It seems like a very simple distinction but it is a vital one in my opinion. Chefs, admittedly my definition, are those individuals that go to culinary school and rigorously follow a recipe for the most basic things. Cooks are those that learned from a loved one or are self-taught and that know that the best tasting food isn’t necessarily going to grace the cover of Bon Appetit anytime soon.
I’m a cook and I’m bloody proud of that fact. I’m not afraid to open the pantry and the freezer and experiment with foods and spices. Sometimes those experiments are horrible and the dogs thank me, but most of the time the experiments are successful and tasty. I admit when I glance at recipes it is more for inspiration than directions. I don’t follow recipes. The picture is one such lovely experiment that resulted in the best pot roast we’ve ever had. I will share the recipe this week, I’ve been meaning to but I’ve been caught up in finishing writing my novel.
Chefs follow recipes and try to make food as intimidating and scary a possible. All of those cooking shows are trying to sell cookware or cookbooks more than they are about getting people to try and cook for themselves. They make it sound like making a loaf of bread or a batch of cookie dough is clinical science. Sure, there’s science behind cooking but there were excellent cooks and amazing food long before it was reduced to cold, clinical measure that and measure this science.
Be bold, be adventurous. Stop using so much salt that the “professionals” use in their recipes and experiment with other spices and ingredients instead. Get the basics down and know what flavors and spices taste good to you and yours. Once you know the basic recipe, then you will be free to experiment in changing up the basics. Experimentation leads to the tasty goodness that is hiding in your cabinet waiting to bust out.