The 15 Skills of a Competent Cook

Anthony Bourdain, in his most recent book Medium Raw, argues that preparing a home-cooked meal is a survival skill, a social responsibility, even a moral imperative for a citizen of today's society.  While I recommend his book with hesitation (his crassness often seems unnecessary), I heartily agree that people should reclaim the fundamental ability to prepare food for themself and for others.  Bourdain records the essential cooking skills; from the looks of his list, I have a lot of work to do before I can call myself a cook!
flickr photo from theqspeaks
15 Skills of a Competent Cook:
  1. Chop an onion.  Basic knife handling, sharpening and maintenance.  Master the basic chop, dice, mince and slice.
  2. Cook an omelet.  Egg cookery requires sensitivity to the food inside the pan.
  3. Roast a chicken, yes the whole chicken.
  4. Grill and rest a steak.
  5. Cook vegetables to a desired doneness.
  6. Whip up a standard vinaigrette.
  7. Shop for fresh produce; have a sense for what is in season; be able to tell if something is ripe or rotton.
  8. Clean and filet a fish.
  9. Steam crab, lobster, a pot of mussels, or a pot of clams.
  10. Roast meat in the oven.
  11. Roast and mash potatoes.
  12. Make rice; both steamed and rice pilaf.
  13. Make stock from bones.  
  14. Master the fundamentals of braising...time to try that beef bourguignon.
  15. Develop a modest repertoire of a few dishes, tasty morsels that I would be proud to serve to others.
flickr photo by bitchincamero
All this home cooked goodness reminds me of Alice Lichtenstein's article in the Journal of the American Medical Association titled Bring Back Home Economics Education, also featured on Marion Nestle's blog.  The revival of home economics in schools may promote health, wellness, and act as a positive influence to stave off obesity in American youth.

What do you think of Bourdain's list?  Are you 15 for 15?
Do you think the revival of Home Economics is an obesity solution?

Happy Cooking,


Morgana said...

I actually, I'm happy to say, am 15 for 15... and it only took 12 years.

As someone who has been in the restaurant industry, I can understand Bourdain's crassness a bit- although, as a Mom, I do find myself cringing once in a while.

Very interesting blog. I'll have to keep checking in and reading as you go.

Anna said...

That's right! Those Home Ec classes really DO teach kids the basic cooking skills AND nutrition principles...maybe I shouldn't ditch teaching after all :)

Rachel said...

Thanks Morgana for the comment!

Anna! haha, YES we need your home ec expertise!!

Emily said...

I agree...people need to learn how to cook! It's something that is drastically impacting the way we eat today. Let's bring back home ec! It is scary how many people are growing up without knowing basic food prep skills!

Kasey said...

I have a couple of things I need to work on before I can consider myself a cook! Does it count if my husband knows how to clean & filet a fish?

I think the revival of EC is a great idea! I learned so much in my cooking classes in college.

Tom said...

Great list. It looks like I'm missing a couple from there. I guess I need to practice my cooking a little more, which isn't a bad thing.

Rachel said...

thanks Tom! I also need to practice my cooking skills!

Liz - Meal Makeover Mom said...

I leave the fishing and the filleting to my husband (thank you very much)! I would love to see home economics and cooking return to schools. My mom was trained in home ec at NYU in the 1950s and went on to become a home ec teacher in elementary school. I would do wonders for kids' health.
Great meeting you too at FNCE!!

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Disclaimer. I am not a Registered Dietitian yet. I provide nutrition information intended for the general public, not for the treatment of a specific medical condition. I try to use scientific research and reliable sources when forming my opinions and messages.
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