How Good Of A Cook Are You?

I love reading about and participating in discussions of cooking here on the Dope, and in my ~five decades on this rock I think I’ve managed to become a slightly OK cook. There are things I do well, there are things I do poorly, and there are things I couldn’t do if I wanted to. But I’m leaps & bounds better than my mom, who can barely cook a simple casserole.

Specifically, I like to use fresh ingredients when I can get them, and I’m in a transition process of cooking more from scratch and less from processed ingredients. I can make pretty good spiced carrot fritters, vegan chicken curry (which is neither vegan nor does it have chicken in it*), various pies & cakes, and some other things. But I’m not above throwing a frozen pizza in the oven, either.

So how good of a cook are you?

Poll to follow.

*Vegan Chicken Curry is a joke Mrs. Homie and I came up with to describe my curry. It’s vegetarian (no meat), but not vegan (uses cream).

When I was 16 and again when I was in college I had people offer me job’s at country clubs based on what they tasted. I can both bake and cook. My apple pie is known in at least 5 states. My chocolate chip cookies totally fucking rock. I was told this past Thanksgiving that the only reason one person comes to our gathering instead of staying home is for my lasagna. I can and will make curry dishes at any time.

I like to cook like I like to eat.

I have been known to screw up scrambled eggs.

Living abroad, I’ve often had to improvise to make my favorite dishes. When I serve them to guests, I always get rave reviews. I hear “You should open a restaurant!” a lot, especially for my Italian and Tex-Mex cooking. I once won a chili cookoff in Moscow, with expatriates voting.

Even when backpacking in Britain 40+ years ago and living on $5 a day, I came up with a rice and veg dish that I still love to make. I learned a lot from my dad, who had vocational training but never (so far as I know) sought a position as a chef. He always had (so to speak) bigger fish to fry.

I voted “as far as home cooks go, pretty good.” When I’m thinking of “passing for a pro,” I’m thinking of culinary school types, who have learned all of Escoffier and stuff like that. I’m certainly good enough to open a family style restaurant and not have it fail for the quality of the food, but I’m certainly not anyone who could handle haute cuisine at my current level, and my plating is atrocious. My brother is the one who does that kind of stuff, from the food straight down to the presentation. He’s excellent at that. I’m more the slap good food on the plate type.

I can operate the toaster, the tea kettle… that’s about it.

I can make sandwiches and warm up stuff out of cans. I’m never going to starve if left home alone. But anything complicated, like anything with more than, say, three ingredients? I know I’ll eat better at a restaurant than if I try to make it myself.

Decent, I’d say. A step behind my dad and uncle, and two behind Grandma, who I’m still certain was the best cook in town. But I’d like to think that something gets passed down the line.

My sister-in-law could open a catering business. Doubtless she has never heard of Escoffier.

Yeah, perhaps I’m thinking too much of a traditional culinary school education. In terms of being good enough to have people pay for my food, then, yes, I think I could pass for a “pro” there. I have actually worked once as a “guest chef” at a pub-grill type of place ten years ago, so I guess, technically, I have had a pro cooking gig. :slight_smile:

Same here. I will tackle any dish that sounds appealing, I understand spicing, and can make soups, stews, stocks and sauces from scratch. I can make a killer burger or a complicated Indian dish; grill a hot dog or make my own Italian sausage; boil a potato or make an elegant seafood paella. People have always told me I should open a restaurant, but I’ve been smart enough not to do so. :smiley:

Amen. That has to be one of the most thankless, hardest industries to get into and survive.

I also voted “good home cook”. I can bake, roast, brew soup, make gravy, make chilis and curries, medium-boil an egg – really, I’ve mostly succeeded at everything I’ve tried to cook, and my guests always enjoy the food, and I have a decent reputation among my friends for my cooking. But I don’t have the speed or consistency to do it professionally. My cookies don’t all come out exactly the same size, and some might be a little oval. My roast might finish before the potatoes do.

I have no interest in developing the skills to be a professional chef. I cook for fun, and to eat. That’s good enough for me.

But she is influenced by him in any cooking she does. Just the act of creating and using a standardized recipe was pretty much his contribution to culinary, not to mention the brigade system of organizing a kitchen into separate tasks.

Yeah, running any business is a pain, but restaurants are a whole different level. I am friends with several restaurant owners, and I greatly enjoy their tales of woe. I by happenstance got out of the industry and went another direction a few years ago, but had for quite some time put great consideration into opening my own high end restaurant, but am now rather glad that I did not.

My culinary skills are not completely wasted though. Now that I am out of the industry, and actually enjoy cooking again, my roommates, my friends, and even my employees get to experience what really is equivalent to 5 star cooking. Even my macaroni and cheese has caused people to threaten to kidnap me to be their personal chef.

I am also usually drafted to help family or friends to put together dinner parties, as, after spending years banqueting or catering for hundreds, a dinner for a dozen is cake.

Downside is that whenever someone takes me out to a “nice” restaurant, I am rather disappointed by what is on my plate, knowing that I could have done much better.

These categories are tricky. I chose the “could pass for a professional cook” because I think I’m better than “pretty good for a home cook”, but I’m no Grant Achatz. I’m not even as good as the best chef in my little town. Not to mention, there’s a whole hell of a lot more to being a professional chef than cooking. Can you cook the same thing reliably over and over again? Can you cater a meal for hundreds of people? Can you plate things attractively?

I can’t really do any of those things (well I can plate OK, and I’m reasonably reliable at my standards. But not to the point of professional). What I can do is throw together a mean for a few folks that is really, really good. I keep a ridiculous number of herbs & spices around, I always have a freezer full of homemade stocks & sauces, I have an incredibly well-stocked pantry. My kitchen equipment is wide-ranged enough that I had to tell Mr. Athena to not buy me any more kitchen stuff for Christmas this year because I realized he bought me at least two really nice pieces for Christmas last year that I haven’t used. And it’s not just that I have all that stuff, I know how to use it.

Cooking & eating is a big part of my life; I can’t imagine not having good food around the house on a daily basis. It’s one of the best pleasures IMO.

Just out of curiosity, what would be the going rate for a personal chef? Like, $150k per year? $200k?

I love how you said this! Very touching!

I wish I had the time, money, and logistics to devote to being a great home cook. But I’m broke, and I live 100 miles from the nearest farmer’s market. Hell, I live 35 miles from fucking Walmart.

My mother is fond of recounting how I cooked & ate scrambled eggs for a week (and nothing else) to qualify for a Boy Scout badge.

Now, I’m pretty good at cooking but my presentation sucks.

For me, this is especially true for breakfast. For most restaurants, I know that if I order biscuits and gravy, that the biscuits will be giant doughy messes and that the gravy will be like Elmer’s glue that someone waved a sausage over. I know that over easy eggs will be crispy or under-cooked, that the hash browns will be dry and leathery, the bacon either under cooked or reheated into leather, and that grease will be the overriding ingredient. Whenever I do find a place that somehow doesn’t ruin breakfast, it usually manages to go out of business. There was actually (and briefly) a restaurant called “Biscuits” that opened in my neighborhood; the biscuits were the worst thing on the menu, and that was saying something.

I do OK. I put this on the table for our second thanksgiving party:

20 lb turkey
wild rice stuffing
cornbread dressing
pureed butternut squash
mustard greens & broccoli rabe
apple banana and pecan salad
crock pot new potatoes
home-churned cherry chocolate ice cream

The following additional items were farmed out as tasks to other people:

rutabaga casserole
devils on horseback
pumpkin cheesecake
cranberry sauce

I got everything on the table ready and warm (where appropriate) at the same time (or in waiting as the dessert) and it all came out excellent. That’s a 13 course meal for 8 people, with fully 8 of the courses personally and simultaneously cooked by me. (There was also spiced cider punch, beaujolais nouveau, pickles & olives, and baguettes, and commercial turkey gravy on hand which I’m not counting as “courses”)

I’m not ready to open a restaurant or anything but I am fully competent in the kitchen and greatly enjoy it :slight_smile:

I said as home cooks go I’m pretty good, but I’ve provided quiche several times for a local coffee shop, and the owner just asked for my chili recipe.