Chefs Use Commercial Cookware For the Best Results, You Can Too

Commercial cookware is in a different league from the cookware that you find at the standard department store. The price is too, but if once the cookware is examined closely, one can understand and justify the cost. Have you ever followed a recipe closely, did everything that you thought was correct, only to end up with disappointing results? It’s not just an excuse to say that it must have been the cookware and not the chef.

Chefs demand quality cookware for the simple reason that they know it cooks better. A chef’s career rest on his reputation and they are not going to tarnish that by using inferior products. Cheap cookware does not disperse heat evenly. Uneven heat can ruin the precise requirement that many dishes require. Cheap cookware also is difficult to clean and less efficient. It takes long to heat up, cools down quicker, and if you ruin a dish, you lose the cost of the ingredients and the time of the chef.

Some of the most important properties of quality commercial cookware are the materials used for the construction. No one material is best for all jobs, but some come close. The chef must consider what is being cooked. Some foods like lemon and tomatoes are very acidic and the acid can mix with the metal and give the food a metallic taste. Some non-stick materials like Teflon are reported to be a health hazard, even killing birds from the fumes if overheated! Copper and aluminum are great conductors of heat, but they are reactive. Reactive metals must be considered when cooking acidic foods.

Stainless steel is the most universal and commonly used type of chef cookware. The reason is durability. Stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat and any scour spots from improper cleaning or over-heating from burned dishes will result in a permanent “hot spot” that will over heat. The department store cookware is notorious for being all stainless steel and that is why it’s cheap. Commercial cookware is rarely all stainless steel. Sandwiched between the stainless steel is an aluminum or copper core that spreads the heat evenly while the outside stainless layers provide easier cleaning and durability.

There are specialty commercial applications too. Cast iron is an example. When cared for and seasoned by a properly trained grill cook, cast iron is the choice for frying! Cast iron cooking has the distinctive “griddle” taste. Care is the key though. If not cared for it will rust. If washed with dish soap, the food can take on a soap taste. Sometimes copper is preferred for tea kettles because of the taste. When a chefs’ recipe calls for specific cookware there is a reason.

As more home chefs put more effort into their home cooking, there finding that their current cookware is not working. Poor tastes from the metal and even unsafe conditions happen once they start putting the department store cookware to the test. Loose rivets from the expansion and contraction of heating and cooling make for a piece that is an accident waiting to happen. Be like the professionals and demand the best and by commercial cookware that will last a lifetime.

1 Sure Fire Recipe For Becoming a Personal Chef

The Personal Chef industry is one of the fastest growing industries in 2009. You don’t need a 4-year degree in culinary arts or restaurant experience to excel in this fun vocation. You can be a part-time Personal Chef or build your clientele to provide a full-time income. Personal Chefs generally report an income of $200 – $500 per day for full-time efforts.

There is, however, a recipe for success. The ingredients are simple. The first thing you need to know is what a Personal Chef does. According to one recognized association, Personal Chefs design and execute menus for clients. They plan, purchase and prepare meals (usually once a week) either at the clients’ home or in a rented professional kitchen. Meals are packaged and stored, either in the clients’ refrigerator or freezer with heating-instruction labels.

Follow the recipe below to create your own path to Personal Chef success.

1. Research the industry – educate yourself. Join Personal Chef associations and subscribe to enewsletters. Study the Shaw Guides to compare cooking school offerings.

2. Find and talk to others who are already in the industry – ask endless questions.You’ll probably find plenty of everyday people who are already living the Personal Chef life when you poke around the above websites. Social networking sites will be helpful in locating like-minded people who love to cook and are connected in the industry. Don’t be afraid to ask endless questions; listen well and take careful notes.

3. Join online cooking and culinary forums. Let yourself be known as a newbie in the Personal Chef field and that you’re willing to learn. You’ll find many kindred spirits with a love for culinary arts and serving others. If you feel comfortable, jump right in and answer forum members’ questions.

