Jacob Burton. He has many interesting YouTube videos with everything from basic to advanced skills.
 
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