Cooking Advice from Kenny Rogers
The following people, in this order, are responsible for my love and zeal for cooking: my mom, Martin Yan and Julia Child/Jacques Pepin. Growing up without cable, I watched a lot of PBS. On saturdays I watched Dessert Circus, Yan Can Cook and J&J sauté, flambé, mince, dice and sear everything in sight. I also watched my mom create the Sistine Chapel of Thanksgiving dinners year after year, and many small miracles nightly for dinner.
You might not know the song (“The Gambler) but you’ve heard the lyrics: “know when hold em, know when to fold em”. This is some of the best kitchen advice I can give. As a growing chef, I feel the push and pull of making everything from scratch even when I don’t have the time, expertise or energy. Instead of worrying and working myself into the ground, I choose to play to my strengths. I have boundaries. I don’t try out new recipes during the holidays or for special occasions. Every Thanksgiving, I make sweet potato pies-which are national treasures like the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and Beyoncé. The filling is smooth as velvet, and requires a hand mixer AND stand mixer. I bake the sweet potatoes first, then peel them. There are three kinds of milk, vanilla bean, orange juice and zest, and a hint of rum. But if you think for a second I am a beyond using the deep dish crust from Giant, you are wrong! I have to make three to four pies, in addition to the rest of the dinner including a big ass bird. Knowing when to hold em (making the filling speak to your soul and bring you back to life) and when to fold em (buying the crust from the store) keeps me sane.
Don’t be afraid to do this either. There are times when you go full Julia Child, and there are the times you buy the lemon curd from the store (just make sure it’s good a la Ina Garten). The most important tool in the kitchen is a clear mind and sense of calm.