Pairing Your Style with Celebrity Chefs
Having thought this through in some detail, I wondered if it was possible to characterize our own cooking styles and find our inner celebrity chef. So, I formulated a test for novices and experienced cooks alike that assesses cooking styles and helps align people with the cookbooks that suit their cooking personality. Choose the first answer that comes to mind.
My dream vacation would take place in:
- New York City
- A spa
A dish I would rely on as a crowd pleaser:
- Crown roast with stuffing
- Meatball subs
- BBQ ribs
- Beef bourguignon
When faced with a new project my tendency is to:
- Do some research and make a detailed plan
- Jump in and do it
- Kick back and think about it
- Take an idea and put my stamp on it
For me, shopping trips are:
- Geared toward accomplishing my to do list
- About large discount warehouses
- A time to stroll with a friend
- About finding the best quality
At my house, guests eat their meals on:
- Matching porcelain or the latest designer dishes
- Paper plates
- Mix and match flea market finds
Here’s how you measure up:
- Mostly a: Classic (Julia and Martha)
- Mostly b: Fast and Tasty (Rachael and Sandra)
- Mostly c: Southern Exposure (Paula and the Neelys)
- Mostly d: Gourmet Gurus (Ina and Tyler)
Mixed: You’re eclectic, try them all!
One morning I sat at my son’s karate class reading a favorite cookbook. The instructor walked by and looked at me curiously. “Are you reading a cookbook?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied. He claimed to not even know how to boil water, so I felt it necessary to fill him in on what he had been missing. I explained to him that cookbooks are much more than a primer on cooking or a compendium of recipes—they are travelogues, biographies, style manuals and entertaining bibles. He shrugged his shoulders and walked away, unconvinced that cookbooks could be useful, much less a source of entertainment.
A recent trip to the bookstore proved to me that I am not alone in my love of cookbooks. It was right after the release of the film adaptation of Julie and Julia and the question on every customer’s lips was, “Do you have Mastering the Art of French Cookery by Julia Child?”
Having experimented with many chefs’ works over the years, I started pondering Ms. Child’s influence on modern cooking. Then I perused the shelves to see if I could categorize the chefs represented there in a way that would be helpful for someone new to cooking. Obviously, I would want to steer a novice, such as my son’s karate teacher, in a direction that would produce a successful outcome—a delicious meal. I thought many people would embrace Julia Childs’s teaching style, but would spend a lot of time reading instead of cooking. It seemed like the wordy recipes and lack of pictures would be daunting for a novice cook.
This brought to mind a disastrous luau that I tried to pull off back in the early 1990’s. I pored over the pages of Martha Stewart’s Entertaining, but due to my lack of cooking experience, the recipes I cooked from it tasted lousy. Entertaining wasn’t for beginners. Even though Martha Stewart is a perfectionist and Julia Child never could be, they share a love of detail and explicit instructions. I dubbed their brand of cooking the “Classics.”
Going through the roster of Food Network stars seemed the next logical step in breaking down the cookbook genre. For those folks who want their meals “fast and tasty,” look no further than Sandra Lee and Rachael Ray. Some people may not see the similarities between these two instantly, but look closely and you’ll understand what I mean. Rachael Ray once hawked food products in grocery stores, which led to mastering her trademark 30 Minute Meals. Sandra Lee’s semi-homemade ingredient list is largely made up of store-bought items. It’s all about ease in preparation and getting a hot, tasty meal to the table fast. Hey, isn’t that what we all want on a week night?
The next category I pondered was “Southern Exposure,” starring none other than The Neelys and Paula Deen. If you are looking for succulent meat that falls off the bone and delicious entrees to bring to potlucks, these are the cooks for you. I’ve tried a few of Paula Deen’s recipes with success, mostly for special occasion foods. The Neelys’ easy-going personalities and family style kitchen make it all seem doable and low stress. A chef in this category probably learned to cook at their grandmother’s knee.
Finally, I came up with a category called, “Gourmet Gurus” which includes two of my favorite chefs, Tyler Florence and Ina Garten. I have recommended Ina Garten’s cookbooks to many friends because of the simplicity of the recipes and the extraordinary results that come from a short list of easy-to-find ingredients. Tyler Florence and his “Ultimate” series take classic dishes and raise them up a notch with modern flair. The chefs in the previous two categories stress casual entertaining with friends and family.
Meet CASEY BROOK MCPHEE
Casey Brook McPhee is an avid reader who has worked in libraries for twenty years. She is torn between her love for the scent and tactile pleasure of books and the instant gratification the Amazon Kindle provides.