Have you ever heard the saying: “give someone a fish, and they eat for a day, but teach someone to fish, and they eat for a lifetime?”
Well, giving someone a meal is nice, but teaching them how to make meals for themselves, lasts a lifetime!
Perhaps you’ve fantasized about being that host or hostess who can pull together amazing meals. Perhaps you would like to just make your own meals tastier, nicer, healthier, and more fun. Maybe you’ve thought about going to a semi-professional cooking school or a truly professional one, but you didn’t have the time and/or the money. The holiday season is fast approaching. Now is the time to act on these goals, and of course, think about holiday gifts.
If you want to learn the basics of cooking for yourself and and prepare food like professional chefs do, there is an alternative to cooking school. COOKING FROM A TO ZEST is an attractively boxed set of 4 DVDs, that is a hybrid between a formal, culinary school program and the type of entertaining “how-to” cooking shows you find on television. The 4 discs provide a private in-home cooking course which teaches the basic techniques and skills needed to plan, prepare and cook like a pro. Together, the four DVDs offer eight informative and entertaining hours of tips and instructions. There is also a small recipe book that has all of the recipes shown in the program(s) in print, so you can follow them in your kitchen. Even better, the cost of all this is just $59.99 (plus shipping & handling) which is far less than the cost of a typical 2-hour cooking class.
The host is Food Network veteran food stylist and contributor Kierstin Buchner. She’s a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. I like her casual, personal manner. She explains things in a slow, clear voice, demonstrating techniques in an organized, simple manner, backed with close-up video of whatever she’s doing.
I really liked this DVD set. Each section is like a cooking show in itself, but with applicable recipes and cooking techniques (backed up by the print recipe book). They’re educational and entertaining, and even if you are an intermediate or advance chef, you’re bound to pick up things you didn’t know. For example, although I thought I already knew how to make french fry-cut potatoes, I learned within minutes of watching the first DVD (Building Your Kitchen, in “knife techniques”) that I had been doing it the hard way! Simple, practical advice like this is priceless, especially if “mom” didn’t get around to teaching you this thing or that thing I enjoyed seeing Ms. Buchner shopping at specialty shops and local markets, and I thought her explanation of basic things to have in the kitchen, what herbs and spices are, and how to use them, was excellent. And, Buchner teaches much more than how to follow a recipe. She gives consumers the knowledge and fundamental skills of cooking that they wouldn’t get from a cookbook or class – advice that will make cooking easier and faster as well as tricks to make food more flavorful, and well presented. She also give advice about how to fix common things that can spell disaster for your meal, if they don’t turn out right (e.g how to fix a broken hollandaise sauce). There are some special features, and you can pick and choose what you want to watch, or go in order from the first DVD to the last DVD. Briefly, here is what you’ll find in each of the 4 DVDs:
VOLUME 1: BUILDING YOUR KITCHEN – Cooking starts with kitchen essentials—such as efficient knife skills, selecting your equipment and stocking your kitchen with staple ingredients.
VOLUME 2: STOCKS, SOUPS &SAUCES – Learn the building blocks of delicious stocks and broths, unveil the secret to cream soups and purees then finish with the five key foundation sauces – and their “small” sauce derivatives.
VOLUME 3: SALADS, VEGETABLES, POTATOES, GRAINS, LEGUMES & PASTA – Learn to prepare salad dressings with ease; sauté, blanch and grill your way to flavorsome vegetables; cook the perfect rice and pasta – every time!
VOLUME 4: EGGS, MEATS, POULTRY & FISH – Discover six classic ways to prepare eggs, then move on to a variety of mouth-watering methods for meat and poultry including brine-ing, braising and stewing.
What’s not to like? Honestly, a few things: it’s a minor point, the DVD set is sponsored (in part) by manufacturers of cooking equipment, who obviously supplied the equipment for the DVD series: KitchenAid counter top and major appliances, Anolon Gourmet Cookware, Bake ware, and hand tools, and the Omega line of juicing appliances. While I have no problem with the appliances and their logos being shown in close-ups, I found it too obvious and very annoying that certain appliances were not subtly touted as “must-haves” from the first DVD, on. In these economic times, you might have to make do with what you’ve already got in your kitchen in terms of equipment, and you shouldn’t be made to feel lacking if you can’t purchase the recommended items, or brands that Ms. Buchner encourages her “students” to purchase.
…and another thing: people who are concerned (maybe overly so) about healthy cooking, may wonder why Buchner glides over these types of issues, advocating non-stick pans, for example. Depending upon the type and quality, non-stick pans potentially have coatings that can leach into food and be less than good for you.
…one more thing: while Buchner makes perfect looking garnishes, for example, there is a lot of waste involved. True, you can store odd bits and pieces of food, or compost them, but not everyone has the time or the inclination to do this. Maybe in cooking school using just half a carrot or potato is not considered wasteful, but the average household cook isn’t going to throw out half of what s/he can’t use in a recipe. More suggestions about how to store, or re-use, “leftovers” would have been appreciated.
I admit, these are fairly minor objections — but I feel I need to voice them. But the main function of COOKING FROM A TO ZEST is to educate and to entertain, and the set gets high marks for that. This boxed set of DVDs can’t help but make a viewer feel more confident in the kitchen, even if they only a few segments are viewed and re-visited as time, or need, arises.
This boxed set of cooking DVDs would make a memorable holiday gift for just about anyone, but especially someone on their own for the first time, or a newlywed couple, or a recent widower who feels lost in the kitchen. It’s a gift that will keep giving…for a lifetime. And, of course. if you get it now, you’ll be whipping up meals that get rave reviews before you ring in the New Year!
COOKING FROM A TO ZEST DVD SET is available through direct response, www.cookingfromatozest.com and on amazon.com