Being a chef is cool, but it's also hard. Here's how to convince everyone you know what you're doing. Even if you really, really don't.
Cheffing is more glamorous than ever these days and the world of foodiness seems to be growing faster than a clan of particularly virile rabbits.
Knowing your way around a kitchen has never been so cool, but what if you don’t? What if you’re content with your microwave-based diet supplemented by what you find under the couch? Just because you can’t be bothered to coddle an egg (who can?) doesn’t mean you should be excluded from all the fun.
You have two options. The first is months and years of education, burns and very late dinners. The other is to totally fake it. We’ve spent enough time helping you do the former, so now we are proud to present the TASTE guide to pretending to be a pro chef.
1. KNIVES. LOTS OF KNIVES.
Ask any chef what the one thing they couldn’t live without is and more often than not they’ll tell you it’s their knives.
When you buy proper knives you have two real choices: German or Japanese.
German knives are the ones that are sharper than the incisors of a well-groomed shark and will stay that way until the apes rise up like in that movie. They're made by a man called Heinz who produces exactly 17.63 knives a day, each one genetically identical to the last.
Japanese knives are the ones that chef’s claim become infused with the very soul of the chopper. These are the kind of knives that actually come in left-handed versions.
The kind of knife that should it, god forbid, ever break, you swiftly send it off to a sensei who lives on a mountain and will carefully rehabilitate your blade using canary feathers under a waning crescent moon.
And you can’t have just one. You need knives for peeling, paring and plating. Special knives for things that are frozen, knives that should be used for poultry but under no circumstances should they even be in the same room as pork.
Ideally you should have two sets, one that you actually use and one that you simply display in a very prominent position so that people are in no doubt about the cooking abilities that you (totally don’t) have.
Pro chef tip for how-to: peel artichokes
2. PRETENTIOUS INGREDIENTS
Now, we wholeheartedly agree that the quality of ingredients is very important. The thing about being a REAL chef is that you have to embrace these superior ingredients while utterly despising everything else. It’s sort of the culinary equivalent of Indie music fans.
One of the big things determining the cheffiness of your ingredients is obscurity. Gordon Ramsay is a well known proponent of Maldon sea salt. Pish posh. If it doesn’t come from an underwater volcano you aren’t interested.
Got some fish? If you don’t know its pH as well as the first name of the chap who caught it, you may as well not bother. Don’t even get me started on cheese, if you can pronounce it correctly first time, toss it.
This doesn’t just apply to cooking, a good grasp of unnecessary terminology will give the appearance of competence in most fields.
One can say that you have engaged in the olfactory perlustration of your calceological assets and all it means is that you gave your shoes a sniff.
First of all, one never cooks, one prepares. Likewise, what one person might call a selection of nibbles you call a degustation selection. Slice? Never. Julienne? Always.
The less people can understand you, the more power you have to persuade them that your cooking stories are legit. Chucking in as many foreign languages as possible is also a big plus.
Try telling people that last night you enjoyed some frizzled North Pacific Gayi with une tour du King Edwards a la belgique. People’s jaws will drop so far you’ll be able to step inside, smiling smugly that you really just ate fish and chips.
There is a very specific mind-set that goes with being paid to cook, and mastering it is essential for your new life as a fraud.
First off, arrogance is the best. Loads of it. Forget all your war stories about accidentally grilling a meringue instead of baking it.
You have never made a mistake. You know everything. No dish is beyond your ability, no fact outside your knowledge, no hair better coiffed than yours.
You also need to dismiss the achievements of most other chefs. Practice the derisive honk you’ll use when someone brings up Jamie Oliver.
Instead, develop an ironic respect for Guy Fieri. It will confuse everyone so much that they won’t realise you just microwaved dinner.
I find it also helps to belittle your friends. Whenever they cook for you say something like “That’s not bad, given your situation” or “Great attempt for a beginner”. Say this no matter how nice it actually is.
For bonus points, toss out random advice in the kitchen. I’ve found that you can suggest adding a sprinkle of nutmeg to pretty much anything and no one will call you on it. Do this.
5. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU ACTUALLY COOK FOR ANYONE
Now, the steps above will help you bluff your way through most conversations about food. The problem is that you might actually convince people you’re a dab hand with a spatula and thus will begin the clamour for you to have them over for dinner.
Do NOT allow this to happen. It is almost guaranteed that what you actually produce, if anything, will fall far short of your kitchen machismo. Your image will be shattered and nobody will ever trust you again.
To avoid this happening, here are some great, fool proof excuses you can use
- My oven/ sous-vide bath/ Japanese knife is broken.
- I’m on a detox.
- Illness, the more severe it sounds, the more impressive it will be when you “recover”.
- Joined the military and gone to war.
- On holiday with Heston Blumenthal.
- Converted to an obscure religion and are observing a 6-month fast.
I wish you luck, dear reader, on your noble quest to be the best chef who can’t actually cook.
Tip: secretly browse our How To section and Glossary where you can quickly pick up some skills to throw at your guests when you do return to the kitchen.
By Harry Phillips
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