Chef Sarah Jenkins' Article about Home Cooking Versus Restaurant Cooking

With such a diverse and delicious food scene at our fingertips, we New Yorkers often forgo the comforts and nutritional benefits of our own home cooking for the ever-present lure of fine dining from numerous restaurants.  Chef and restaurateur Sara Jenkins recognizes this dilemma in her article "Why Home-Style Cooking Will Always Beat Restaurant-Style" from The Atlantic. Jenkins details her long lineage of home cooks, recalling her grandparents' vegetable gardens that continuously supplied them with fresh produce and her mother's Mediterranean dinner parties that provided her with both a great meal and a sense of community. Honing her culinary skills in college, amidst the take-out pizzas and microwavable mac-and-cheese, Jenkins discovered for herself the pleasures and benefits of home cooking.

Jenkins' deep love for comforting, yet healthful food is what propelled her to open two very successful restaurants, but she is quick to differentiate between her professional cooking and her home cooking. It is important to try to make restaurant meals as health and environmentally conscious as possible, but the reality of back-burner soups and bulk-bought vegetables is sometimes too great a hurdle to surpass. Thus, emulating rich restaurant meals in the kitchen should not be the goal; rather accessible and nutritious meals that can be shared with a table of family and friends should be the focus.

By emphasizing seasonal, fresh ingredients and stocking your kitchen with quality equipment, you can create simple, yet appetizing meals that are light on calories, but still pack a delicious punch. Going out for meals is a fine option for special occasions, but, as Jenkins believes, it is the personal home cooked meals that will bring the most benefit, both to the body and to the soul.

For more on home versus restaurant cooking, read Chef Jenkins' article here. Do you prefer a home-cooked meal or restaurant dining? Let us know in the comments.

An Integral And Distinctive Part Of Cooking

Food scientist Harold McGee's shared some controversial theories about cooking in olive oil. His conclusion was that heating olive oil, a potentially expensive option to other nut, seed, and vegetable oils, is probably not its best use as it can dilute or destroy the flavor. Recently, though, Chef Sara Jenkins publicly defended her frequent use of olive oil, especially in cooking. The people of the Mediterranean have been doing it for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and they are very well known for their food. In fact, it was the only fat used in daily cooking for many.

Chef Jenkins laments the way some restaurants avoid the flavor of olive oil or buy vegetable oil with olive oil added to minimize costs at the gustatory price of quality. She sees it as an integral and distinctive part of her cooking and takes pride in being able to help mitigate some of the confusion about olive oil's proper use versus other fats, such as butter.

There are some great tips for getting the most out of olive oil that Chef Jenkins provides. On the label, make sure that the oil is harvested and bottled at the same location. Also look to see that it is less than two years old. See if you can find any from the Italian regions of Tuscany, Umbria or Puglia.

At the end of the day, the issue of oil is up to your personal tastes. Try seeing what tastes best to you with some recipes that use different oils and shortenings like, the Pan-Fried Cauliflower recipes or Fried Chicken with Yucca Salad.

Yelp Reviews

Opening a new restaurant has always presented many challenges for a chef, but there is one in particular today that a chef didn't have to think about twenty or fifty years ago: Yelp reviews. As with any new venture, a restaurant does not provide absolute perfection the day or even the week it opens. It can be a trial and error operation, potentially leading to initially unsatisfied customers.

Some complaints are valid and others simply ignorant. However, every mistake is a learning experience. Though user reviews on public websites such as Yelp can be unsatisfactory to downright vicious, a restaurant can choose to see them as an opportunity.

In a recent article for the Atlantic, Sara Jenkins, the mastermind behind New York restaurants Porchetta and Porsena, discusses the difficulties of dealing with Yelp reviews. One of the pitfalls of such a public platform, she points out, is that every user wants to assert themselves, at times trying to even more so than the last. Such sensationalism, though, can pitch a restaurant's entire page, which then has a significant impact on anyone else visiting the site.

At the end of the day, Chef Jenkins suggests perhaps one should not read their own Yelp reviews. What is more important, she says, is seeing happy, satisfied customers in front of her own eyes ever day.

To read more about Sara Jenkins' experience, go here.

Chef Sara Jenkins

Yesterday Red Rooster Harlem's executive chef Andrea Luz Bergquist shared her journal about life working in the restaurant.  It's a lot of work, she said, and it's a constantly evolving process. In the same vein, New York-based chef Sara Jenkins shared her struggles with opening her new restaurant, Porsena.  I love her bluntness and honesty about the trials and tribulations of making it all come together for the opening and beyond.

Early struggles included a lack of milk pitchers, and other supplies, an overwhelmed kitchen, and readjusting to cooking dried pasta for the restaurant.

I love what she says about the experience: "But we don't run away and we don't give up because we really love to cook and the beauty of the restaurant business is surviving the odds, conquering the waves, and pulling it all back from the brink of the jaws of hell time and time again."

Despite conquering a fire, and dealing with a computer break down, it's still worth it to her to have the restaurant.  Although she threatens to leave it all for a far-away country, her love for the restaurant overcomes all.

Read the rest of her article here.