I have an absolute respect for chefs. They go through a great deal of training to hone their craft. Many attend great culinary schools, work under the best chefs, practice for hours on end.....
But that's not what I want to talk about today. I don't believe everyone can be an amazing chef. I believe some people are just naturally gifted in understanding taste, texture and other elements related to cuisine. What I do believe though, is everyone can be a great cook.
Cooking is like any art: It takes practice, you need to understand the basics and you need to learn from your mistakes.
Here are a couple of tips to get you on your way to becoming a better cook.
1) Buy a Book on Spices
Spices are critical to any good dish and there are a lot of them out there. Learning about spices, how to use them and how to combine them can bring your cooking craft up to a whole new level. My personal favorite is the Herb and Spice Bible series. They are very straight forward and give you everything you need to know about working with herbs and spices.
2) Try cooking new things on your own often
Got cook books you've never touched? Got a recipe you saw online but haven't gotten around to making it? DO IT NOW! Recipes are like the sheet music of cooking. You have to try them out (possibly a few times) to become comfortable with them and to decide if you even like them (after all, not everyone likes the same food just like not everyone likes the same music). Plus if you try cooking it on your own first, you can save yourself the fear of your friends thinking you're trying to poison them.
3) Don't give up!
All arts take continuous practice. Just because you bomb a dish the first time doesn't mean you won't get it next time. It's about learning from your mistakes and improving the next time. I'm a perfect example of this. My first cooking disaster happened when I was a little kid. My mom trusted me to make brownies on my own. Not having a clue what I was doing, I cut the butter slab according to the measuring guide on the paper the butter is wrapped in and put the WRONG end of the butter into the batter. Needless to say those were some buttery brownies. But that is how you learn. I have yet to make that mistake twice I can promise you that!
The most important thing to do in the kitchen is never give up and always have fun. Food should be an enjoyable experience. If you're not having fun....get out of the kitchen.