I'm not creative….really I’m not. You’d think, for a chef, creativity would be a prerequisite for the job. Not so. Creativity in cooking for me comes from 1 part technical knowledge and 9 parts inspiration. However, all the inspiration in the world won’t get you to culinary nirvana without understanding basic techniques. For that, I recommend a class or two or several – preferably taught by yours truly.
For inspiration, I generally start with whatever is in season. Cooking out of season, in general, usually yields mediocre results. Now, if you go to any megamart, you’ll find that EVERYTHING is in season, since they ship the produce in from the far reaches of the earth. A better alternative is to find out what’s in season in your area and start with that. I just found a seasonal ingredient map at Epicurious. You just scroll over your state – in my case Maryland - and you can find whatever is in season based on the month – pretty cool actually.
Once you have a handle on the freshest ingredients, the next step is to create. Oy-veh! That’s the hard part. Not really. I always recommend that novice cooks start out with soups. They’re very forgiving and unless you burn something in the process, they yield a great return on investment. Plus with the availability of a variety of quality stocks at the local supermarket, they’re nearly fool proof. I’ve attached a recent creation of mine using in season sweet corn. All I really did was throw a bunch of white aromatics (those with little to no color) into a pot along with the corn, some stock and some milk and whirred it up in a blender. Add any number of garnishes and toppings and you’ve got creativity in a bowl. Now that wasn’t so hard was it.