The core elements of good cookery

The Chief Chef took to the podium, a twinkle of revolutionary zeal in his eye.

“I am here to report the interim findings of the review into the way we teach cooking to new chefs,” he explained. The audience, sloshing with smoked salmon and orange juice, turned away from their table conversations and towards the Chief Chef.

He continued. “You see, the cooking curriculum has all become a bit too…” he waved his hand in small circles in front of him, “…cluttered.”

Some of the audience looked puzzled. Others nodded.

“We need to strip it back. We need to get back to basics. There are just too many recipes and ingredients and stuff like that. It’s absurd. I mean, who needs to know a whole bunch of disconnected facts about how to prepare an avocado, get the stone out, splash with lemon juice et cetera, et cetera? We need to focus instead on basic, transferable cooking skills so that students can cook anything.”

Those audience members who had previously nodded, now also looked puzzled.

Although the Chief Chef was in full flow, a lady in the front row raised her hand gingerly. The Chief Chef turned sharply towards the lady, “Yes, what?”

“What are cooking skills without recipes and ingredients?” the lady asked.

“Look, the next stage of the review will focus on those questions. It is the next stage that will resolve exactly which ingredients and recipes need to go so that we can focus more clearly on cooking.” The Chief Chef paused, waiting for a follow-up question, but the lady in the front row had no further comment.

The Chief Chef returned his focus to the middle distance. “So, I need you to join our review team and help us to decide exactly which useless content to ditch. Your voice is important.”

The audience murmured and the Chief Chef took this as approval.

“Yes. Exactly right. We need to de-clutter, strip back and really focus on the core elements of good cookery! Oh, and critical thinking, creativity, social and emotional learning, information technology skills, literacy, numeracy, ethical thinking, and understanding other cultures, particularly those of South East Asia. I haven’t missed anything there, have I?”

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3 thoughts on “The core elements of good cookery

  1. Anon says:

    If they taught cooking like they taught teaching, they wouldn’t give specific, actionable advice on things like how long to cook a chicken, but generalities like “be a reflective kitchen practitioner” and “reflect deeply on the impact of your cooking style”. Nobody would check too closely if your steaks were burned or under-cooked, but they would not be happy if you served them on a plate, as plates are “very traditional” – you should use “creative” serving options like stuffing the meal into a shoe.

    When half of the restaurant gets food poisoning, this would be blamed on poverty in the local community. In order to be inclusive of all diners, restaurant guests would be allowed to spit in each others food.

    The approach to raising customer satisfaction would be to make cooks produce lengthy “Cooking Research Action Projects for Professional Inquiry and Expertise” reports on things like the impact of giving your serving staff and diners fist-bumps.

  2. David F says:

    I’m actually a decent cook, and regularly (pre-pandemic) produce a variety of dishes for larger groups (20+). I cook my own family traditions (Southern and Midwestern US), but also Caribbean and Latin Americans cuisine for these events. One of the things that I think this analogy hits on is that traditional dishes require…tradition.

    Tradition means knowing the history and background of what you are making, understanding the variations, and learning from your guests when they make suggestions or tell their own stories. That’s above and beyond knowing generically what each spice tastes like, how meat interacts with heat, which oils to use, etc. A generic cook might learn the latter, and make “food” but food without tradition. It might be creative, but it would be rootless and lack meaning. And that’s not very human…

  3. “The core elements of good cookery” sounds weirdly eurocentric to me, but that might just be my reading of it. Cooking is about ingredients and techniques, but also about feeling — to me, at least!

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