Chefs understand food like nobody else. So if you’re looking for the type of wisdom that chefs can impart, you might be surprised by what they have to say. You might expect food snobbery, but most of them provide exactly the opposite.
So, what can we learn from some of the best chefs? We’ve compiled some of the best chef quotes as food for thought.
Some of the Best Chef Quotes
“Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.”
-Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential
“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”
-Anthony Bourdain, Medium Raw
“Just like becoming an expert in wine–you learn by drinking it, the best you can afford–you learn about great food by finding the best there is, whether simply or luxurious. Then you savor it, analyze it, and discuss it with your companions, and you compare it with other experiences.”
-Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking
“The preparation, cooking, and eating of food is a sacrament. Treating it as such has the potential to elevate the quality of our daily lives like nothing else.”
-Karen Page, The Flavor Bible
“Fortunately, I knew the cardinal rule of getting on with one’s fellow cooks. It applies in any kitchen and can be summed up in two short words: bust ass. Restaurant kitchens are the ultimate levelers. When you’re slammed and orders are starting to back up, you could care less about the color of the hands of the cook who is working next to you, as long as they are moving fast and effectively. Personal life, sexual preferences, accent, addictions, criminal record—none of them matter. Conversely, if he isn’t holding up his end, he could be your blood brother and you’d fire him in a second. That I had been chef at the “French White House” didn’t mean anything to these HoJo line chefs.”
-Jacques Pepin, The Apprentice
“When you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is.”
-Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food
“When aspiring chefs ask me for career advice, I offer a few tips: Cook every single day. Taste everything thoughtfully. Go to the farmers’ market and familiarize yourself with each season’s produce. Read everything Paula Wolfert, James Beard, Marcella Hazan, and Jane Grigson have written about food. Write a letter to your favorite restaurant professing your love and beg for an apprenticeship. Skip culinary school; spend a fraction of the cost of tuition traveling the world instead.”
-Samin Nosrat, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
“When people ask me how I develop recipes, I have to respond: ‘traveling, eating, watching, experimenting, and constantly asking myself: Do I want to eat this dish again? Will I yearn for it some evening when I’m hungry? Will I remember it in six months; time? In a year? Five years from now?”
“A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch. ”
“The explanation is that I consider cooking to be an act of love. I do enjoy the craft of cooking, of course, otherwise, I would not have done so much of it, but that is a very small part of the pleasure it brings me. What I love is to cook for someone. To put a freshly made meal on the table, even if it is something very plain and simple as long as it tastes good and is not a ready-to-eat something bought at the store, is a sincere expression of affection, it is an act of binding intimacy directed at whoever has a welcome place in your heart. And while other passions in your life may at some point begin to bank their fires, the shared happiness of good homemade food can last as long as we do.”
“In my experience, clever food is not appreciated at Christmas. It makes the little ones cry and the old ones nervous.”
“I train my chefs completely different to anyone else. My young girls and guys, when they come to the kitchen, the first thing they get is a blindfold. They get blindfolded and they get sat down at the chef’s table… Unless they can identify what they’re tasting, they don’t get to cook it.”
“Go vegetable-heavy. Reverse the psychology of your plate by making meat the side dish and vegetables the main course.”
“Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors–it’s how you combine them that sets you apart.
“I think you’ve got to keep it simple, keep it fresh. Stay away from all that processed stuff, read the labels.”
“I think that you’ve got to make something that pleases you and hope that other people feel the same way.”
“Every kid in school no matter their background deserves to learn the basics about food–where it comes from, how to cook it, and how it affects their bodies. These life skills are as important as reading and writing, but they’ve been lost over the generations. We need to bring them back and bring up our kids to be streetwise about food.
“Never be a food snob. Learn from everyone you meet–the fish guy at your market, the lady at the local diner, farmers, cheesemakers. Ask questions, try everything, and eat up!
“Recipes are just descriptions of one person’s take on one moment in time. They’re not rules.”
Boiling It All Down
The wisdom that chefs have to impart varies. However, some of their best advice seems to boil down to five things: eating simply, traveling, learning from others, savoring our food, and enjoying food with others.
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