The Secret to Great Food

chicken soup 012
Last week I was watching The Best Thing I Ever Ate, and one of the chefs offered this gem: ‘The secret to our great food is that we use only the best ingredients’. Naturally my inner sarcastic smart-ass who I’ve mainly learned to silence (mainly) had quite a bit to say about that! Starting with a snide ‘really?’. Really?? No kidding, you mean that if I use crappy ingredients it will impact the final outcome of my dish? And no one knew this before? Wow. Thanks!

OK, so enough of that. Most decent restaurants, and especially the really good ones, have a battery and by that I mean batterie of chef, sous chefs, and well trained cooks who make a lot of money because they know how to make great food consistently. Something you may not know is that restaurants— especially the really good ones— have access to better ingredients than you or I will ever have access to. So, yes a great chef, or even a really good professional cook, using the finest ingredients, making a dish they re-create night after night better be making some awesome food!

As a home cook, there are things you can do to make really great food, and the simplicity of some of these secrets may shock you. When Chef Robert Irvine went to Parc to eat the best mashed potatoes and they revealed how they make them, even I was shocked. They used one pound of potatoes, and a half pound of butter, and restaurants use European butter like Plugra which has even more butterfat than regular butter. Chances are you’re not using that ratio when you make mashed potatoes at home! Though you could and they’d be soooo good, as good as Parc’s. And if you want the smoothest, creamiest mashed potatoes ever, get a food mill or a potato ricer, and stop using that potato masher, that’s for skin on smashies.

It’s true that some restaurant quality equipment has made its way into private homes, but most people don’t have stoves that put out the kind of BTUs a professional stove does. Your exhaust system isn’t strong enough to lift your hat from your head, and you don’t have a staff of prep cooks spending their day doing all the cutting and chopping you’ll need to prepare your dinner. You don’t have a fish guy who brings you fresh fish daily, you aren’t getting restaurant quality meats, brought to your door.
black bass

None of this means you can’t make truly great food at home. It means you are better off planning a meal that works to your strengths and your equipment. Shopping often, going to farmers’ markets or using a CSA for produce can make a huge difference. So can using restaurant techniques, like searing meat on the stove top, and finishing it in a hot oven. Restaurant ovens are cranked all the way up to make it through a service that demands constant opening and closing. Restaurants rarely worry about how much sugar, salt or fat they use, as long as it tastes good, and those three are the key ingredients in making food taste better, and remember, always use the best ingredients available!

5 thoughts on “The Secret to Great Food

  1. Rhonda @wine-y wife

    I can appreciate this article. What truly amazes me though is that many times home cooks make food that is much better than a restaurant, simply because they put the time into it and many restaurants try to cut corners or put it out fast. I’m Not talking about your 5 star places, but many of the everyday types of places that are in every town. I love it when I go into a restaurant and they make food Better than what I make at home! That is a success.

    1. The Chef's Last DIet Post author

      Rhonda, you are so right! Often unless you’re at a great restaurant (which doesn’t necessarily mean expensive) if you are a good cook, you can make it just as well or better at home. I used to have a cartoon hanging in my diner that read “We buy the cheapest ingredients available and pass the savings along to you”. That wasn’t my practice, but I think it is true of many restaurants, and many don’t even pass that savings along… When I go out I try to order something I wouldn’t make at home either because it’s too much trouble to make for just myself, or because no one else likes it.

      1. Rhonda @wine-y wife

        Love the sign and I totally agree. I’ve boycotted so many restaurants simply because I could make it better. I hate paying for mediocre food. I love the idea of ordering stuff you simply don’t make at home, too. At least you’re not comparing it quite so much 🙂

  2. Pingback: The Secret to Great Food | The Bloppy Bloggers ...

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