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  • The Chopping Blog

Step Outside the Box: Learn to Cook Like the Pros

Maria Clementi
Posted by Maria Clementi on May 22, 2017


Other than experience, what really makes an amateur cook different then a professional chef? To me, it’s about stepping outside the box. Once you have the understanding of flavor, and how to develop different flavor profiles, you can learn which tastes complement each other. Add a strong understanding of cooking technique and a multitude of ingredients and the opportunities are endless. How about a little cayenne to your chocolate cake? A little smoked salt makes your pie dough more memorable. As little as 1 tablespoon of orange zest can push your Alfredo sauce from traditional to sensational. 


No matter what type of food you're interested in, you become a better cook when you experiment with different flavors that don’t traditionally go together. When I visit a new Chicago restaurant and find myself asking, ‘what is that?’ I know I will come back to explore the experience of those flavor jungles again.

At The Chopping Block, our cooking classes focus on traditional cuisines, international favorites and the basics of cooking technique and tasting. If you have taken a class with us, you know that many of the chef instructors (aka chefstructors) and assistants have their own favorite cuisines. We each have a type of food that we enjoy cooking and have spent most of our career experimenting with as professional chefs, as well as in our tiny apartment kitchens.

While all of us teach all of the cuisines, we are at The Chopping Block to learn too. Pastry chefs are teaching Knife Skills, traditional French chefs are perfecting their tempura batter, we have a chef with Celiac disease who shares her favorite wheat bread recipes and a vegetarian chef teaching how to break down a live lobster.  We are all very thankful for these learning opportunities, and to work amongst our peers and soak in the knowledge of each of their cuisines. 


We also get the opportunity to spotlight the cuisine we have studied for years, trialed at multiple dinner parties and potlucks and tasted in our travels. We know what we like and how to make it best, and we love sharing our knowledge with our interested guests.

Next time you work with one of our chefs or assistants, ask them what their cuisine is. It’s a common industry question that we all love to answer. If you’re lucky, you will get us in a class that highlights our work. But don’t be mistaken, at The Chopping Block as we are exposed to new cuisines we become more developed, using past knowledge to teach a new subject with a fresh perspective.


This new knowledge gives us the tools to take our cuisine to the next level. We teach ourselves to bring what we have learned from one cuisine and apply it to another. If that spice combination tasted good on corn, it can also be added to a fish that holds the same sweetness. A vegan assistant will use knowledge from a pastry class, dominated by cream and eggs, to perfect her recipe for vegan Panna Cotta. Just because your chef instructor enjoyed his work as a butcher doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to press his tofu. We have an Asian chef who taught classes in Italy and an Italian chef who created our sushi class. There are no rules in cooking, it’s all about stepping outside the box to create a sensual experience of tradition, experimentation and sharing.

No matter the class, no matter the instructor or assistant we all have years of experience and passion behind us. Ask us, you just might learn more then you signed up for! 

Let me show you my cuisine: plant-based food at my upcoming Chef Dinner: Farmers' Spring Table demonstration class on May 31st at 6pm at the Merchandise Mart. You'll enjoy a 7-course small-plate style vegetarian feast focusing on the very best of the spring harvest.

Topics: cuisine, chef, chef's dinner

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