Friday, January 29, 2010

Learning from cooking mistakes

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work," inventor Thomas Alva Edison (right) once said.

His viewpoint could well be the watchword of the culinary school kitchen, where mistakes are plentiful, but failures few.

Take for example a butchery lesson in which too much useful meat is left on the bone.

Or the making of a complex pate a choux in which the mixture turns bread-like.

How about a deep fryer that got so hot it burned anything dropped into it within seconds.

And those were just some of Chef/Instructor Dan Fluharty's mistakes. Chef Dan (left) is fond of saying, during a demo, some version of: "See how I did that? Don't do it that way."

Don't misread this: What Chef shows us and cooks as part of his teaching and demonstration process turns out most flavorful and favorable. That's because his skills are superb, his experience deep and broad. Probably his greatest skill is making adjustments to get the process back on track.

Food is the big variable, because all chickens are not the same, nor all veal cutlets, nor all green beans. The adjustments as we proceed are what we must learn and what Chef is best at teaching us.

It's good to see his human side and to learn from it.

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