From Asian to barbecue, breakfast to dessert, vegan to wild game, Houston dining establishments have taken the mere act of providing sustenance to a whole new unbelievably satisfying and extremely gratifying level. Why eat at home when you can experience such phenomenal cuisine? That’s a worthy question of any Houstonian. Alas, at times we must try our amateur hands at replicating these perfectly honed skills. It is fun, but never the same. Here are a few helpful hints at how to make your kitchen a bit more like the professionals’.
“Adrenaline.” Chef Edelberto Goncalves, Rouge
“Braise – because you can braise anything, especially with fall coming up. Basil because when you are cooking Italian, you have to have fresh basil.” Chef Bruce McMillian, Tony?s
“Cilantro – I like the taste of it, but I don?t like to eat it, so I’m constantly trying to find ways of getting it into food without having to bite down on it.” Chef Maria Gonzalez, Saba Blue Water Café
Diversity – trying new flavors and experimenting with new spices can inspire a new creation for your kitchen.
Eggs – the incredible edible original
“Fun – you must have fun in the kitchen.” Chef Jesse Llapitan, Olivette at The Houstonian
Garlic – not only does it keep vampires away, garlic is good for you and serves as a base flavor for many dishes.
Herbs – fresh herbs make all the difference in preparing food. Many grocery stores have fresh herbs in their produce section, but a surefire spot to locate hard-to-find fresh herbs is the farmers’ market on Airline Drive.
Iron skillet – cookware that keeps flavor and can be passed on through the generations
Juice – freshly squeezed, of course
Knives – make sure they are sharp. You cut yourself more often with a dull knife than a sharp one.
“Love – you have to have love for the kitchen, or at least for food.” Chef Mark Holley, Pesce
“Music – you need to have music in your kitchen. Both of my kitchens have music in them. It changes your state of mind and makes cooking more fun than work, and it’s a motivator.” Chef Lance Fegen, Zula and Trevisio
Neatness in the kitchen makes the whole experience more enjoyable, especially if you clean as you cook.
“Organization – your establishment is successful by how organized you are.” Chef Toby Joseph, The Remington at The St. Regis
“Peppers – along with corn and tomatoes, peppers are the foundation of Mexican cuisine.” Chef Hugo Ortega, Hugo?s
Quality ingredients make all the difference between ‘good cooking’ and ‘great cooking.’
“Red wine – because if you’re making the sauce, you have to be at one with the sauce. If you are cooking at home, then everyone can enjoy the fruits of life: good food, good wine.” Chef Michael Frietsch, River Oaks Grill
“Scratch – everything in our kitchens is done from scratch from homemade family recipes.” Chef John Marion Carrabba, Piatto Ristorante
Tomatoes are a staple in so many different cuisines. For a sensational treat, place a few tomato slices and some fresh mozzarella cheese on a piece of warm bread right out of the oven; drizzle with your favorite olive oil and enjoy. (In fact, this is what became of some of the items shown on page 35.)
“Utilization in the kitchen is the key to success.” Chef Mark Cox, Mark’s American Cuisine
Vinegar, whether of the red wine, white wine, rice wine or balsamic variety, is great in cooked dishes as well as dressings.
“Work ethic – if you have a good work ethic, it gives a consistency to the dish and to the food.” Chef Kiran Verma, Ashiana Fine Indian Cuisine
eXtra virgin olive oil adds great flavor to just about every dish. (See tomatoes above.)
Yogurt is a must for Middle Eastern and Near Asian cuisines, plus it makes a great spot for nestling your favorite fresh fruits.
Zest – a zest for the kitchen, food and cooking makes the whole experience worthwhile. And a citrus zester is a kitchen essential.