How I Learned: Chef David Venable Loved Mom’s Pre-Measured Ingredients, Reads Through Recipes Twice

At Blue Apron, we’re all about getting into the kitchen and cooking up some seriously delicious food. Of course, there’s a first time for everything, and that includes chopping an onion! Every cook has to start her cooking journey somewhere, so we decided to chronicle the first-ever kitchen ventures of people who got into the kitchen and stayed there. Today, we’re sharing the words of someone whose cooking journey took him really, really far. That is, a TV chef, David Venable, host of In the Kitchen with David on QVC.

We asked Chef Venable some questions to find out how he became the able, TV-ready chef he is today. Here’s what he told us.

BA: Who taught you to cook?
DV: My mother. She allowed me to help get food prepped and put together—I cracked eggs, stirred batters, and poured in ingredients she (wisely) pre-measured. Some of my earliest cooking memories were at Christmas time. We had a lot of time to make all those special recipes and I remember taking great care to gather and add all the ingredients.

BA: How old were you?
DV: I must have been 7 or 8. As time went by, my mother was working full-time as a nurse and she made it a point to teach my brother, sister, and me how to cook because she really needed the help in the kitchen. But, I kept finding my way back to the stove. I loved cooking and experimenting with ingredients.

BA: What was the first dish you ever cooked?
DV: Gosh, I’m trying to remember…I remember the first time I tried to fry chicken, I didn’t know how to bread it. I didn’t understand what made the coating on fried chicken, and I thought it just happened when you cooked it in oil. So, I filled my mother’s cast iron skillet with oil and literally dropped in a frozen drumstick. It was just awful. It burned really badly, but it was raw in the middle and this awful blood leached onto the plate. Nasty!

BA: Why did you keep cooking?
DV: Two things: a curiosity of cooking and a love of great food. I love eating great food (who doesn’t?) and I just had to know how to create it and how to make something good “great.” I’m still learning all of those tricks—I don’t think we ever stop learning, which is why after all this time I’m still so passionate about being in the kitchen.

BA: Why do you love to cook now?
DV: It’s so much of the same thing—I’m curious in the kitchen. I love great food and I love sharing it with other people. Cooking is a way for me to express my love for others.

BA: How would you go about teaching someone else to cook?
DV: I’d first help them understand the basics. New cooks need staples in their pantry—flour, sugar, good-quality olive oil and vanilla extract, fresh baking soda and powder, etc. They also need fridge essentials like ground beef, boneless chicken breasts, and all your dairy foods like fresh butter, eggs, and milk. It’s so easy to get frustrated when you first start cooking because it seems like you never have the ingredients recipes call for, so having the basics is a giant step forward.

Then, I’d give them a really good beginner recipe like my Cheesy Cheeseburger Casserole or Creamy Chicken Pasta Bake. Both are true dump-and-stir recipes, which tend to be remarkably easy and family-friendly. They’re the kinds of recipes people request again and again. And, as long as you’ve got those pantry staples, you can make them on a dime.

Read more: Our Favorite Mac ‘N Cheese Recipes

Finally, reading through any recipe at least twice before you start cooking is very important. I’m also an advocate of pre-measuring ingredients. If everything is there and measured, it makes it a lot easier to assemble your recipe and you maintain a sense of confidence and control while you’re cooking. It also ensures you don’t forget an ingredient, which is so easy when you’re rushed or adding as you go.

Thanks, David! Want to share your learning-to-cook story? (You don’t have to be a celeb!) Email contact@blueapron.com with the subject line Blog: How I Learned To Cook

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