The Art of Improvisation in the Home Kitchen: My Cooking Philosophy
“Cooking should be improv” – David Chang
David Chang's wise words resonated with me deeply. Home cooking should indeed be improv, not scripted theater. Following recipes blindly won't teach me to cook any more than relying solely on Google Maps would improve my sense of direction.
Moreover, I'll always be missing an ingredient, forgetting something, or making a mistake. Or, I might simply crave something different than what I initially planned. If I know how to create my own dishes, I'll always be able to bounce back and whip up fantastic meals for my family.
That's why there's no recipe tonight! Instead, I'll find joy in my half-empty fridge and well-stocked pantry, creatively preparing a dish while enjoying quality time with my family.
Here are the five key principles that guide my cooking journey:
Cook for My Lifestyle: Understanding How I Want to Feel in the Kitchen
As a laid-back home chef, I often prefer simple one-pot meals that minimize cleanup. With two small kids, I'm always on the lookout for hands-off meals packed with hacks to maximize flavor. I want to feel relaxed and efficient in the kitchen while creating delicious dishes that everyone will enjoy.
Homemade Comfort: Discovering My Personal Food Identity
Everyone has their own unique tastes, preferences, and memories when it comes to food. I take time to explore what I genuinely enjoy eating and what brings me comfort. I reflect on the flavors and textures that have influenced me throughout my life, from childhood favorites to more recent culinary discoveries. I create a list of dishes that I truly love and use it as a starting point for my cooking journey.
Master the Basics: Building a Strong Culinary Foundation
To improvise in the kitchen, it's essential to learn the basic techniques that form the backbone of any great dish. Some skills that I focus on include:
- Learning how to season (the most important skill for any chef)
- Mastering the art of caramelization
- Creating velvety sauces and emulsions
- Learning to properly chop, slice, and dice vegetables and herbs
By mastering these fundamental skills, I'll be better equipped to experiment and adapt recipes to my personal preferences.
Well-Stocked Pantry: Freedom to Improvise
Based on my personal food identity, I always have staples on hand to personalize any recipe. A well-stocked pantry gives me the freedom to improvise, adapt, and create dishes that suit my taste buds and those of my family. This flexibility enables me to tackle any culinary challenge that comes my way, even when the fridge is looking a little bare.
Embrace the Mess: Continuing to Learn
To grow as a home chef, I embrace the mess and continue learning. I experiment, try new things, and take on new challenges. For instance, I'm currently developing my skills in using spices and cooking meat. I understand that mistakes are part of the process, and each one offers a valuable learning opportunity.
In conclusion, my cooking philosophy revolves around improvisation, personalization, and continual growth. By embracing these principles, I'm able to create delicious, satisfying meals for my family while enjoying my time in the kitchen. Cooking should be a joyful, creative experience, and with the right mindset, anyone can become an accomplished home chef. So, go ahead, throw away that recipe, and embrace the art of culinary improvisation!