It’s time to make dinner and you’re just not feeling it — a familiar struggle that is all too real for many of us. Whether you’re single or feeding a family, cooking can sometimes feel like a burden — but it doesn’t have to be. With a little inspiration and a few tips from the pros, you can escape the pattern of seeing cooking as a thankless chore and bring some joy and passion back into your kitchen.
Take it from Chef Ken Rubin, chief culinary officer with Rouxbe Online Culinary School. He works with students ranging from home cooks like you and me to professional chefs, and is familiar with the negative perceptions around cooking. Whether you’re just stuck in a culinary rut, fear failure or have anxiety about if people will like what you prepared, Rubin has seen it all and can assure you that while cooking may take time and focus, sometimes all it takes is a simple recipe and smile to turn things around — he even suggests your kids can help you get inspired.
We asked Chef Rubin to give us a few tips on how to make cooking fun instead of a chore:
Some of us home chefs love being in the kitchen, for others it’s a chore to put dinner on the table. What are some ways to bring joy back to our cooking?
I remind students to open up to the process, savor each step, slow down, and start with small goals that are achievable. As an example, I will often speak to people who try to follow a recipe from a blog or magazine and feel frustrated when it’s not “perfect.” My advice is to just relax, and give yourself a break. Start by learning to cook something familiar that you know you will like. If you like minestrone soup, make that. Or if you love eating simple pasta with olive and basil, make that – cooking can be very simple. Don’t be fussy and just remind yourself that no matter what, you will be hungry in a few hours and have a chance to redeem yourself each time you cook. And, it does get easier with practice.
Where do you turn to for inspiration when it comes to cooking?
I have a fairly large collection of cookbooks that I love for inspiration and to generate ideas. Right now, I’m loving Vegetable Kingdom by Bryant Terry – just a great book and a pleasure to read. Also, Six Seasons by Josh McFadden is great for new ideas – it was my favorite go-to book last year.
When you’re feeling stuck in a culinary rut, how do you turn things around?
I ask my kids what they feel like eating… they always have new ideas or bring me back to their favorites.
Maybe we’re tired of the same old cooking style. Any tips for trying a new type of cuisine you don’t know much about?
I tell people just to dive in and explore… the worst that can happen is that you realize that you might prefer one type of cuisine over another. But, on the flip side, you may open up your entire world and learn that you actually LOVE new foods and that’s pretty exciting. But, don’t feel guilty if you don’t prefer flavors from everywhere. It’s a big world and there’s enough good food from any region to keep a person happy for a lifetime.
How can an online culinary training tool like Rouxbe help inspire home cooks?
Our students report back that they are amazed at how Rouxbe has taught them to look at food from a completely new perspective. Since we focus on techniques, not recipes, we actually empower people to learn new things on their terms so it prompts a lot more internal drive to learn and try new things in ways that work with what flavors they love.
Rouxbe has a lot of great how-to videos available online. What are some of your favorite technique videos you recommend for home cooks?
Knife skills, basics of cooking vegetables, cooking legumes and whole grains… I also love the stir-fry lessons.
Be sure to check out more tips and techniques from Chef Rubin and the team at Rouxbe Online Culinary School.