There’s a pretty large divide you average, amateur home cook and full-on professional culinary artists. This gap persists despite large-scale efforts in recent years to make cooking at home with fresh and interesting ingredients much easier for everyone.
Previously, professional chefs ate well at home and everyone else just muddled through the same few repeated meals, with the buzzword ‘organic’ still years away from being part of our cultural discussion.
But for those of us hoping to improve our culinary skills, and maybe even explore entry-level culinary work, closing that gap is of the utmost importance.
The first step? Well, to answer that question and many others, we present our recent interview with Sven Gadzimski, a professional chef originally from Germany (where he attended culinary school for 5 years and was selected for an exclusive 18-month training program) who now lives and works in Los Angeles.
Gadzimski was the youngest executive pastry chef at The Blue Door in Miami and served as the private Chef for the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at USC. More recently, Gadzimski has helped to develop a healthy cooking program for Pasadena Media.
When it came to the question of how amateur cooks can take things to the next level, he had a lot to say and a lot of advice to give. Bon appetit!
- How can an amateur cook delve deeper into the culinary arts? What’s a good entry-point for more advanced cooking?
- Are there any free or inexpensive resources that can help non-cooks learn the essentials?
- In your opinion, what are two or three kitchen tools or devices (if any) that make for a helpful addition to the average home kitchen?
- There are so many recipe sites online. Are there any specific ones that tend to offer higher-quality recipes and meal ideas?
- How important is it for home cooks to experiment with different dishes and ingredients?
- Do you have any special advice for those looking to improve their cooking skills?
- What was your greatest source of inspiration when you were just starting out in the culinary industry?
How can an amateur cook delve deeper into the culinary arts? What’s a good entry-point for more advanced cooking?
Gadzimski: The question is, how far does the amateur cook want to go? Will it be a full-time career or just a temporary job? Every company is happy to find new employees with the desire to grow in their profession. Some hotels and restaurants do require a culinary degree though for insurance purposes. I have worked for an executive chef who started 25 years earlier as a dishwasher and then worked his way up. I would suggest applying for a job as a prep-cook or even just an intern to get a foot in the door. Then see what the growth potential is like.
Catering is also a good idea. Cities like New York, Miami or Los Angeles have a ton of high profile events, ranging from small private parties to high-end VIP parties. You can apply to a smaller catering company first to get experience in the field. Once you get more experienced you could apply at a more high-end catering company for more advanced cooking.
Are there any free or inexpensive resources that can help non-cooks learn the essentials?
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Gadzimski: I think anyone who wants to become a professional should have a basic school degree as a foundation to build upon. That is not always possible though. Personally I like looking at YouTube videos to get inspired by other chefs. Especially when I cook more international dishes it helps me a lot. You can also follow different chefs on Instagram as well as using different apps on your phone to help you with nutrition or cooking tips. The internet is the best and cheapest information source in my eyes.
In your opinion, what are two or three kitchen tools or devices (if any) that make for a helpful addition to the average home kitchen?
Gadzimski: Every kitchen needs to be equipped with a set of knives, some pots and pans, and a cutting board. If you want to get into baking you definitely need a solid stand mixer, baking trays, measuring cups, etc.
A good blender is important to make soups and sauces, and if you have kids, then a panini maker always comes in handy.
There are so many recipe sites online. Are there any specific ones that tend to offer higher-quality recipes and meal ideas?
Gadzimski: Nowadays almost every celebrity chef has their own website with cooking tutorials and tips, but other recommendable sites are foodnetwork.com and marthastewart.com.
How important is it for home cooks to experiment with different dishes and ingredients?
Gadzimski: It is very important. You will never be good at anything if you don’t step out of your comfort zone. Trying new ingredients and different cooking techniques will make you understand different flavors and the cultures they come from. Living in a place like Los Angeles gives you access to many international shops with authentic spices and ingredients from all over the world. It is very easy to create traditional dishes to appreciate other cultures.
Do you have any special advice for those looking to improve their cooking skills?
Gadzimski: You can search for local cooking or baking classes in your area. Most kitchen retail stores offer classes and workshops for both kids and adults. I just took a fondant design class myself to improve my cake-making skills. It was offered in a bakeshop where I purchase my tools. It was fun, pretty inexpensive, and I connected with other chefs. Like I mentioned above, the internet is a great learning tool. It is convenient and free to use. You can watch many international chefs creating different dishes on YouTube or Instagram. You can find a video for any cooking or baking technique online. Of course, there are also cooking classes online that are not free. It is up to you to decide where to invest your money.
What was your greatest source of inspiration when you were just starting out in the culinary industry?
Gadzimski: It was my grandmother and I was six years old at the time. She cooked daily and when I came home from school she always let me help her. I remember cleaning vegetables and cutting them. When she made a cake she would sit with a large bowl on her lap and mix eggs and sugar by hand for hours. That showed me how much passion and dedication you need to create good food. She was probably not an inspiration in the professional sense, but many things that I do today make me think of the things my grandmother taught me.