Let’s face it, cooking like a pro is hard. You only need to have watched the latest series of Masterchef to see how previously competent cooks are reduced to panicky wrecks the moment they are put in a professional kitchen.
That said, there’s no reason you can’t have a go at preparing restaurant-standard food in the comfort and privacy of your own kitchen.
There are two reasons why Michelin-star restaurants cost so much. The first is the amount of work that goes into the preparation of a dish. The second is the very high quality of the ingredients used, and this is worth remembering.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the most expensive ingredient will always be the best. What you need to do is think about where your ingredients are coming from.
For a restaurant to achieve the two Michelin stars, it must be deemed worthy of a ‘detour’ from your usual route. It follows that the same can be applied to your ingredients. Give the supermarket a miss and head to your local butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer to talk about the source of their produce. If you explain your dish to them, they might even be able to advise you on what would work best.
Follow the recipe
It seems so simple, but failing to do this has been the downfall of many a chef. If a recipe has made it as far as publication, the chances are it will have been thoroughly tested to ensure it works. If, midway through your cooking, something doesn’t look quite right, don’t be tempted to go off-script.
Keep following the instructions in the recipe and things will turn out fine. If you start skipping steps, cooking food for longer or shorter than instructed or substituting ingredients, things can easily go wrong. Michelin-star chefs are naturally not averse to experimenting and trying new things, but they will rarely do so in the middle of a service.
Michelin-star kitchens don’t tend to be messy. Make sure you know where all your ingredients are before you start and, most importantly, clean as you go.
If you allow things to become cluttered and untidy, it will be reflected in your final dish. What’s more, if you have an ‘open’ kitchen that your guests can see into, a dirty kitchen is not the most appetising thing to see.
Remember that you’ll need enough space to plate up, too. If you don’t, then our final point could become a bit tricky.
They say you eat with your eyes, and Michelin-star chefs spend a lot of time considering how their plates will look.
Think carefully about the construction of your dish. Look at the plate and decide how best to fill the space. You want the main ingredient to be the star, but equally you also want every element of the dish to have a chance to shine.
It’s important to note that when it comes to Michelin-star presentation, doing something a bit left-field does not necessarily equal ‘quality’. As the now infamous We Want Plates has shown, putting your food in a hat, shoe, dog bowl or miniature shopping trolley risks making it look silly and undermining all your good work. Make the meal about the food; don’t distract people with irrelevant side projects.
As strange as it might seem to a home cook, to achieve true Michelin quality it’s also important that each plate of food should look the same. Some of the best chefs in the world have been known to lose stars because of a lack of ‘consistency’.
In summary, planning and consistency are the two elements that will help you achieve Michelin-star presentation to back up the taste of your food.
Enjoy the experience
The very fact that you want to try preparing Michelin-standard food suggests you have a passion for cooking. As such, this should be a fun challenge for you to take on.
There’s no greater reward for a chef than happy diners, so we wish you the best of luck as you bid to impress your guests.