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Chefs' Culinary Secrets & Cooking Philosophies







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Chefs' Culinary Secrets & Cooking Philosophies | Jamie Oliver, Giada De Laurentiis, & