Chef's Tricks of the TradePublished on June 29, 2015

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  • Executive Chef Geoffrey Morden; Shaw Centre CrEATe Kitchen 

  • Executive Chef Geoffrey Morden; Shaw Centre CrEATe Kitchen

The longer you work at any job, the more you learn. When I think back to my days starting out in Chef's school, I realize that while I benefitted enormously from my time there, experience has certainly been an important teacher too. I'm often asked by home cooks to share some of my favourite tips and tricks, and most of them are things I have simply learned by virtue of spending so much time in various kitchens. Here are a few of the tips I'd offer:

  • Invest in good equipment.  I have pots and pans that go back 25 years, still in great shape because I purchased quality. Always buy heavy-bottomed pots and pans which will distribute the heat evenly and will prevent the pan from warping over time.
  • A high quality, large, heavy bottomed, non-stick frying pan, is a must.
  • Teach yourself knife skills and buy good quality knives, and keep them sharp.  They will serve you well and for a long time.  I still have and use most of my knives which I purchased for chef's school many moons ago.
  • Plan ahead and don't be afraid to prepare as much of a meal in advance of a party as possible. This will allow you to enjoy your company rather than rushing so much the day of your event. If your oven has a warming drawer, use it to keep stable foods hot (mashed potatoes are a great example - they can be made well in advance and kept warm until serving time).
  • Use parchment paper to help ease cleaning. A sheet of parchment on the bottom of a roasting pan will significantly reduce to amount of time you will need to spend cleaning that pan afterwards.
  • Sear your meats the day before. For example, if you are roasting a maple-sage glazed pork rack, sear it, glaze it and put it in its roasting pan and refrigerate. That way all you need to do is pop it in the oven the day of your event.  All this advance preparation will greatly reduce you work load and quantity of clean up on the day of your event.
  • Seasoning: find a corner of your garden or even a few pots on a deck or balcony to grow fresh herbs as they are so much better than dried and you can pick just a few sprigs whenever needed. Try a squeeze of fresh lime juice or lemon juice over grilled meats - this elevates the flavour immensely. Have fun experimenting with different spices and be sure to toast your spices particularly if they are seeds. For example, cumin and coriander seeds as well as dry whole chilies, will have much more flavour after a light toasting.
  • It's very important to serve foods at the correct temperature.  For example, there will be a huge flavour difference between an ice cold tomato-mozzarella salad and a room temperature one. Similarly, with a frozen dessert such as raspberry sorbet, it will have much more flavour and a better texture if allowed to warm up for a few minutes before serving.
  • Home Smoking - while this method can be a little challenging, the benefits of a home smoke (in a smoker or BBQ) are amazing, not to mention a conversation piece during a meal
  • While too much salt is bad, it is a necessary evil for the most part.  Try finishing a sliced rack of lamb with a very light sprinkle of flaky sea salt just as you are sending it to your dining room. The last minute addition will elevate the flavour tremendously while in fact reducing the amount of total salt needed.



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