4. Consider professional training. There are many fine Personal Chef Associations that offer Home Study courses and On-Site education. Seek out an association who provides the best, most comprehensive, cost-effective training programs available. You can go it alone but a little education goes a long way to ensure long-lasting success. That being said, don’t let lack of formal education stop you from pursuing your Personal Chef dream.

5. Market to wealthy, local neighborhoods. Face it, you won’t find many clients in poor to middle-class areas. Find the wealthy people in your area and blanket every door knob with your flyer. If you can afford it, postcards sent to a highly targeted list would most likely yield great results. Utilize online free ad space such as Craig’s List and Backpage and advertise yourself to high-end clientele. When you market with a flyer or postcard, make sure it has an enticing welcome offer like a free dessert.

6. Make a simple plan. List main dish entrees, side dish selections, desserts, and prices. You can also offer customized dishes, depending on the particular needs of the person, couple or family you’re serving. Carefully consider your pricing structure and don’t lowball yourself and give away your services and time.

7. Assemble a portable bag with kitchen items: your own measuring cups/spoons, apron, recipes, good knives (with blades protected for safety), and a compact fire extinguisher wouldn’t hurt, along with a small box of baking soda. Depending on the kitchen supplies in the home, you might also need to bring your own pans and stirring/mixing utensils.

If words like meal planning, grocery shopping and in-home meal preparation is like music to your ears, you’ll love being a Personal Chef. If being in the kitchen is your happy place, you’ll find great fulfillment in serving others while making a very decent income.

Remember, every family is different and what one family loves, another family will find too fancy. One family might like very simple dishes and if they have kids, they very well might request the same dishes over and over. A professional couple might enjoy more elaborate meals. A senior may have special dietary needs you’ll need to pay special attention to.

There are plenty of opportunities out there to exercise your love for cooking. Experience the freedom of owning your own business while boosting your income to whatever your financial goals are. It’s satisfying to know you are providing great tasting food and giving the precious gift of time to whomever you are serving. Start today – use this sure fire recipe for your own culinary success.

Cooking With Mezcal in Oaxaca: Casa De Los Sabores Class and Recipe

They came to learn how to cook with mezcal. They came from England, Poland, Australia, United States, and even Oaxaca’s Mixteca Alta. This was a mezcal cooking class as internationally attended as one could imagine. But of course; over the past few years Chef Pilar Cabrera Arroyo has garnered a global reputation as one of Mexico’s top cooks, specializing in preparing Oaxacan regional cuisine for both her Restaurante La Olla and her Casa de los Sabores Cooking School.

I attended the class in May, 2015, yet another mezcal event in my adopted hometown, the city of Oaxaca, located in south central Mexico. Others have included cocktail and mixology sessions; evenings of combining the iconic Mexican agave based spirit with chocolate and with craft beer; mezcal tastings of umpteen brands of both the intoxicant as certified for export, and produced for local consumption (often referred to on drink menus as “agave distillate”); federal government sponsored education programs; formal lectures and informational meetings regarding the status of the industry; and of course cooking classes. In my line of work I have to keep abreast. But more importantly I enjoy learning, despite having been around mezcal for a quarter century. The industry is changing rapidly these days.

One of the more recent phenomena, at least in Oaxaca, has been teaching to cook with mezcal. And so it was natural for Chef Pilar to put cooking with mezcal in her six week class rotation. She’d been using the spirit in recipes for years; in her classes, at her restaurant, and when demonstrating and promoting Oaxacan cookery outside of Mexico at American and Canadian cooking schools and restaurants.

But ask Chef Pilar if traditional Oaxacan cooks use mezcal as an ingredient in their dishes, and the answer is a resounding NO. But she’s not a traditional cook by any means, notwithstanding that she learned her trade from her maternal grandmother. Chef Pilar comes to the industry through her university degree program in food sciences and nutrition. Since she keeps up with modern trends in gastronomy, for her mezcal is an ingredient just as other spirits are for the great chefs of the western world.

