Tag Archive for Top Chef University

Spices – Top Chef University Lesson 16

SpicesIntroduction to Spices

My Story

And now for the second part of the fun stuff, SPICES! Spices were originally a trading commodity, hence the term “the spice route”. But that’s a whole other story. Here’s the quick history, for those who want to be in the know.

Spices were originally considered not essential, but considered a luxury item. They were very expensive. Rumor has it in the old days, the executive chef tasted the food you, as a sous chef, line cook, etc, made before adding any spices. If the food wasn’t up to his standards, the food got thrown out and you had to start over again. That way the expensive spices weren’t wasted. Imagine making a dish without any flavor other than the food and deciding by that taste alone to see if it was good enough to put the additional flavor of spice in?

The Lesson

Carla did an exceptional job on this lesson. I was literally stopping every three seconds to take notes. I wished it was longer, because I wanted to know more. And more! She was a little dramatic in this lesson, as there was no dryness in her tone at all, but then spices can do that to you. She was very excited about the topic, and I could tell she was trying to get the audience excited about it too. “Peacock” she was shouting. Read more

Top Chef U – All About Herbs


THenAll About Herbs

My Story

Herbs! The stuff that adds true flavor to any dish. Now this is what this diy home goddess has been waiting for! I want to know all about herbs. I want to know what herbs go with what types of food. How do you store herbs. I want to have fun! And this was the lesson to do it. Well, this and the next one, the one on spices. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The Lesson

I felt like Carla did a good job of going through the basics on this lesson. I learned a lot, and this diy home goddess is raring to go! She had the basic herbs all laid out on a cutting board. They looked so pretty! She says that you can use fresh or dried herbs, with fresh herbs adding more pop and depth of flavor, but dried herbs can last longer. Then she talked about tender herbs and robust herbs, breaking them down so you know the main, most common varieties of each. She gives you a quick description, and tells you what dishes are best for each common herb, and when to use them. So let’s go over them quickly here.

Tender Herbs

These you are supposed to put in as a finish touch at the end of the cooking cycle.

To store these, you place them in a damp paper towel, wrap in plastic, and place in the refrigerator. Read more

Top Chef U – Lettuce Principles 101


Lettuce Principles 101

My Story

Admit it, lettuce is kind of boring. Yeah, it’s green. Yes, it’s the basis for salads. Yeah, it’s healthy. But to me, lettuce is boring. I eat lettuce because it’s a vegetable, and it’s a way to get me to eat a vegetable. But it needs to have lots of other stuff in that salad for me to be able to choke it down. Between you and me and the internet, if I eat too much of any vegetable at once, I do feel like I’m going to hurl. It better be a chef salad, with lots of other good stuff in it. Or if it’s topping a burger, there better be stuff like cheese and bacon masking the texture of that lettuce.

The Lesson

As a diy home goddess, I kind of felt this lesson was boring too. Carla said lettuce is the most popular and available vegetable in a chef’s world. Well duh, it’s the basis for salads, like I already said.

She did a pretty good job of talking about the four basic lettuce families. And she described how they looked, so you know which one to pick in the grocery store. But I wish she would have had more than one of each family in the picture. After all, there are dozens of varieties, so why not have a couple of each family, even if you are touching just one to showcase? And she gave an idea of what to use each one for. Read more

Top Chef U – Lessons 11 and 12 – Specialty Vegetables


I am back to doing the reviews on Top Chef University, after a slight hiatus. Okay, it’s been a long hiatus. But I am back, so let’s get started.

Lessons 11 and 12 are being reviewed together, because they both deal with specific vegetables that, according to instructor Carla Hall, are high maintenance vegetables. Most of them are vegetables I bet we all eat every week, so it is hard to imagine high maintenance. But after viewing these lessons, I agree.



Leeks are an onion. They are not as strong as normal onions, with a more subtle flavor, but are definitely challenging to prepare for cooking. A leek is a long, white and green vegetable, reminiscent of a celery stalk. To prepare these for use, you have to seriously wash the things! Dirt accumulates in them as the layers grow, so they will be very gritty unless prepared correctly. Here is how you do it: Read more