Summer is in full swing, and nothing complements that warm, sunny weather better than barbecues! As I prepare to compete in the sixth consecutive year in the New Jersey State Barbecue Competition, I took a few minutes to think back on how I wound up falling in love with cooking and how that love has led me on an ever-evolving journey of discovery.
It’s as simple as…
When people learn of my affinity for cooking, I’m often faced with the question, “How did you learn to cook?” or “I wish I knew how to cook.” Well, I’m here to tell you that if you have ever Googled anything ever and you know how to read, you can become a master chef. All it takes is a little courageous curiosity!
How my road to chef began
I began my journey of discovery out of a pure love for the flavor of food and a desire to eat and live healthier. But like many, I struggled with the common misconception that healthy eating is either too expensive or lacking in quality flavor. I was determined to find food I both enjoyed and that made me feel good. I began looking online for recipes with foods I knew I liked and flavors and spices I enjoyed.
Before I knew it, I was butterflying chicken breasts, stuffing them with sautéed spinach, roasted peppers and onions, lemon basil goat cheese, before searing them on a hot grill. To my delight, I was eating clean and well, and enjoying the creative process of imagining my meals and then crafting them into reality. Over time, I developed somewhat of a mental library of various dishes and flavor combinations I enjoyed cooking and felt good eating. At the same time, I built a level of confidence to try new techniques and cooking styles.
Forgetting about failure
The biggest key in taking the first step on this journey of culinary discovery is to forget about failure. Early on, one of my culinary mentors and BBQ competition teammates shared some wise words with me. They gave me the freedom to experiment and fulfill my courageous curiosity. “If it sucks, the pizza man is a phone call away and tomorrow is a new day.”
Simple and funny, but it’s remained a valuable reminder for me. Sometimes, we shy away from opportunity because of a fear of failure. But, as humans, we learn more from failure than anything else. Every single person who’s ever tried their hand in a kitchen has produced at least one bad meal along the way. Embrace it. Learn from it. But don’t hesitate because of a fear of it.
Take the first step
So where would one start on this journey of discovery? I advise you to ask yourself this question: “What do I want to eat tonight?” It’s basic, but can open the doors to endless creative possibilities. And with good weather upon us, there are plenty of opportunities to indulge your courageous curiosity, like visiting your local farmer’s market to find fresh ingredients for your next culinary masterpiece!
If starting from scratch seems daunting, hop on Google and search several recipes of the meal you want to prepare, pulling ingredients from each recipe that you would enjoy. And remember — forget about failure! Before long, you too will develop that mental library of flavors and food pairings that you enjoy and witness your own transformation into a culinary artist.