How I Think About Cooking Food

One summer in elementary school I stumbled on the 80s/90s classic show, Great Chefs, Great Cities. I can still hear the theme song in my head!

The show captured my attention. The food looked delicious, the chefs made it look effortless, and everyone always seemed to enjoy the process and the final product.

At some point in the summer, I decided to start making the things I saw on the show. I believe that was the whole point. Did everything come together like it did on the show?

Of course not!

But I learned a few things that summer that have stuck with me…

Ingredients are the Main Thing

Before there were “Pinterest fails“, there were just plain fails. It’s hard to get the recipes, dishes, baked goods, and everything else just right on the first go. Even for professionals. How much more so for an elementary school amateur?!

However, most of the time, the food still tasted delicious. It might not have turned out exactly right, or been the prettiest representation of the chef’s creation, but it was still tasty!

That taught me a valuable lesson, especially when serving guests or your family:

If the ingredients are good, the food will most likely taste good too.

I remember totally failing making a dessert with apples wrapped in croissant roles. We didn’t have all of the ingredients in the house, so I made due. Think about it though: apple slices wrapped in croissant roles ain’t half bad!

Spices and Herbs Should Enhance, Not Cover (or Kill)

I’ve never understood people who put lemon on their fish or A1 on their steak 😮. Maybe it’s habit? However, I think that’s not typical these days.

Let the food be itself. There’s so much flavor in food, and combining those flavors in the right way is an art and a science; both of which are filled with trial and error.

However, there’s plenty of good cheat sheets out there for getting the flavor you’re going for. This chartย from a Nerd Fitness article is perfect and simplified flavor profiles for me when I saw it. I immediately went on a Greek-flavored rampage! Who knew lemon juice was so dang good!? (And after I just downplayed it on fish! 😏)

Good ingredients need very little seasoning or covering. When you do add spices or herbs, don’t overdo it, and just add what you need, unless you’re making a witch’s brew.

The Sum is Greater with Complimentary Flavors

This gets into the arena of food and flavor theory (is there such a thing?). The idea is that you’re going to enjoy one thing more if it is paired with something complimentary.

Food and wine/beer pairings are huge. Why? Because someone has taken the time to experiment and figure out certain flavors that are enhanced by others, and vice versa.

Complimentary flavors make the sum of the whole eating experience greater than the different parts.

Some of my favorite flavor combinations are:

  • curry and chipotle
  • sea salt, brown sugar and salmon
  • cumin and eggs
  • curry, tomato and cream (sauce, Brazilian stroganoff)
  • bacon and almonds
  • parmesan cheese slices and honey

There’s plenty more, but you can give these a shot.


Bon appetite!