As an aspiring food writer, chef, and molecular gastronomist, I have a multitude of items on my platter (no pun intended). trying to find the time to complete everything involves stretching every minute of every day. Unfortunately, not everyone has time for this like I do. For those of you out there who want to educate yourself and aren’t able to go to a full on culinary school, there are many different books and methods you can do.

Firstly, there are many great books out there to beef up your cooking skills right away. My personal favorite, the one that got me going on this path, is “Everyday Cooking” by Jacques Pepin. Now as a CIA student, I don’t often advocate for FCI grads but in all honesty Chef Pepin is one of the best alive, and his book is no small order. Front to back, his book will teach you everything from the basic cutting techniques to desserts to advanced haute cuisine. Next, everyone in the culinary world owns or has read from “The Escoffier” by August Escoffier. The chef of kings wrote the bible on modern haute cuisine, and it is a mainstay for anyone trying to be a self taught cook. Lastly, no one, and I mean no one, should not own a copy of “Food Lovers Companion” by Ron and Sharon Herbst. Any technique, item, food, or term is easily explained in simple terms in a codex that spans the entire culinary world. Currently in its fourth edition, it is a great gift for any aspiring cook. Of course there is a new favorite of mine, called “The Flavor Bible” by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. A rather new book, is an adventurous romp in the land of flavor combination. Extremely user-friendly and clearly designed, this book connects any food with compatable ideas for spices and herb and sauces. The better the connection the bolder the font in the book. It also lists common and rare but equally delicious flavor groupings. Even as a culinary student, this book continues to amaze and re-educate me.

Finally, my personal favorite, is just going to the grocery store. Whole Foods and Wegman’s both employ full time chefs who design meals and recipes for everyday cooking. If you have a question about anything and they can either guide you in the right direction or explain the answer in clear terms. Not to mention both have an excellent selection of organic foods, and a diverse range of international cuisines. So the next time you feel the need to be spontaneous in the kitchen, take a look at one of these and see if they don’t give you some inspiration.

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