Chef Hans Rueffert lost his entire stomach due to cancer which changed the way he eats forever, an irony not lost on him considering his career. Hans now teaches cooking classes to cancer patients, emphasizing the impact what you eat can have on your well-being. Here, Hans shares his top tips for those new to the kitchen.
In any new endeavor, you have to allow yourself to make mistakes. Cooking can be so intimidating, especially now you have this influx of information from the internet and cooking shows. Everyone you see on these shows has failed too , and you learn more from those bad meals. You have to push the limit of what you’re comfortable with, and this is something I try to teach my kids.
Allow yourself to make mistakes as this is where your creative bells ring. I stared cooking in 1991 and had no cooking experience, as I grew up in a restaurant and would eat there when I got hungry. One of the first things I tried to make was mole, a wonderful rich Mexican sauce that incorporates ingredients like peanuts, walnuts, chocolate, garlic, or onions. I decided to try to make a garlic and chocolate sauce and it was terrible. That meal ended up in the trashcan but I learned so much from it. You intrinsically know things that go together like tomatoes and basil, so from there you can expand.
My second tip would be to keep it simple. It’s so easy to overwork things. It’s like a caricature, in just a few lines a caricaturist can capture a person as there’s a handful of things are key identifiers so it strips a person down to their main elements. This is like every good meal you had, that’s what you remember.
I remember when I was 15 I had an amazing salmon dish with watercress and cucumber sauce, and that sauce was the first time I remember thinking ‘ It feels like I am eating watercress and cucumber’. I can still taste them in my mind. The chef made those things shine by keeping those things at the front, using other spices to life them up, not mask them. A mistake many make is to go overboard.Focus on one or two flavors and try to bring them to the front. Keep it simple and stupid!Another common mistake people make when cooking is taking a beautiful fresh herb and adding it at the beginning. There are times that you would do this, but for a lot of meals it’s better to add in the chopped herb at the end when the heat is gone. One of my favorite herbs which everyone forgets about is parsley. It grows great all along winter and the addition of finely chopped parsley at the end can really wake up a dish.
My final tip is to make a recipe your own. If there’s an ingredient you don’t like, leave it out or swap it for something else. That’s where the creativity happens!