Training Your Palate

Great cooks learn from observing and tasting the food other cooks make and from what celebrity chefs love to call “The Product”.

“The Product” is the snobby way of saying ingredients.

You need to know your ingrdients as well as you know a lover.  All lovers behave and taste differently.

If you want to be a good cook, you have to know the techniques and basic recipes that cooks have created over the centuries.

But you can know every technique and recipe without having Panache.

Panache comes from training your palate to identify ingredients, and that training is only accomplished by tasting different cuisines.

Panache comes from a strong desire to know what created the taste that is in your mouth — be it good OR bad.  Once you know the source of a particular flavor you can take the next step which is combining these flavors in YOUR way with the confidence that is the hallmark of Panache.

A cook with Panache has resilliance.  That means you don’t let a cooking disaster rob you of the will to create.  When I fail, which I do with fair regularity, I always revist the process and look for the ingredient or technique that took the dish off in the wrong direction.  The investigation results in my saying to myself, “Next time I try this I will ……” not, “It was a bomb…..give it up.”

The bottom line is that a palate is never fully trained.  It is always learning.

I recall one of my dear Julia Child’s last TV series, “Cooking with Master Chefs”.   Yes, she was there to showcase the chef, and maybe drink a bit too much wine, BUT she was always there to train her palate and learn new techniques.  In my opinion the thing that separates great chefs like Julia from the cooking TV celbrities is a willingness to learn AND great humility.