On Learning How to Think Like a Chef

I talk about cooking a lot with my family. I'm a baker, my sister's in culinary school, and both of my parents are fantastic cooks in their own way. But the one thing I'm not is an intuitive cook. Or a chef. Or whatever you may like to call it. I need a recipe. I'm often a little paralyzed without one, in fact.

And I'm in absolute awe of people who don't--people who can throw an entire dinner party without blinking an eye much less cracking open a cookbook. My friend Allison is like this. My mom is like this. And after reading a post on In Jennie's Kitchen this past week, I got to thinking about it even more: what makes someone think like a chef? How can you break free from a reliance on cookbooks and start to feel more certain and creative in the kitchen?

Jennie reassures her readers that "cooking is a learned skill for most people, as is language". She goes on to suggest that the best way to learn more about cooking is to really put the books away. She also advises browsing through your local farmers market or forgetting a list when you go grocery shopping. Let getting lost in aisle 2 be your new inspiration. Or pick up a new ingredient and imagine ways to use it in your own kitchen.

We'd like to know what you do to think like a chef and become more confident and creative in the kitchen. What tips do you have?

Related: Good Question: Best Book For Learning How to Cook?

(Images: Megan Gordon)

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Megan is a freelance writer, recipe developer and cookbook writer. Her first book, Whole-Grain Mornings, (Ten Speed Press) is available in bookstores nationwide. Megan also owns the Seattle-based artisan cereal company, Marge Granola.