We have been big fans of Joel Gamoran for quite some time. He’s kind of a unicorn in the culinary world – a talented chef who is most happy when he’s helping everyday home cooks figure out they can do amazing things in their own kitchens. Kind of like the magician who’s willing to tip off their “secrets.” De-mystifying is his stock in trade. You may recognize him from his hit A&E show “Scraps,” but he also spent over 10 years as National Chef for Sur La Table and is a popular cookbook author (“Cooking Scrappy,” Harper Collins). And today he’s a co-founder and one of the chefs of Homemade.
We have partnered with Chef Joel and Homemade to bring you free monthly online cooking classes. And if that alone doesn’t get you excited, spend a few minutes getting to know Joel. You’ll surely want to make a point of getting in on these classes! We’ll regularly update when new classes are open for registration.
Lots of chefs with your training seek out work in high profile restaurant work. Your work has been focused on teaching home cooks. What’s behind that choice?
I worked in restaurants for the first part of my career. I always thought that was where I wanted to be. But after about five years I was depressed and I could not figure out why. After tons of reflection, I realized how much I missed the people aspect of cooking. Seeing people enjoy food not just serving them. Restaurant cooking is about feeding people and impressing them with incredible creations. I wanted to empower and inspire people and have them impress themselves. I found educating people way more rewarding in that way and I have not looked back!
When you think about teaching a recipe, how do you break it down so that it’s easily embraced by your “students?” We think this is key to how useful and enjoyable your classes are.
What a great question! As a chef, what I think is “normal” is foreign to 95% of people. For example, most people don’t know what a chicken stock is but for chefs that is cooking 101. My first step is meeting the home cook where they are, almost psyching myself out of the chef mentality and going back to a time where I was not confident in the kitchen. This helps me relate and pause when a subject might be over the heads of some of my students.
I also try and break the recipes up into steps, not moving on until everyone gets that step. I try never to use words like “have to” or “always.” Cooking is flexible! You can steam in a colander or even fry in a pressure cooker. I think removing these pressures helps home cooks relate and feel at ease.
In any given class, what makes it a win for you?
No question, when someone takes bite and realizes that just made that. Nothing tastes like something you made from scratch. It’s so gratifying knowing the ingredients, the time and the technique that went into a dish. Seeing that reaction on my students face of “I just did that” is the ultimate win. Beyond that, a cooking class with me needs to be fun. When people tell me “I hated cooking until I cooked with you” or the time just flew by. Those are other indicators the class was a win!
What do you see as one of the biggest challenges facing the world of food? If you could wave your magic wand and make one change there, what would it be?
The biggest challenge is people’s education on cooking. Everyone thinks it’s really hard. The reality is, it’s not. Cooking from scratch is a healthier way to live, it nourishes you and the people around you. I do not know if a study has ever been done on this subject, but I can guarantee you take a bunch of people who cook from scratch and a bunch of people who buy ready made food and the cook from scratch crew will live longer and healthier lives. So my magic wand would be to remove the barriers of entry into the kitchen and have people cooking with more whole thoughtfully produced ingredients, like Earthbound Farm!
How important is organic to you?
It’s hugely important, I typically don’t put anything into my recipes that is not organic. With that said using real whole ingredients is even more important. It’s amazing the amount of research people do on medicine before they take a pill, but with food they just down it like no one’s business. Both medicine and ingredients are going into our bodies and you should understand how they were made, and how that might affect you.
My final thought is on Earthbound Farm. I grew up eating lettuces and produce from Earthbound Farm. When I say cooking is not hard, I am talking about when you have access to an ingredient like Earthbound. The greens are like a blank canvas, you can wilt them super fast into a pasta with lemon and chili or eat them as a salad with a gorgeous piece of salmon on top. I make sure Earthbound is a staple in my home because it the backbone of my homemade cooking!