Are you ready to learn to cook from a pro?

I was chatting with a neighbor who shared how she didn’t learn to cook till college. She had to learn on her own. Here in NYC, it is possible to survive and eat well without learning to cook. But it’ll cost you. Take out, delivery, private chef are all standard options in New York. Private chef may be standard for only for a small 1% of us. To that small percentage of people I’d like to say “I’ll cook for you!”

Think back on your childhood. Did you learn how to cook? Who taught you? What did your family do instead of cooking? How did that affect you?

Can you cook now? Do you cook now? Are you comfortable in the kitchen?

Learning how to cook was a gift that I took for granted. Until I talked to more people in college and beyond, I assumed that most people could do some basic cooking. Boiling, sauteing, cutting vegetables. Stuff like that. I also assumed that most Americans went to college. (That percentage just went up slightly, yay! But still less than half.) It’s because I’m Asian American and grew up middle class that I made both assumptions.

Let’s get back to basics. My mom forced me to help her in the kitchen. I'm assuming that’s the only reason people have kids? She got me started with simple tasks. I remember being asked to wash and cut cilantro for the first time. Simple, right? Yes and no. I got the washing right away. But I had questions about the stems. Do I cut that too? Is it only the leaves? The right answer: Whatever she wants.

Without someone to guide you, it’s hard to learn a new skill. Especially a new skill that involves knives, open flame and sometimes blood. (Hopefully, not your blood.) Thankfully, we have access to YouTube. Here are 5 Basics for the kitchen by Gordon Ramsey. Please remember that he’s done everything in the video thousands of times. That’s the only reason it looks perfect. If you cut a thousand onions, you would be a master at chopping just like Ramsey.

Let's talk in the comment section below:

Did you learn how to cook?

Who taught you?

What did your family do instead of cooking?

How did that affect you?

Can you cook now?

Do you cook now?

Are you comfortable in the kitchen?

15 steps to pull off a fabulous dinner party!

Hosting a dinner party can be a challenge. So many questions to be answered. So much self doubt to fight off. Sometimes you just want someone to tell you “you’ve got this!” and maybe tell you how to pull it off?   

1.You’ve got this!!!

2. Here’s a checklist

Food

  1. Keep the menu simple. Stick to things you’ve cooked before.

  2. Prepare and cook as much of the food ahead of time as possible (1-3 days ahead)

  3. Heat up/assemble what needed just before guests arrive.

Ambiance / tableware

4. Set your table properly: fork on the left. knife, spoon, chopsticks on the right. Napkin in the middle of the plate or under the fork(s). Water and wine glasses line up with the point of the knife or chopsticks. Wine glass lines up to the right of water glass.

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5. Use what you’ve got — use water pitchers as vases, light whatever candles you’ve got, put music on with whatever speaker you have — create a  playlist ahead of time  — connect anything besides your phone to bluetooth to avoid interruptions.

6. Drinks - set up simple self service bar. Tray on countertop with bottles, glasses, wine opener, bucket or bowl of ice — buy ice beforehand and keep in a cooler to save space (1 pound of ice per guest)

Bathroom

7. Fill up hand soap. Hand lotion (optional)

8. Hand-towels clean and stocked.

9. Extra Credit- set out washcloths to dry hands and a basket to catch used washcloths.

10. Light a scented candle.

11. Extra toilet paper roll easily found.

12. Find a box with a lid — place tampon/pads inside the box. Leave it on top of the toilet.

13. Extra Credit: floating votives:  In a clean bathtub — fill with 2 inches of water and float votive candles.

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Living/Dining Room

14. Get rid of old magazInes and newspapers hanging around.

15. Straighten up your sofa, coffee table, shelves and floors(do a quick sweep.)

And finally...

Just remember the whole reason for your dinner party - spending time with people you care about. The less you have to do, day of, the more time you get to spend with them.

Stock up on glasses, stemware, candles, plates if necessary: We stock our home with IKEA water and wine glasses by the half dozen. If a glass breaks, it doesn’t hurt the wallet. Crate and Barrel and CB2 also have beautiful and affordable dinner and glassware.

Use what you have — chairs, sofa, ottoman, desks, coffee tables can all be used as seating and tables. We once used a few large coolers as seating for an Easter brunch.

Don't aim for perfection. Aim for having fun and relaxing.

Let me know how it goes. Send me your thoughts, questions and suggestions below.

10 Ways to get the Holiday Feels!

I'm a grinch when it comes to the holidays, especially Christmas. I'm just not that excited about it. I think it's because I had to share my birthday with the Baby Jesus. What did that guy ever do for the world?!

My partner, Jessica, loves the holidays, Halloween and Christmas especially. And through osmosis, her good cheer around the holidays has permeated my mind and soul during our time together. In tribute to the joy of my life, I dedicate this list. (Most of these ideas came from her anyway. Yes. I am just another man co-opting a woman's original ideas as his own for a profit. :))

10 Ways to get the Holiday Feels!

Eugene Saw

Eugene Saw

1. Switch out your fruit bowl, vases and vessels for seasonal items. Think apples, pumpkins, pine cones, ugly squash, fallen leaves and bare branches.

2. Make a pile of fallen leaves. Then do what comes naturally.....

Holiday-stove-top-potpourri.jpg

3. Holiday Potpourri. Every holiday season, J puts herbs and spices and citrus in a pot of water on the stove when we are home. It's like hot cider for your house.

4. Holiday Lights. During Halloween, start putting up your lights. Add some more for Thanksgiving. Then again for your holidays. But on New Year's Day, it's time to put them away. Don't worry about going overboard with the lights. Here's a few ways to make it tasteful and not tacky.

5. Host a pre-holiday dinner. Get some friends and loved ones together before you or they make their way back home. Make it casual. Make it simple. Make it fun.

6. Holiday themed playlists on Pandora and Netflix. Create your own Netflix holiday playlist here.

7. Decorate! Go all out. Don't worry about what other people think. These people don't. Remember who lives in your home. Only your opinion matters. Do what gives you the Holiday Feels: Banners, streamers, lights, stockings, carve a pumpkin, coat everything in Fall colors, in Christmas colors, bring out your Menorah early. 

8. Bake some cookies. Nothing says the holidays like freshly baked cookies. Channel Martha Stewart.

9. Candles. Candles. Candles. Votives. Scented. Tall. Vigil. Sticks. Whatever you've got. Light 'em up.

10. Hot Cider. You don't need a recipe. Play with these ingredients: fresh apple juice, cinnamon, clove, all spice, nutmeg, whole peppercorn, anise, lemon, orange, cranberry, mint, basil, whiskey, rum. (A little spirit to get you in the spirit!) You have Fall and Winter to perfect your recipe. Please share your recipe with me!

Eugene Saw: The Fox and the Knit

Eugene Saw: The Fox and the Knit

10.5 Time to Throw Down......your Throws. Now that we've got colder weather, It's time to bring out your blankets. Keep them on hand for a quick nap on the couch. Snuggling up with a book and hot cider.  To Netflix and Chill.

May your Holidays be exciting, fun and easy!

Cheers to you and your loved ones!