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Getting Started

Welcome First Timer’s!

Here you will find helpful tip, tricks and hidden secrets of the pros that you can use to cook almost anything.

Before we start cooking, let’s get set-up and find out why we set up our work stations and serving tables the way that we do.

Table Set Up

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Knife Anatomy 

Above is a diagram of the different parts of a knife.

I get asked all the time about what kind of knife I would suggest and here is my answer: A knife that is stays sharp, doesn’t have places for food/debris to get caught and has a tang that goes all the way through the handle.  I have owned many different knives throughout my career, everything from $90 designed brand knifes to $9 generic brand knives.  Usually my knives look similar to the knife in the diagram above.  Some people say that the more expensive knives last longer, but I have used a $10 chef’s knife for the last 10 years and its still as good as the day I bought it.

Here is a basic chart of knife cuts to help you get started ———–>  Knife Cuts

The right way     The wrong way

Tools and Station Prep

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First Timer’s Guide to Shopping 

A practical guide to shopping so you get the most for your money

            Do you ever walk into a grocery store and wander around aimlessly?  Just kind of letting certain food items or sales tags jump out at you?  Well stop!

            This is no way to shop!  Shopping is war and you need to be prepared so that you don’t get swindled.  Shopping should be done with strategy and with a plan, not as a mindless walk.


You against them

            The supermarkets and food stores design stores for the wanderer.  Bright signs, creative and flashy displays are all ways to get you to buy more of items that make stores a lot of money by taking it away from you.

            Ever wonder why milk, eggs and other “common” household staples are always way in the back?  Ever wonder why produce section is tucked back in a corner and the meat is along the wall?  These are creative ways to advertise other products to consumer without spending any advertising dollars. 


Secrets Exposed

            The food business is competitive.  Just take a look next time you are in a store at all the choices you have and how many brands there are out there.   What really makes one BBQ sauce different from another, or why are there three different brands of milk if they all come in the same container, what’s the difference?

            Simple, everybody wants a piece of the pie.  If one company is making money doing something, eventually everybody wants in.  It is understandable since companies exist to make a profit, they will do whatever they can to make that profit.  But the secret lies in the packaging of products.  Although there may be 3 different labels and 3 different prices, chances are it is all the same product.


How do you know?

            Having worked in the food and beverage industry for over a decade in many different capacities, I have seen a lot of things.  I have been on dozens of tours of packing facilities and distribution warehouses and have talked with countless industry professionals about their roles in the foodservice chain.  On one such tour in a dairy packing plant, I noticed milk going into one container that was labeled with a popular brand.  I thought to myself, “Oh, so this is where they do this label, they must have a room for each brand (Since surely getting one brand mixed up with another would be disastrous).”  A few minutes later, we passed by the same room and I noticed that the container of milk on the first trip through the line was different from the one that was now passing through.  In fact, the container now passing through was a much “lower” and cheaper brand than the first.  I quickly asked my guide what the meaning of this was, to which he confirmed my greatest fear.  The first milk was exactly the same as the second, although the sticker on the container and the difference in grocery store price seemed to state otherwise.

            There are only a handful of companies that actually create products.  These companies then license out the product to others who put it in their own containers and then call it their own.  This is much cheaper and much more efficient and thus, lowers costs and raises profits.

Now that you know

            Now that you know this, you may never look at milk, eggs, flour, rice or other food staples the same.  So when you look at a package and think to yourself, “I can’t tell a difference,” that’s because chances are there isn’t one.

            So now armed with new information you can follow some simple rules that will help you get the best, and the fresh . . . for a lot less.


Five Guidelines for Shopping

1)      Go with a list – To avoid the trap of the wanderer, go prepared with a list of things that you will need to pick up.  This requires planning ahead a little, but it will save you time and money is well worth a little extra effort.  Lastly, stick to your list and don’t be swayed by those clever advertisements for things you don’t need.

2)      Shop in sections – Divide and conquer is the name of the game.  Start by getting those items that will not smash or otherwise get harmed.  Things like canned goods can form a solid base in the cart or basket for the other items.  Bread, eggs and other fragile items are best left on top so they don’t get damaged.

3)      Group your purchases – Don’t go from one end of the store to the other, over and over again, that just wastes valuable time and ends up making you hate shopping (I know I have been there).  Plan your trip and then stick to your plan.  Go from one side of the store to the other so that you essentially make one loop.  It is impossible to do a guide for every person because each store is different and each person buys different items.  But just know that this may take you a time or two, but you’ll get it and it will become easier each time you go.  Within a trip or two you will have a routine and a realistic timeframe of how long you will be in the store. 

4)      Avoid Cross Contamination – Do not put raw meat or chicken around or with raw fruits and vegetables.  Even a little mistake like this can get you very sick.

5)      Frozen Items Last – Frozen items are that way for a reason.  Make sure that you don’t let them thaw out too much otherwise some products may not be worth using.  To avoid this make sure that you get these products last so they can stay frozen longer and thus maintain the product integrity longer too.  


Cooking is the easy part

            When I first started working my way up the corporate “kitchen” ladder, my mentors would all tell me the same thing, cooking is the easy part.  In applying that to home cooks I would say the same thing, the actually cooking of meals is the easy and fun part.  Planning what you are going to make and actually getting the ingredients is where the challenge comes in.  After a few years in the kitchen you will naturally get better and things will become easier, after all, practice makes perfect.  But who wants to wait a few years?!  By following these guidelines you will take years off your learning time and get to where you want to be faster than you ever imagined!

            Happy Shopping!

Here is a sample shopping list to help you get started! ————>  Shopping List

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About the author, Shawn

Chef Shawn has worked in almost every segment of the foodservice industry. He holds business degrees and certificates in Culinary Arts, Hospitality & Tourism Management, Accounting and Professional Sales. He is Certified Executive Chef (CEC) and a Certified Culinary Educator (CCE) through The American Culinary Federation. A Certified Culinary Professional (CCP) through the International Association of Culinary Professionals. He is the author of The First Timer’s Cookbook and The First Timer’s Bakebook. His work has been recognized nationwide as well as being a regular contributor to numerous food service publications and outlets and is the recipient of numerous awards-most recently the 2015 Culinary Educator of the Year through the local American Culinary Federation’s chapter-Beehive State Chef’s Association.

He the owner of multiple food service businesses and currently the host of the Business Chef Podcast.