I am a self-taught cook who loves food and loves to try new and different ethnic cuisines in particular. Because my career took me to an area of the country where there are few ethnic restaurants, I first learned to cook my favorite Thai and Indian dishes and eventually branched out to incorporate a number of cooking styles.
I believe that, first and foremost, it helps to understand the basics of any approach to food. What are the basic sauces, seasonings, methods, and expected outcomes? You can’t always get these from a cookbook. So research, travel, talk to people, experiment, and taste, taste, taste. Once you have the basics down, you can start to combine recipes and ideas to arrive at your own expressions.
Finally, it’s important that you use the best ingredients you can afford–fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably in season (local and organic even better), well-preserved grains, fresh spices, good quality oils, and fresh meat, chicken and seafood. Make friends with your butchers. They are often very knowledgable and can order what you need if they don’t have it.
I have always maintained that if you can read, you can cook, but friends tell me that’s just not so. In any event, I do think that if you can read, you still stand a chance at being a great cook!! Start simply and work up. Recruit kind, supportive guinea pigs for your dishes. And give yourself lots of credit for trying.
I have, over the years, managed to pair my love of cooking with my love of good film by offering a community outreach course at the university where I work. My goal is to provide windows on the world and create opportunities for my guests to experience tastes of other cultures while developing their own sense of community and culture right here.