Web Cooking Classes with Chef Todd MohrWeb Cooking Classes with Chef Todd Mohr

By Chef Todd

The Worst Cooking Instructors in America

The Worst Cooks in America continued on the Food Network last night. Last week’s premier episode had such promise, and I'm still anticipating the cutting edge of culinary instruction from the MTV of Food. The point was to teach the contestants to cook, right?

Accurate and safe knife skills are always the start to any cooking instruction, and Worst Cooks in America starts off correctly this week. “Hooray for the Food Network!” I thought. They’re going to teach by building on basic cooking methods, not recipes! My excitement didn’t last until the next commercial break. Perhaps it’s the editing of a one hour show, but the criticism and crying took the place of teaching very quickly.

Instead of instruction on Worst Cooks in America, the contestants are just told to “do it”, placed under time constraints, and criticized as if they were already professional chefs. It’s obvious that they haven’t been taught any actual cooking methods from their reaction to the chefs erasing the blackboard recipe in the middle of their challenge, total chaos.

The contestants were taken to a Japanese restaurant
and told to cook scallops and steak on a flat-top grill that Chef Beau said was “like 800 degrees”. This is like taking someone that doesn’t know how to drive, putting them on a NASCAR track, and yelling at them for not going fast enough.

“Actors practice lines, chefs practice recipes,” Chef Beau scolded the contestants. I don’t agree. Actors practice acting method, then interpret their lines. Chefs practice imparting heat to food, then interpret with ingredients.

So, it’s time for me to take over. In my online cooking classes, as well as my DVD series, the focus is on basic cooking methods, not recipes. The essence of cooking is how you control the transfer of heat to food. This should be the second step, knowing the difference between direct conductive heat, and indirect convective heat.

Rather than giving the contestants delicate and difficult products like scallops and duck breast, I would start with a simple sauté of a chicken breast. Saute’ method is the best start for anyone learning to cook. Here, you can watch all that happens as you transfer heat to food. You can combine flavors quickly, drop the temperature of the pan with a cold liquid, and make a sauce. The best way to learn anything is to start with simple procedures and expand upon them.

The chefs on this show have missed the opportunity to start at the beginning with explanations of what actually happens when we cook food. This would empower the contestants with skills and knowledge that will help them over the next 4 episodes. Maybe this is another piece of entertainment about chefs who make people cry. If that’s it, they’re doing a great job.

Previously about Worst Cooks in America

I promise, I won't yell at you or make you cry.

By Chef Todd

How to Open a Coconut in Maui

What better place to learn how to open a coconut than the Maui Tropical Fruit Plantation? Welcome to the beautiful island of Maui, Hawaii. It's my favorite place on the entire planet, and today we'll learn how to open a coconut the Hawaiian way.

Even though I'm on vacation and have my pick of dozens of fantastic restaurants, I'm not taking a vacation from food and cooking. Nor am I on holiday from sharing my passion for food and cooking with everyone that watches my videos.

Cooking is not only my profession, but my hobby. I love to learn about new foods, cultural interpretations of ingredients, and cooking methods that I've never seen before. That's why my I love to seek out fruits, vegetables, fish, and spirits that are new to me. I love to cook when I'm on holiday because I have the freshest ingredients at my disposal. I can always apply basic cooking methods to a new item, never need a written recipe, and always come out with something terrific!

Over the next two weeks, we'll share my food and cooking journey through Maui and Kauai in Hawaii. We'll visit farmers markets, fish markets, a rum distillery, and cook great meals from a rental kitchen. And I didn't have to pack a single recipe book! Aloha and Mahalo!

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By Chef Todd

The Worst Cook In America?

The reason my students transform very quickly from the “worst cook in America” to confident, creative home cooks is very simple. I empower them with the underlying cooking methods and techniques that make recipes obsolete. They discover how to create amazing meals at home using their creativity, simply and easily.

During rare TV surfing last night, I came across a new Food Network Mini-Series: “Worst Cooks in America”, and I was mesmerized. You see, I work with self proclaimed “worst cooks in America” every day. Seriously, almost every day I’ve taught classes, a student has walked through the door and informed me that he/she is “the worst cook in America.” And I have to laugh because I know this same person will walk out of class 2 hours later, ready to cook dinner for their family immediately!

This is exactly what I think this shows’ “Worst Cooks in America” desperately need to learn. Basic cooking methods, the secret ingredient if you will, that has been missing from Food TV since the days of Julia Child. Things like knife skills, sauté, braising, roasting, grilling, poaching.

So, I couldn’t be happier or more excited to watch the next 5 episodes of this truly unique show concept. I expect to see Chef Beau and Chef Ann lay out cooking basics for these students and to teach them the science of cooking that will enable them to cook all things and even amaze themselves by the time they are all finished.

But I do have some trepidation.

Last night showcased Chef Beau and Chef Ann demonstrating one of their own recipes for their teams and then tasking each student with replicating the exact dish. Hmmm…this might be an area that the show and I part ways because I am more interested in these “worst cooks in America” learning how to cook by method, not just follow recipes, but it’s early yet.

Also, I can’t help but wonder why these “worst cooks in America” haven’t learned how to cook yet. Presumably they are big enough Food Network fans to have heard about the casting call, right? They’re intimidated at the sight of a celebrity chef (a Food Network creation). So, why hasn’t Bobby Flay or Paula Dean or The Hughleys already taught these people to cook?

In any case, I’ll be watching to see what happens next and how these “worst cooks in America” will be transformed by Chef Beau and Chef Ann into expert cooks, who can replicate a chef’s whim without crying so much.

Whether or not this should be the goal of a great cooking show is beside the point.

And, yes, I will be posting a blog on Monday after each week’s episode to weigh in on how everybody is doing.

More on the frustrations of recipes in "Julie and Julia Beef Bourguignon, How'd she do it?"

Go to that post HERE

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By Chef Todd

Pumpkin Ideas for Pumpkin Puree

Don’t forget this holiday season, that the gourd you’re using as a porch ornament is actually food. Poor gourds, they are so horribly misunderstood. They emerge this time of year to look strange in their multi-colored, twisted shapes and tough skins that seem more like decoration than food. Gourds need a lobbyist in Washington, because there’s a general bias against pumpkins, winter squash, butternut squash, and countless other varieties. As with most stereotypes, they come from lack of knowledge.

Winter squash and gourds have a sweet, clean flesh that is excellent for winter soups, side dishes, and fillings for other end-results. Squash is a very versatile ingredient, once you carve through the tough skin and pick out the seeds. Roasted pumpkin seeds are one of my favorite Fall snacks. The seeds of this orange orb are high in protein, and also high in fat, but “good” plant-based fat. They are high in amino acids, and studies have shown positive effects on diabetes, prostate health, and in lowering cholesterol.

Pumpkin can be cooked in many different methods, depending on your desired outcome. In this video, I’ll demonstrate both moist and dry methods for using your scary porch ornament as food. Pumpkin can be simmered in flavorful liquid, or roasted in a dry convective process. These two methods of cooking will yield different results, one being more appropriate for soups, the other better for pies and fillings.

Don’t discriminate against pumpkins, squash, and gourds just because of the way they look. They’re quite sweet underneath that tough skin.

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