Whole 30 Like A Chef

Round4, Day 1

Just started a round and was having a conversation with a friend who’s also starting a round next week. I mentioned a few things I’d learned from my days running a restaurant (and from being both a foodie and a foodie writer), and she encouraged me to post them here, so I will. I feel like enjoying my food on a round helps me want to stick to the program, so I hope this helps you the way it helps me.

Season. Everything. You. Cook. It seems simple, but the act of seasoning every time you add ingredients to recipes makes a massive difference to how your taste buds enjoy food.

Use layering, especially with vegetable dishes and sauces When you make that breakfast hash, make sure you start off with (diced/minced) onions and/or garlic in the pan before you add the sweet potatoes or the mushrooms or the brussel sprouts. Add leeks to your vegetable dishes (make sure you wash them out appropriately on the inside, or they’ll be gritty) for a different flavor. More flavors in the pan means more interest for your tongue on the fork.

Experiment with more than one kind of fat when you cook Making sautéed veggies? Use both olive oil and ghee. Or bacon fat and olive oil. Or coconut oil and ghee. Add duck fat to the fat you normally use when searing your pot roast. Or your potatoes. Your taste buds will pick up on the subtle differences between the flavors and subconsciously create more interest in your food. Enjoying food is all about interested taste buds.

Don’t cook high and hot unless you have to Some things are meant to be cooked high and hot. But in general, cook things lower and slower (not necessarily “ribs” low-and-slow, but try not to use the “high” settings on your burners or your stove). It allows for more time to develop flavor. Not only that, but a lot of proteins will actually taste better, cooked at the right temperature. Eggs, too.

Use your whole spice cabinet We’ll all have one or two spices we use a lot. The more you can use your whole spice cabinet, the more variety your palate will get and it will thank you by making some of those hard days easier because you’re looking forward to your food so much. There are plenty of places to go to find out what spices go with what kind of proteins. Many, many talented chefs blog about what spices enhance what kinds of flavors, and which spices taste the best together. Again, interested taste buds want to come back to the table.

Use every part of the food Don’t throw your bones away, or the ends of your vegetables, or the veggie carcasses. Keep them in a bag in your refrigerator and use them to make your own stock. Use stock to add flavor to sauces and dishes instead of just water.

Think about balance Sometimes, when a dish isn’t flavorful enough, it might be because it needs lemon or vinegar. Things that are too fatty often need acid to balance them out. Don’t be afraid to add fruit juice to a sauce to balance out fat or acid with sweetness. One-dimensional foods are less interesting to your palate. Experiment.

Add recipes slowly and keep notes If something didn’t work, can you put your finger on why it didn’t work? Was it texture or taste? Did you cook it too long? Or too fast? Was the protein seasoned enough? Was it missing something? Do you know what didn’t work?

Don’t be afraid to go off-book If you don’t like vinegar, find a different acid to use in recipes that call for vinegar. Or add less of it, so the flavor is less-pronounced, but it still provides the balance you need. Or try a different kind of vinegar that has less of whatever quality of the food you don’t like. Take your favorite recipes (that you could cook with your eyes closed) and experiment with them to learn what you do and don’t like.

I find that I now look forward to Whole 30 rounds because I know I’m going to be hand-preparing every meal and taking care with how I put food on my plate, and into my body. I want to get the best food into my body that I can, and that’s all about seducing my taste buds to love what’s good for me. And *that* is all about flavor.

Anyway, I hope this is helpful. To everyone who’s starting on, or already on a round this week, happy cooking!

***A giant thank you to Becca for giving us some great ideas to shake things up in the kitchen. With so many meals to cook during a round, these tips are more than welcomed. While not spending her time in the kitchen, Becca can be found writing books under the pen name, R. L. Syme. Look her up!