The Lessons of Cooking School
Learning the first principles of cooking at culinary school
I’ve taken the last two weeks off from all things Uncharted to attend a 2-week bootcamp at a culinary school in Vancouver, B.C. on plant-based cooking. I approached with two goals: 1) learn the first principles that underpin all cooking, and 2) develop more culinary creativity by operating within the dietary constraints of plant-based cooking where butter, cream, cheese, and meat are all unavailable, leading to inventive recipes and surprising substitutions.
This course ended up being one of the best things I have ever done (and I believe one of the highest ROI things I will ever do...it will fundamentally change every meal I make for the rest of my life). The course was a change of pace from the routines at Uncharted: I loved the tactile, physical dexterity needed to wield a knife, the sensory intelligence needed to evaluate the ripeness of a fresh tomato, the intellectual understanding needed to perceive how heat, acid, fat, and time change the chemical composition of ingredients, the creative vision needed to imagine a dish, and the strategic planning needed to script the key moves so it all came together at the same time. But perhaps most of all, I loved how the first principles of cooking invite us to let go of adhering to the check-lists in a recipe book where there is only one right way and instead trust ourselves, develop good kitchen judgment, rely on our taste-buds, and embrace the inevitable imperfections of taking something from idea to reality within just a few minutes or hours. The kitchen is the original rapid-prototyping workshop, it is the stage where we can apprentice in the human work of creating something from nothing, of course-correcting as we go by constantly tasting, re-flavoring, and tasting again, and of extending the grace to ourselves when the food didn’t come out exactly the way we envisioned. It’s just one meal, and if we’re lucky, we can try again tomorrow.