This particular class began as Chef Pilar’s invariably do, with a brief summary of what will be prepared in class and the ingredients to be purchased at a local marketplace. Where perhaps others are not prepared to adlib, Chef Pilar notes that there could be an extra recipe and dish thrown into the mix, depending on availability of seasonal produce. “Rainy season is just beginning, so we might find some fresh wild mushrooms brought down from the sierra early this morning, and I can then decide what to do with them,” she advises. She then asks if there are any vegetarians in the group, and if anyone has a food allergy.

The market visit also proceeded as predicted, with Chef Pilar buying ingredients while pointing out and explaining about particular chiles, some tropical fruits, gusanos and chapulines, tejate, masa, and more. On this day we also attended a fresh fish market for shrimp and red snapper, the latter being a key ingredient for ceviche al mezcal, a last minute addition to the class menu.

Good chefs are always ready to adapt, and to learn. Pilar is no exception, and where she stands out from some others who instruct, is to not hide from her students the fact that she’s always anxious to learn and doesn’t know it all. Case in point, our special guest attendee was a traditional cook from the Mixteca Alta district of Oaxaca. She had brought down from her region some unique ingredients for teaching how to make a particular salsa, a second supplement to the fixed five course menu. Chef Pilar asked questions with a view to learning about the chiles and nuts being used and how to incorporate them into the salsa recipe – just as the rest of us did.

Not all recipes are suitable for mezcal as an inclusion, especially some moles; and so neither our chicken amarillo nor the memelitas were made with the spirit. Some dishes you just don’t toy with. And each dish calls for a different mezcal. It’s the same as with mixing cocktails, though some barmen would disagree and state that a cocktail should be made with any old inexpensive mezcal. I suggest they have not taken Mixology 101.

Four of our seven dishes were made with mezcal: ceviche, pay (pie) de requesón (similar to ricotta) with chocolate sauce, shrimp brochetas with mango sauce, and chile pasilla Oaxaqueña salsa with gusanitos (not surprisingly made with mezcal de gusano). Although most dishes incorporated espadín, each particular bottle must be carefully selected since the agave varietal is capable of producing so many different nuances. I was asked to choose the appropriate ones based on what Chef Pilar indicated she needed to impart through the mezcal.

It was a hands on class, with each student entrusted with the preparation of each dish. And when all was said and done, before sitting down to our exquisitely prepared comida, naturally there was a mezcal tasting session.

I encourage readers to plan dates for their visit to Oaxaca based on Chef Pilar’s mezcal cooking class schedule, although private individual and group classes centering upon the spirit can be arranged for other dates by contacting her with sufficient advance notice.

If the foregoing hasn’t been convincing enough to illustrate the value in a mezcal cooking class, then perhaps this recipe will, reproduced with permission from the class I attended:

PAY DE REQUESÓN CON SALSA DE CHOCOLATE AL MEZCAL

6 servings

INGREDIENTS

4 ounces Oaxacan chocolate
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (see preparation below)
1 piece Mexican cinnamon
1 tablespoon (or perhaps a little more) mezcal espadín
1 package (about 42) María cookies
1 ½ cups fresh requesón (sub ricotta) cheese
4 eggs
¾ cup evaporated milk
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
Zest of 1 lime

PREPARATION

1. For the chocolate sauce, in a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the chocolate, 4 tablespoons butter, cinnamon and ½ cup water, stirring constantly until the chocolate melts. Cook, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mezcal. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
2. Put rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 375 degrees.
3. Melt the remaining butter. Put the cookies in a blender. Pulse until crumbs form. Add the melted butter. Pulse until the crumbs begin to clump together. Transfer to a 12 X 8 inch baking pan. With your fingers, evenly press the crumbs to form a crust. Set aside.
4. In a blender, blend the requesón, eggs, evaporated milk, condensed milk and lime zest, until smooth. Pour into the prepared crust.
5. Bake until the cheese filling is just set, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
6. To serve, cut the pie into 6 pieces. Place each piece on a dessert plate. Drizzle chocolate sauce over each serving.