By Chef de Cuisine Saul Bolton
Great Performances’ own Michelin-star chef, Saul Bolton, shares his tips for successful home cooking. In addition to cooking professionally, he enjoys practicing his craft at home, and these are his tried-and-true tips for success. Dedicating enough time to the planning and preparation of your dishes helps ensure flawless execution and presentation
1. Make a plan. Before you begin, consider the entire process, from menu planning through plating and serving. Think about what ingredients and tools you’ll need for each step; consider your ingredients and their seasonality; and write out your timeline.
2. Choose quality ingredients. Ingredients must be well chosen for quality and seasonality – they impact both the appearance and the flavor of your dish.
3. Create a timeline. Know what time you’re serving your dishes and work backwards from there, building in a bit of extra time so you’re not tempted to take shortcuts. Take the time to properly season your food throughout the process, tasting as you go, and to cook everything to specification.
4. Visualize the process. Before you pick up a knife, take a breath and visualize the process. Know what steps you’ll take and when. If you need to, write out your steps to help you remember each step and ingredient. You don’t want to cook things out of order of usage; your food will suffer if you do.
5. Prepare your tools. Pick out all your cooking implements including pots, pans and spatulas to make sure you have what you need and that they’re clean and ready to use. Also make sure you have your plates ready – you don’t want to scramble for a dish as you work to plate your food.
7. Clean constantly. Clean as you go to avoid confusion or mixing ingredients; a clean area promotes clean plating and helps prevent cross-contamination.
8. Plate your food. Remember less is more – if it doesn’t fit, don’t force it. Leave at least a ½-inch border between your food and the edge of the plate. You want your plate to look full, but not overflowing and the white space will help frame your food. Let your ingredients shine and allow each ingredient to show: everything should be seen, even if it’s just peeking out.
9. Shoot for natural symmetry. We are not robots and avoid overly precise plating. You want order, but natural order.