Be A Better Cook: 5 Tips
Get a little help from the country's top professional chefs and restaurateurs.
Wish you were a better cook? Take cues from the country's professional chefs and resto owners on how to be a whiz in your own kitchen:
1. Herbs 101
“Know your herbs and spices—then you won’t waste those bottles of spices in your pantry. Making your own poultry spice or steak rub will cost about a third of the price of those ready-made ones. Also, you can easily substitute. Young calamansi leaves are a solid alternative for kaffir lime leaf often used in Thai dishes, which are expensive and hard to find.”—Len Santos, owner, Feed 5000 catering company
2. Save costs in the kitchen
"When it comes to fruits, freeze them so they can last longer. Think instant smoothies!”—Ed Bugia, chef-owner, Pino Bar and Restaurant
“Another way to save: Utilize leftovers and turn them into casseroles, stews, fried rice, pasta, stir fries, soups, etc. You’ll make use of your creativity plus save money. I would also suggest buying cheaper cuts of meat. True, they tend to be much tougher, but if you cook them long and slow by braising them and playing with herbs and spices, you won’t know the difference between expensive and cheap in terms of flavor.”—Kalel Chan, corporate chef of Raintree Restaurants (Chelsea, Mo!Mo!, Mr. Jones)
3. Hit the market.
“Try to buy produce from the local wet market. Sometimes they’re fresher and cheaper, and you don’t need to buy in bulk all the time. Just buy what you need to minimize waste. Another advantage of buying produce at the wet market: You can buy in small amountd and the price remains the same.”—Rolando Laudico, chef
“For recipes that call for buttermilk, substitute with regular milk and an acid. For every cup of milk, add a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar. Then let milk stand for 10 minutes before using it. Use overripe bananas when making banana cakes or bread. Instead of throwing them when they’ve gone black, put them in a re-sealable plastic bag, seal, and freeze. When ready to use, just thaw them. Then, to easily bring butter to room temperature especially when I’m in a hurry, I cut butter into small cubes and let them sit out at room temp for 10 minutes.” —Sonja Ocampo, Cupcakes by Sonja
5. Marinate in bags.
“Freeze two cups of stock in bags for ready use anytime. It is more convenient to marinate in re-sealable plastic bags because it conforms to the available refrigerator space and the marinade completely envelopes what you are marinating.”—Gene Gonzalez, founder, Center for Asian Culinary Studies (CACS)
Interviews by Angelo Comsti; excerpt from the article "Be A Better Cook" first published in Yummy January-February 2010