I often get asked “I loved this soup, tell me please, what’s your secret?” or “Delicious pasta, once again, what’s that you put in the sause?”
People think that it’s all about ingredients and cooking techniques. It is correct to a certain extend because you can’t make a great dish with lousy ingredients. Also it takes practice and requires knowledge to know what to do. Having said that, I think this is not enough to make a great dish. So I am going to tell you what my secret ingredients are and hope you’ll remember them next time you start cooking.
My first set of “secret ingredients” is story and passion. Why? Because every dish has a story. It’s that little thing that’s special about it and makes it different from the rest. It might be related to where you found the recipe, or where you first eat it. Or it may be related to the main product in the dish, or who else tasted it or liked it. No matter what the story is, every dish must have one. Otherwise it has no character and it’s not interesting. And it starts from the very beginning – in the shop or on the market, where you buy the ingredients. I always ask the person whom I buy from, where their spinach or leeks come from. In the supermarket, I read the label carefully and sometimes later, at home go on the producer’s website for more info.
I also mentioned the passion. Yes, this is crucial and I think if you don’t have it you won’t have a great dish. It doesn’t matter if you’re cooking for one person or one hundred people; the food will come out better if you carry out every process of its preparation with passion.
Everyone likes flattery but amazing to me is the difference in reactions of people when they receive a compliment about their creation. One type of people (and there are chefs among them, as well) is the ones that would rather die with the recipe or as they call it “the secret” than tell somebody else. Now, what is this? It may sound a bit harsh but I call such persons small-minded and egotistic. To my opinion most people are not like this.
Most people like sharing and are proud of their creations. Especially if admired by others. So the second set of “secret ingredients” is pride and sharing. Talking about me – I am always proud of what I do and love to share it with friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even people I don’t know. And that’s because all you like or love loses half its pleasure if not shared with someone.
Even, if I gave my favorite recipe to one hundred people, every single person’s dish would taste differently. My simple philosophy is such: A recipe is merely words, a guideline, a starting point from which to improvise. For that reason I think everybody should stir their own ideas into the dishes. When you cook it once, it becomes yours because you put your story and passion in it.
As long as you use these ingredients and prepare your food with pride and passion, share it with people you like and wrap it with your story, the results will never disappoint.