Becoming a Master Chef: Shortcuts and Expert Advice

We’re sharing cooking tips, tricks, and some coveted secrets.

By: Jessi Minneci


As your trusted caterers, we want to lend you a hand in the kitchen. In fact, we value you so much that we want to bring you closer to becoming somewhat of an iron chef. We’re all food lovers here, and what better way to celebrate food and our admiration of you than by bring you some pro cooking tips?

The kitchen is a place where masterpieces are made. On the contrary, there’s a very fine line between completing that masterpiece… and having it go up in flames mid-meal prep. No one wants to crash and burn.

Below are some of our favorite tips and tricks to avoid that accident in the kitchen.

Mise en place ASAP

Mis en place is a French term meaning ‘everything in its place.’ It more or less refers to the setup that’s required before cooking and is used in restaurants and other professional kitchens to refer to organizing the ingredients a cook will readily need.

Everyone should aim for mise en place regardless of whether they are manning a five-star restaurant or a kitchen full of hungry children. Do as much prep as you can the day prior or hours leading up to cooking/hosting an event. Make sauces ahead of time. Assemble appetizer displays so that they’re ready to go. Bake desserts a day (or even two!) before you are expecting company.

Mise en place goes beyond the food too. Put your mind at ease by decorating you event space or dining room table before the event. It means there will be less to do day-of, which in turn means a mind that is at ease.

Put a lid on it

Ever hear the saying “watch pot never boils”? When you’re in a pinch and need your pasta water to start boiling, like, yesterday, put a lid on it! A pot of water will begin to boil much quicker with a cover on it. 

Be a master of the pickle

Need to shake up the variety when it comes to your veggie side dishes? Want to surprise your backyard party guests with a new take on the same-old burger toppings? How about pickling?

Whisk a pinch of salt and pinch of sugar into some white wine vinegar. Pour over thinly sliced raw vegetables. Let soak for twenty minutes. Ta-duh! It’s that easy and injects a ton of flavor into your dishes.

Give the crowd finger lickin’ chicken

When it comes to cooking for a large crowd, chicken breast can get expensive. They also get dull after a while. Thighs are juicier, more cost effective, and more flavorful – and the nutritional difference isn’t something to really fret over:                                 

  • A three ounce skinless, chicken breast provides about 140 calories, three grams of fat and one gram of saturated fat
  • A three-ounce skinless, chicken thigh clocks in at 170 calories, nine grams of fat and three grams of saturated fat

The delicious taste is worth the bit of extra fat when it comes to cooking for a crowd!

Sniff the spices

Ground spices unfortunately don’t last as long as we’d like them to. Give your spices a whiff… if they don’t smell like anything, they won’t taste like anything, either. And if they don’t taste like anything that means you’re essentially cooking with a flavorless powder – what a buzzkill.

Feeling dull?

Kitchen knives get dull, and if we don’t keep up with getting them sharpened, they can become quite useless. One of our chef’s strongest suggestions is to do your research and invest in a chef’s knife – his favorite tool in the kitchen. A decent chef knife that is well-maintained will last a home cook the rest of their life!

Tell your herbs they’re as pretty as flowers

Treat your fresh herbs like you would treat a fresh bouquet of flowers. Trim the stems and put them in glasses of water, fit a plastic bag over each glass of water, and stash them in the refrigerator.

Speaking of flowers…

Roses are a colorful, beautiful, and edible garnish. Beautify your serving trays with lavish rose petals. On the veggie side, kale is a great option that will make your tray look more presentable.

Stock up on soup essentials

A freezer full of pork necks and bony beef cuts will ensure you always have what you need to make broths, sauces, and other bases. The same goes for cheese rinds!! Seriously! Freeze your parmesan cheese rinds and think of them as ‘cheese bones’ when you go to make a cheese-based soup or sauce.

Invest in a massive mixing bowl

You’ll thank us for this one. No one wants to mix cake batter or toss salad in a tiny cereal bowl. The bigger the mixing bowl, the bigger the batch you can handle. Bring. It. On!

A spoon full of sugar helps the veggies go down

Yep, you read that correctly! Some veggies – such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and tomatoes – have a natural sweetness. Take that flavor to the next level with a dash of sugar.

Sell your toaster

OK, maybe you don’t have to go to such drastic measures, but we highly suggest you try frying your toast instead of toasting it. Warm some butter or olive oil over medium-high heat. Throw some bread into the pan and fry until golden on both sides. Indulge.

Store lemons in the fridge

Your lemons will stay fresher longer in the fridge. That way you’ll always be able to add fresh lemon juice to everything from dressings to cocktails.

86 the grease

When cooking bacon, beef, or other greasy foods, strain them over a bowl in the sink. Either toss that grease or save it (especially bacon grease, we highly recommend it) to cook other meats and veggies in. Do NOT pour your grease down the drain!

Make butter better

Surprisingly, it is possible. Mix a little shallot, some chopped herbs, cinnamon, or maybe some lemon zest into softened butter and —boom – you’ve got yourself some compound butter.

Are you a beast in the kitchen? With these tips and tricks, you sure will be. Go get ‘em!

Alyson Newquist