GUEST COLUMN | Lessons learned in culinary school

In the two years I spent in Lake Washington Technical College’s Culinary Arts program, I learned things like how to brown meat, how to tourné a potato, and how to make a plate look beautiful. That is not what I want to share with you, though, readers. In the time I spent studying cooking, I picked up a few more valuable lessons than the ones I just described, lessons that I think anyone who loves to cook should know.

Recipes are guidelines, not gospel. A good recipe will describe the best way to make a particular dish, but not even a good recipe should be treated as a list of unbendable rules. Follow the recipe, but use your creativity and follow your instincts as well. If you think a dash of paprika would improve your sauce, throw it in there. A good recipe will teach you to cook to the point where you are creating your own recipes.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Mistakes, even disasters, happen during the cooking process, so don’t let them get to you. When you forget to add the mushrooms that you were so excited about trying to your soup, or when you realize that you seasoned your casserole with sugar instead of salt, just remember, it happens to everyone who is brave enough to cook. Most mistakes can be fixed, and as for those that are irreversible, just keep in mind, it’s only food! You’ll get the chance to redeem yourself when you cook dinner again tomorrow night.

Don’t let on that you made a mistake. When mistakes do happen, keep in mind, only you, the cook, knows that your original intention was to serve that food any other way. So when your diners are happily chowing down and complimenting your culinary prowess, don’t jump to inform them that you meant to do things differently. Why would they need to know that?

Accept compliments. The whole modesty thing is totally overrated. When people compliment your cooking, even rave about it, smile and thank them. They want to tell you how great they think your food is. Don’t try to downplay your skills — if someone tells you the food you made is delicious, it probably is. Enjoy the compliment — you deserve it.

No matter what the results are, be proud that you tried. Fewer people are bothering to cook anymore and if you ask me, it’s a shame. Cooking brings you closer to your food, helps you to respect it more, and to respect where it came from. Sharing the food you made with your family brings you closer to them as well. Is cooking easy? Sometimes it is, but not always, so be proud of yourself for trying and know that time spent cooking is always time well spent.

Kirkland resident Jessica Desormeaux recently completed a culinary program at Lake Washington Technical College.

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