Chow Bella

12 Metro Phoenix Chefs Share Their Best Advice for Home Cooks

In the words of Julia Child, perhaps the most famous home cook ever, "No one is born a great cook; one learns by doing.”
So, who better to ask for cooking tips than people who spend most of their waking hours inside professional kitchens? From buying good knives to prepping your ingredients before you make your next meal, here's the advice Phoenix chefs have to offer at-home gourmands.  

Tracy Dempsey, owner of Tracy Dempsey Originals 

Let a recipe be a guide. If you don’t have every ingredient called for in the recipe, it’s okay. Accept that as a challenge, and think outside of the recipe. Have fun. You are not saving lives or changing the world. It’s food. Cook, enjoy, and learn.

Cruz Robles, chef of Bevvy

For more advanced recipes, the biggest parts of cooking are timing and temperature control. Most cooking is about ratios and about understanding how these ratios affect the final product, so I always recommend this book to new chefs/cooks: Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman. Great book that explains cooking in a very simple way. 

Jason Alford, chef of Roka Akor

Pay for good ingredients. Even if you screw them up, they still taste good.

Pauline Martinez, co-owner of Perk Eatery

Invest in the best possible knives you can afford. You don't need a whole set, just a really good chef's knife that feels comfortable in your hand. I personally love my Santoku knife for daily use. 

Michael Rusconi, chef and owner of Rusconi’s American Kitchen

That’s easy: You can always add, but you can’t take away. You can’t take things like salt and pepper away, so use good judgment.

Rebecca Tillman, executive chef of Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort

Experiment with ingredients you may not be as familiar with. Invest in great cookware and a nice set of knives. Great products really do last much longer. 

Garrison Whiting, executive chef of Counter Intuitive and sous chef of Cowboy Ciao

The most useful piece of advice for a home cook is this: Go get a job in a restaurant kitchen for like a month and do prep work. The things we could show you would blow your mind. Oh, and don’t be afraid of the salt and pepper; they are your friends. Also, use real butter for everything. Just chop the whole onion! You’ll use it tomorrow.

Chrysa Robertson, chef and owner of Rancho Pinot

Color equals flavor. Don't be a slave to a recipe. Learn good basic techniques. Don't forget to support your local restaurants!

Charles Wiley, executive chef of ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho

Practice! Wash, chop, and slice all your ingredients before you start cooking (in restaurants we call it preparing your mise-en-place). At home I have a dozen eight-inch clear glass bowls I use only for that purpose. Find two or three simple recipes your family likes, and cook them over and over until you perfect them. You’ll be surprised how you will naturally set up your kitchen with the correct utensils and arrange them so you take less steps, and figure out what parts you can prepare the day before.

Aaron Pool, chef and owner of Gadzooks Enchiladas & Soups

Get a nice pot that will radiate heat evenly. It will remove another variable that may be causing things to go wrong in the kitchen. If you have good equipment, it comes down to your cooking methods if things don’t turn out right. The $200 price tag might seem intimidating, but you will have it forever. 

Becca Carlson, executive chef of Federal Pizza 

Continue to cook any and everything you can get your hands on. Never be afraid to experiment and fail, because through failure is where innovation occurs.

Robert Nixon, chef of Geordie’s Steak at the Wrigley Mansion

You can never go wrong with whole butter and bacon.
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Teresa is a writer, editor, traveler, and food enthusiast. She loves chocolate, espresso, and Chihuahuas.
Contact: Teresa Traverse