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10 Simple Cooking Tips You Should Always Follow, According to a Chef

At a bucket list dinner with Chef Daniel Boulud, I lived out my foodie dreams and cooked alongside the celebrity chef, who turned out to be as full of practical kitchen wisdom as he is Michelin-star talent. Even if you can't get to his 14 global restaurants, try these insider tips to make your home-cooked meals feel like they came from a famous French chef.

fishCourtesy Mark Von Holden for Marriott

Don’t murder the fish! (AKA sharpen your knife)

There are many things celebrity chefs won’t tell you. But with a cheerful glint in his eye that matched the glistening knife in his hand, chef Daniel Boulud imparted this secret: “Don’t murder the fish!” I wasn’t attacking a swimming sea creature in the wild, however, just trying to slice a piece of translucent hamachi with a stainless chef’s knife in the dining room of his posh New York restaurant where I was living out my foodie dreams as part of a SPG/Marriott Rewards Moment experience. Boulud used his charm to teach our Master Class kitchen tips, as well as guide us in preparing a delicious dinner. Case in point: To not “murder your fish” (as I was starting to do), use the sharpest knife in the kitchen with a soft, slanted stroke. Using a sharp knife means you can slice fish (or other delicate ingredients, like tomatoes) without having to apply pressure and smash them in the process of cutting them.

foodCourtesy Mark Von Holden for Marriott

Eat what’s in season

Visit farmer’s markets when you can, advises Chef Boulud, and use what’s in season for optimal taste. For example, September is the best time for plums, so we ate a dish that featured three different varieties of the stone fruit.

foodCourtesy Mark Von Holden for Marriott

Add citrus for contrast

To bring out the zing in everything from fish to meat, add zest or juice from lemons, oranges, or grapefruits. For example, the restaurant Daniel uses sweet Meyer lemon to contrast with spicy wasabi in a raw fish appetizer. Don’t miss these cooking tips that are only taught in culinary school.

chefCourtesy Mark Von Holden for Marriott

Stock up on stock

Daniel calls stock “the flavor foundation of French cuisine,” in his book, Daniel: My French Cuisine. It’s best if you can make your own; then use it as a rich, umami base for all your sauces and soups. Because we know you were curious, here’s the difference between broth and stock.

chef-daniel-bouludCourtesy Mark Von Holden for Marriott

Make sea salt a staple

Fine sea salt (La Baleine, to be specific) is a staple of Chef Daniel Boulud recipes, and is a standard for seasoning all dishes. To properly season, the chef says to use your fingers to “pinch” the salt—one to two fingers for a small amount, up to a four-finger scoop for large amounts. (Bonus: No extra measuring spoons to wash!)

steakCourtesy Mark Von Holden for Marriott

Add butter to make beef (even) better

Butter, says Daniel, “nourishes” the beef; in other words, it bathes rich meat in even richer butter, making every bite sumptuous and delicious. A value-add to this trick: You can serve smaller portions and still deliver a big taste statement. Try these comfort foods that chefs make at home.

foodCourtesy Mark Von Holden for Marriott

Infuse flavor with fresh herbs

Chef Daniel Boulud adds additional flavors to stocks and sauces by using herbs in myriad ways, especially fresh parsley and dill. Try his “bouquet garni” method of tying herbs together so they can be easily removed later; for example, in a tomato soup, create a bouquet garni of fresh parsley, basil, thyme, and bay leaf to infuse the soup flavor without leaving leafy bits behind.

chef-daniel-bouludCourtesy Mark Von Holden for Marriott

Plating makes perfect

You eat with your eyes first, and dishes at Daniel truly look like works of art; to finish a dish with restaurant flair at home, use chervil leaves, chive blossoms, and delicate carrot tops to add both flavor and finishing touches. Find out the answers to your most common cooking disasters.

foodCourtesy Mark Von Holden for Marriott

Don’t skip dessert!

And here’s one “Don’t” from the chef that I’m happy to put into practice every day: Daniel Boulud thinks there’s always room for a sweet at the end of a good meal. As he writes in his book: “It’s not a real celebration unless it’s capped with a sinful combination of chocolate and whipped cream.” Truer words have never been spoken!

foodCourtesy Mark Von Holden for Marriott

The delicious details

Want to cook with Chef Daniel Boulud? SPG/Marriott Rewards Moments offers the special Master Class experience as part of their rewards auctions for unique adventures, so start saving your points! In the past, the master classes started at a 50,000 minimum bid, and the last one was scooped up for 177,500 points. Next, find out what celebrity chefs look for in a restaurant.

Melissa Klurman
Melissa is an intrepid explorer and award-winning travel journalist with more than 25 years of experience. She covers topics ranging from family travel and Disney to honeymoons and romantic beaches, and everything in between.