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By Noel Christmas
October 28, 2014
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After nearly 13 years in professional kitchens, I can tell you one big thing: you don't want to cook like a chef. You want to think like one instead. That way, there's no new techniques or fancy equipment. You just think about dinner a bit differently. Here are 3 quick ways to get started.

Make Daily Specials

Here's a restaurant secret: those daily specials? They're usually leftovers. Not to get too "profit & loss" here, but restaurants have to use all the ingredients in the fridge to be successful.

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Photo by naples34102

So, if you make Awesome Red Wine Roast Beef on Tuesday , you can do more than reheat the leftovers for lunch. You can turn it into Jennifer's Burgundy Beef Stew the next day. This isn't just something restaurants do every once in a while; it's what they do every day. I know I did.

Use Par-Stock

You watch cooking shows, right? Ever wonder how they choose those recipes so fast? It's because they have a bunch of ingredients already cooked in their kitchen. It's called par-stock, and it precisely why they make a whole pasta dish in 10 minutes, while you spend 25 minutes just getting the pasta to al-dente.

Garlicky Quinoa Garbanzo Bean Salad
Photo by: jrbaker

So, take an evening and cook some Brazilian White Rice or boil some pasta to store in your fridge. That way, decisions are easier, and so is dinner. I currently always have some cooked quinoa in my fridge so I can make this Garlicky Quinoa Salad anytime I want.

Mise en Place

It's a fancy-sounding word (meez-en-plahz) with a simple meaning: do the prep first. Just like par-stock makes a recipe faster, so does a prepping ahead and setting it all out in order. And, yes, tiny little bowls and ramekins are your new favorite things.

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Photo by Meredith

Chop and measure before you turn on a burner (or while the oven is pre-heating). Then when it's time to cook, you're all about the recipe, not all about scrounging the ingredients together as you need them.

Wait, I'm Just a Home Cook

It's true. You don't have orders piling up or cost margins to meet. You just want some fantastic, memorable meals that don't take forever to make. And that is why you want to think like a chef. It's the freedom to make the meal you see in your head, not just the one in your recipe box.