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Learn how to cook: Here is a smart and easy way to make the best recipes and hack cooking

Michael Haase12. June 2017

 

MICHAEL’s WORST DATE EVER was in the Summer of 2010:

“I was told all over the internet that home cooking is a winner at dates: https://galoremag.com/why-cooking-a-meal-together-is-the-best-first-date/. So, I went online for dinner ideas, found the best recipe, and as my date walked in the door I was cooking the best gazpacho with avocado and almonds on top. However, my date just started laughing: “I have never seen anyone be so attached to a recipe”, she said.

I perceive myself as a quick learner and independent thinker, so this hurt me quite deep, and the date never recovered from the blow. That night I decided to learn how to cook and free myself from the tyranny of always following recipes. It was the day I started to hack cooking.”

I decided to hack the process of learning how to cook

So, I studied cooking. First I asked people I trusted. Most people said you can only learn to cook if you spend 10,000 hours making a lot of mistakes (e.g., http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/culinary-training-10000-hour-theory/). “You need to mess up 100 omelettes before you learn to make 1 good one”, someone told me on Reddit.

However, as a former management consultant from McKinsey, I was trained in walking into a room full of very experienced people, codifying and structuring their know-how and dumming it down for anyone to understand. So, that’s the approach I took to cooking. I believe anyone can learn to cook and love cooking without spending 10,000 and 99 burnt omelettes in the process. This might be a controversial statement, and the good Tim Ferriss burnt his hands on a similar project: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinkbooks/9805783/The-four-hour-chef-Not-so-fast.html. Actually, Ferriss’ book was pretty bad, so that is probably why he burnt his hands. Here comes something much more insightful 🙂

 

To me, cooking boils down to 3 choices

So, what did I do? Below is a really rough simplification of my approach. To me, cooking comes down to 3 choices:

 

Choice 1: What to cook – I follow a few simple rules to pick foods that go well together:

Learn how to cook with foodpairing

Takeaway 1: I always add something crunchy and something sour (as important as salt) and often I sneak in something umami and something spicy as well.

The next level for choice 1 is practicing balancing (bitter-sweet or sweet-spicy) and matching aromas. For a further understanding of flavor, try to visit our friends at Foodpairing: https://www.foodpairing.com/en/science-behind. Sounds complex? No worries, at http://www.plantjammer.com/firstIngredient we already did the hard work and identified what goes well with avocado, what goes well with broccoli, etc.

Choice 2: How to process – I follow this simple scheme to decide which heat to apply:

How to cook almost anything

Takeaway 2: If I’m busy I put it on the pan, if I have the time and want something really flavourfull I put it in the oven, and I only boil if I really have to.

For a further understanding of the science behind ‘applying heat’ read this amazing article: http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/09/the-food-lab-fundamentals-science-of-heat-versus-temperature.html.

But what about the 1000 exceptions to this rule? No worries, we already did the hard work and propose a method and timing for each food ingredient in http://www.plantjammer.com/firstIngredient. Build a dish and at the end you will get a recipe that proposes a method and timing, answering questions like ‘how to cook eggplant’, ‘how to steam broccoli’, ‘how long to boil quinoa’ or ‘how to cook asparagus’.

Choice 3: How to connect – I modularize cooking, so I don’t have to re-invent the wheel everytime I cook something new:

Cook anything with modular cooking

Takeaway 3: According to the awesome Mark Bittman, there are only 9 recipes in the world. All recipes are tweaks of these 9. Learn the 9 and you can cook anything.

For further understanding of Mark’s amazing cooking mind, read this one: https://www.amazon.com/Mark-Bittmans-Kitchen-Matrix-Possibilities/dp/0804188017.

Above you see 4 examples of ‘universal recipes’. At Plant Jammer we are codifying these 9 dishes so anyone can cook anything. However, for now on www.plantjammer.com we just started with the simplest construction – the salad: It needs 1) a ‘Bulk’ ingredient to make you full, 2) a ‘Splash’ which is a dressing of oils an acidics, 3) a ‘Boost’ which is spices/herbs, and 4) a ‘Crunch’ to give texture.

Be smart about the 3 choices, and you will learn how to cook fast and easily

Now, when I cook I go through the 3 choices above, and it has done wonders to empower my cooking. Now, I never cook the same thing twice and it’s always an interesting experience. I don’t follow recipes and as a result I really enjoy cooking for the first time in my life.

This quote has become my daily reminder: “The downside of learning to cook primarily through recipes, then, is that these small eurekas—which, once hit upon, are instantly applicable to nearly any other dish one prepares—are most often arrived at via triangulation. It’s like trying to learn a language only by copying down others’ sentences, instead of learning the grammar and vocabulary needed to put to paper lines of one’s own.” (https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/04/the-why-of-cooking-samin-nosrat/523923/?utm_source=atlfb).

Cooking has become a fun and de-stressing component in my life. I eat more healthy food, more diverse food with greater variety, more delicious food, and it is even cheap food at the same time! Most importantly, this approach has enabled me to reduce food waste because I can cook with whatever’s in the fridge, I learned to cook vegetarian and sometimes even vegan, which is all great for the planet. Happy tastebuds, happy head, and happy planet 🙂

With www.plantjammer.com we want it to be even easier to learn how to cook

Now, I want others to feel empowered in their kitchen. At Plant Jammer we incorporate the 3 choices above in one interface. It is much more elaborate and complex than the infographics above. What we do: We use Artificial Intelligence to do the point 1, systematically using patterns in millions of recipes of links between tastes, aromas, and textures. Furthermore, we develop 2 and 3 along with smart people and excellent chefs.

We try to translate this complexity into an intuitive user experience. Let us know if we’re succeeding… Please! Its super exciting, and I hope it can help you all avoiding having a date like the one I had in the Summer of 2010 🙂

So, please help this movement by going to www.plantjammer.com, build a salad with your choice of ingredients, try to cook it, and give us feedback. Our product is far from fulfilling its potential yet, but with your help we’ll have an amazing product one day that will teach anyone to cook well and change the face of homecooking… and perhaps change the face of dating too 🙂

 

I look forward to this challenge – and hope you will help us along the way!

Michael, CEO @ Plant Jammer