John, his wife, and their baby — who will arrive any day now — live in a rental with one of the most basic kitchens you might expect. And yet, John doesn't waste time comparing it to the 4-star restaurant kitchens in which he is used to cooking a meal. Instead he boasts how much bigger and better it is than the last kitchen he and his wife shared in their previous apartment — a studio.
What a graceful and beautiful thing it was to watch John make an omelet. Such precision and simplicity. Not one extraneous flick of the wrist. No aimless wandering around the kitchen, looking for the right ingredient or a lost spatula. John's energy was efficient, and wholly focused on producing the perfect breakfast. And that he did.
John's Kitchn Survey Results:
What's your cooking style? This is a hard question for me, but one that I've been trying to answer for a while now. Most of my experience and therefore most of my influences have been from fine dining, French seafood restaurants. I am a Californian, living in New York for the past five years, so I've had plenty of exposure to both Asian and Latin cuisine. I hate to use this title but my style would have to be characterized as New American, meaning I like to use fresh seasonal ingredients, prepared with classical (French) techniques, utilizing a variety of ethnic flavors.
What inspires your kitchen? I'd like to think that my home kitchen is designed with functional simplicity in mind. At work I have all the cooking equipment I could ever use, at home I just need a sauté pan, a small, med, and large pot a sharp knife and a cutting board. I just want to be able to roast a chicken for me and my wife, and soon for our baby, or grill some vegetables outside, make a little salad with lemon and olive oil. Good, simple food.
What is your favorite kitchen tool or element? I have one small copper sauce pot I got from a restaurant I worked at. It always feel fancy to use.
Best cooking advice or tip you ever received: The best cooking advice is to taste and salt as you go, and don't worry about deviating from a recipe if you think the dish tastes better another way. It's right if it tastes good to you, not if you followed the directions.
Biggest challenge in your kitchen: I feel like my kitchen gets cluttered easily. I usually have a few things going at once and I tend to run out of work space on the counter.
Biggest indulgence: The indulgences are usually spent on ingredients. I try to buy sustainable, organic ingredients when I can, but it does make the day to day cost of meals higher.
Dream tool or splurge: I'd love to be set up for sous vide cooking at home. To do it right that would require a professional vacuum packaging machine and a thermal circulator, a $4,000-$5000 cost.
What are you cooking this week? This week I am actually cooking outside . The current issue of the Oxford American is on Southern food. In it Brad Watson pens an article called "The Rich Life” where he describes making BBQ chicken with his step-father. It really sounds good so I got some wood chips and chicken and am going to slow smoke it for 3 hours basting with vinegary BBQ sauce.
What cookbook has inspired you the most? This is another hard question, but I would have to say James Beard's "Theory & Practice of Good Cooking". I didn't go to culinary school so as a young cook I needed to learn technique not recipes. In his book, each chapter is a different cooking method, boiling, roasting, braising, etc; and for each he gives a definition of the method, a basic example and then some variations. It was very helpful for a green cook who didn't know the difference between sautéing and frying. Even today my favorite books teach me how to do something, a technique I can apply as I see fit. You don't need someone from the Food Network to tell you how to make a roast pork loin with apples and white wine; you need someone to teach you how to braise meat. That way if the apples are bad or out of season you can use dried cherries and red wine, or lemon and thyme with potatoes, or hoisin sauce with onions and peppers, or whatever you want because you know the technique. Please excuse the soapbox.
What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen? Last Christmas my wife and I made lasagna together. She makes the pasta and I make the sauce. The pasta rolling attachment for the Kitchen Aid mixer makes making pasta really easy and my wife likes to do it which is good for me.
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(Images: Jill Slater)