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Expert Interview Series: Chris Young of ChefSteps on Taking your Cooking to the Next Level

Are you ready to take your cooking to the next level? Are you an established chef who wants to test his or her technique and rise to the challenge of another artist? Cilantro is here to help. Chris Young,...

Taking your cooking to the next level

Are you ready to take your cooking to the next level?

Are you an established chef who wants to test his or her technique and rise to the challenge of another artist? Cilantro is here to help.

Chris Young, co-founder of ChefSteps, recently spoke with Cilantro and offered insights into what makes a good cook, and how these cooks can challenge themselves for the sake of their craft.

Think about the serious cook - someone who is no stranger to the kitchen. If you wanted to challenge their skills but also provide an end result that they could be proud of, what non-dessert recipe would you recommend they try?

This multi-component salmon dish is simple enough, but there is a bit of last-minute work that requires solid cooking skills and judgement. If you can cook this dish well, you know that you have some solid cooking skills and knowledge of advanced technique. If this dish feels too fancy, our recipe for Fish and Chips is another good one. Fish and chips is such a satisfying meal, but one that definitely requires careful attention to all of the details - and that's really one of the biggest challenges in any kitchen.

How about a dessert recipe?

Nick Gavin, one of the chefs at ChefSteps, has a mean Flourless Carrot Cake recipe. It's not extremely difficult; but as with the savory recipes I mentioned, it's all about organization, attention to detail, and solid pastry skills.

What kitchen utensils would be important to create these recipes?

First and foremost, I really believe that sous vide is indispensable to the modern chef. It ensures that food will be perfectly cooked and frees you to focus on all of the other details that go into great cooking.

For savory recipes, a really nice, sharp knife is key; and for any pastry-related tasks or recipes, a good digital scale is essential.

What are a few tips that you've learned along the way which can either add to these recipes or to a cook's overall repertoire? How can these tips help the cook bring their food to the next level?

There is a simple joy to measuring. A digital thermometer and a digital scale are as indispensable as a sharp knife that feels great in your hand. Some people say these tools take the soul out of cooking, but I'd like to challenge that perception. I'm still grappling with what's soulful about overcooked food, or a recipe that failed because you added too much or too little of an important ingredient.

As a professional chef, you can have the best ingredients in the world and be incredibly creative; but if you can't consistently deliver an amazing experience through your dishes, then you're not really a professional chef. To that end, I truly believe that organization and tools that help us cook with consistency are incredibly valuable.

As for a surprising tip, I loved a simple one that Nick shared with me the other day. It's easily the best way I'm aware of to cook the perfect sunny-side up egg. It's all about managing the flow of heat energy through the pan and into the egg to get the best result. We so often try to force things like cooking an egg to go faster by cranking up the heat, whereas Nick's tip was to turn down the heat and just be a bit more patient in order to achieve a perfect egg. There is something really satisfying about the finesse in this tip.

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