Taking it up a notch in the kitchen

Q: I'd like to take my cooking to the next level. How do I make my food taste and look better on the plate without going to culinary school?

-- Leveling Up

A: Hi, Leveling Up! Great to have you on board. 

The culinary world has never had more options and paths to take. That means it's less about taking it up to the next level than it is about finding your place. You find it by moving from what you know to what excites you. Figure out what you love, what you sorta like, what you absolutely cannot get near. (For example, I just hate Nutella.) So:

  • Smell everything. 
  • Taste everything. 
  • Read everything. 

Be voracious about reading cookbooks -- looking at art, pictures, and paintings. They inform you and they play off of each other in the most amazing ways. 

Speaking of playing: Once you get a fever in your brain from all that smelling, tasting, and reading, play with your food.  I'm giving you permission now. Be bold. Get it on plates. Get in front of people. Eat!!


  • Gjelina. Travis Lett
  • Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way. Francis Mallmann
  • Lomelino's Pies: A Sweet Celebration of Pies, Galettes, and Tarts, Linda Lomelino
  • Anything by the doyenne of entertaining, Martha Stewart (her role and legacy deserve a long look and talk, for reasons that might surprise)
  • Vuillard's picture book by Stuart Preston
  • My Absolute Darling, Gabriel Tallent
Paul Ward1 Comment