Are You A Home Cook? Or A Home Chef? What Is The Difference?

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Do You Have The Chef Gene?

I learned to cook through trial and error. At home. Off the internet. I never went to culinary school. I couldn’t so much as chop vegetables at a 5-star restaurant. And yet, the further I expanded my culinary horizons, I began to realize that I am an at-home chef.

Yes, there IS a difference between a home cook and a home chef. And it may not necessarily have to do with how well you cook. But the first time I ever screamed, “I want everyone out of my kitchen!” I realized something was going on.

All along, somewhere in my DNA, was an executive chef waiting to get out.

I’m not patting myself on the back here because there are downsides as well as upsides.

And I don’t think I’m alone in this. Just like there are born singers you’ll never hear on the radio, there are chefs that will never work at The French Laundry.

Are you one of them?

Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of home chefs and see if you’re one of this strange breed.

Ingredients Turn You On

Yes, taste is ever important. But it’s more than that. It’s the smell. The color. The texture. For you, ingredients are an utterly sensual experience.

You don’t just smell basil. You get your nose in there and inhale like your vaping.

When you see a deep red vine-ripened tomato, it’s like you want to drink the color with your eyes.

And the sound of a perfectly crispy Fuji apple? Music to your ears.

Yeah, you’re kind of a freak.

But to you, ingredients are like foreplay before the main dish. If you want an orgasmic meal, you need the right lead up.

You’re A Rebel

Home cooks will follow a recipe and even make something that tastes pretty good. But not you. No, you are not a follower in the kitchen.

You see a recipe as a loose suggestion. Maybe you’ve never made the dish before, but you already know how it can be improved. And that when the changes and the substitutions begin.

Less sugar. More garlic. Cranberries in your guacamole. Heck, let’s put some ginger in this Italian arrabbiata sauce. You don’t care what someone’s grandma would say.

Because you’re not just making pasta “a la marinara.” You’re making pasta, “a la you!”

Who cares what those other hacks are doing.

Yes, there are disasters. I almost burned someone’s mouth off with my ginger chili marinara sauce.

But when you have success? Sublime!

I have served guacamole with chili covered cranberries to Mexicans IN Mexico, and they freaking loved it.

That’s how you conquer a recipe.

You’re Kind of A Fascist

This is where you get kind of schizo. You cook to make people happy. And you even like it when they help out in the kitchen. But why is everyone so stupid?!

Why don’t they know how to hold a knife? Can they not see that the onions need to be diced way smaller? Have they never used a potato peeler before? No, they did not just put an unauthorized ingredient in your secret sauce!

Yes, you have an opinion about the way things should be done in a kitchen. And it’s YOUR way.

Sometimes these supposed minor annoyances bubble over into you saying things like, “Just let me do it.” On your bad days, you may banish well-intentioned helpers from your kingdom altogether.

Are all home chefs destined to be alone in the kitchen? I sure hope not.

Let’s make a pact, home chefs. Before we send our clueless helpers to the firing squad at dawn, let’s try to remember we’re cooking for THEM.

Hard as that may be.

Good Is Never Good Enough

It’s not that you don’t enjoy your own food. You do, and you think it’s pretty darn good. But it’s never perfect.

And you’re ALWAYS going for perfect.

Even if other people like it, you’re never 100% satisfied. Maybe you used a hair too much cumin. Or not enough lemon. Or you overcooked the croissants by exactly one minute.

You at home chefs will know what I mean. It positively gnaws at you.

If you bring hummus to a picnic, you’re watching everyone’s reactions to see if they like it.

And heaven forbid you cook a meal, and people say, “it’s good?” Good? Good! You were not going for good!!

You want people to make orgasmic sounding yummy noises and tell you it was spectacular. You want them to freaking clap. You want them to ask, no beg, for the recipe. (Not that they could make it as well as you.)

I am not proud of this part of myself.

I want to evolve my inner chef to the point where praise is superfluous. I would love to pour my whole heart into cooking a meal and expect absolutely nothing in return. I would love to be a totally Zen home chef.

I am a long, long way from this goal.

But it leads me to my next point.

You’re Really Just Hungry For Affection

Home chefs may be demanding. Crazy. Even megalomaniacal. But in the end, it’s all a cry for affection.

Some people express love with words. Some with hugs. Others with grand gestures. Home chefs express it with food.

Yep, we’re just a bunch of desperate people pleasers.

If we give you a breaded chicken taco with pineapple and habanero sauce, what we’re really trying to do is say, “I love you. Please love me back.”

When my husband is really enjoying his food, he closes his eyes. It’s like he’s trying to shut out the rest of the world so he can focus only on the delicious flavors.

It is his highest compliment to any cuisine. And I can proudly say that he has closed his eyes while eating my food many times, which is why we will always be together.

Because I know what he’s really trying to say with that simple gesture is, “I love you, you crazy freaking genius.”

To my fellow home chefs, I hope you find someone that loves you and your food just as much.

Sherry De Alba

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