Becoming a chef is similar to becoming a great painter. When you start painting, it doesn’t really matter what your painting looks like at first. You just start. And you must learn by studying. A well-trained painter does not look at another painting and claim it is his painting. He does not simply copy someone else’s painting and claim it is his. Because he has studied painting at the highest level, he knows that when a painting is finished, it is finished. He doesn’t have to compare himself to another artist and say “Oh, my painting looks like your painting.” A well-trained painter knows that he is painting and not copying someone else’s painting.
But the same can be said of cooking, which I think is the greatest art of all. No one cooks who is not an expert, and a true chef knows that if you are not an expert, you can learn by studying. That is why cooking, like painting and writing, is not learned overnight. It is like reading a book that is more than 600 pages long. It doesn’t mean you will know all of it overnight. You must study it at the highest level. You must study other recipes. You must learn how to prepare the food in the proper way.
Cooking is not a skill that one learns by chance. It is more like painting or writing. You do not go to school and try to paint a masterpiece in one evening, or you do not go to school and try to write a story that is the best story in the world, and then you try to read it and become an author overnight. The cooking skill is much like painting. There are many well-known chefs in the world. You can learn from them. They can teach you how to cook good food. But it doesn’t mean you will become a chef by trying to cook their recipe.
I was traveling in Northern Ireland with a young man who is a chef now. We went to a local pub where the chef was working. My friend asked him, “Where did you learn to cook like this?” He answered, “My uncle taught me to cook.” Then my friend asked, “Did he teach you to cook like that because he was the best cook in the world?” The chef replied, “No. I do what he teaches me because I am studying.”
Yes, you must study, even if it’s within the structures of something like a catering company, which would make your learning terrace easier if a catering system is used to handle the technical details of the business side of proceedings.
But let me tell you the greatest thing about cooking: You must practice. You must start by cooking all the ingredients, preparing them, and finishing cooking them. It doesn’t matter if it takes you two hours to cook those potatoes. If you have never tried to cook potatoes in a pan, then you will have a big shock when you do it. But if you have cooked potatoes before and cooked them in a pan, you will know what to do.