It was a late afternoon in the fall of 2007. I was just killing some time at Richmond Public Library before my weekly badminton game. Honestly I barely visit libraries. But it was during the time when I was enjoying a much needed break after I left a fairly sizable software company and a stressful job. With all this free time I was even able to go to the library, and I felt amazing!
While randomly browsing, I couldn’t help but notice ‘Instant Entertaining’ by Donna Hay, with its invitingly beautiful powder blue cover gleaming at me. And once started flipping through it, I could hardly put it down. I was immensely fascinated by all the ideas of cooking and plating in the book – a lot of details on how to use fresh and colorful ingredients to create visually stunning dishes. And this whole book is exactly about what I love to do with FOOD – cooking, eating, and entertaining. A week later, I found the book at a discount bookstore downtown and it became my very first cookbook!
Since then I had acquired 2 more Donna Hay books. It was before Christmas, 2009, I was again, captured by the beautiful cover of a cookbook, The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller, while I was shopping for Christmas gifts at Costco. And it was on sale, I got 2 books (The French Laundry Cookbook and Ad Hoc at Home) in a set for the price of one book. I bought them, gave Ad Hoc at Home to my friend Melissa as a holiday gift, and kept The French Laundry Cookbook.
At the time, I had been exposed to only a little bit of French cooking – I know how to make a roux for making basic velouté for creamy soups.
But that was about it.
French cooking was the opposite of my cooking style at the time: I did not use a lot of butter, I seldom used oven to do slow cooking, and I rarely baked anything for dessert.
Also at the time, I watched a lot of Iron Chef America on TV. The show premise of how to put together a few visually stunning dishes with wicked ingredients within one hour, was largely influential on my cooking style for my dinner parties.
I always ended up allowing myself only one hour for shopping, one hour to prep before all the guests arrived, then I just threw out my quick tricks, quickly steamed or sautéed the ingredients, and put together some visually pleasing plate for each course. With a bit of time management, expensive ingredients, and artistic presentation, I had been pulling off 5-course dinner party for 6 – 8 people one after one, and getting all the wow’s. There was a lot of work, but that wasn’t a lot of real cooking, it was simply my one-man show of entertainment with food. Spoiled by the compliments, this so-called success had kept me away from the serious cooking – for almost 4 years, The French Laundry Cookbook was just a great looking piece sitting on my coffee table, never opened.
The recent event of me failing to qualify for MasterChef Canada has definitely changed how I look at my own cooking. I want to be a great home cook. Oh heck I probably want to be one of the best home cooks! But receiving generous kind words from my lovely friends and family, and occasionally ‘likes’ from a few strangers on Instagram or Facebook, am I really that good to be among the best? Definitely not. But I do want to be the best – it is a stepping stone for me to enter a new chapter of my life. I don’t want to be a professional chef (having read ‘Kitchen Confidential’ by my hero Anthony Boudain), but I desire to have a career with my great passion for food! I want to celebrate my success, and share the most exquisite dining experience with everyone in the world, on the seaside patio of my own restaurant / lounge, with champagne popping, and fireworks exploding above in the sky. Yes it might sound cheesy, but I love it!
So what do I need to do to become better and even the best? I need to go back to the basics. And I need to learn the basics from the greatest. And then, I saw The French Laundry Cookbook on my coffee table.
After watching Julie and Julia again on Netflix recently, I have found it inspiring how the food blog has changed Julie’s life. I can do the same! I am going to blog on cooking every recipe in The French Laundry Cookbook. I consider myself a terrible writer, although I do have a blog (Picky Diners Club) already. I started the blog at the end of 2010, with a great enthusiasm of attempting to connect myself to the world of foodies and home cooks, and expressing my great passion and love for cooking, hoping this would be my very first step towards a eventual commercial success. But oh boy, writing was hard. And it wasn’t until the beginning of 2014, when I finally started to spend serious amount of time in posting all my dine-out and cooking experiences on the blog. Although I have become more comfortable with writing, I still find writing very difficult. However, this is not going to stop me from writing – my goal for my new blog is simple and clear: I blog about what I learn from the cookbook and it will help me become the best!
I also want to blog about my own life. I want to rediscover myself. I will try to recollect the bits and pieces in my past that have helped me become who I am today. Knowing myself, that’s another key to my success.
So let the journey begin!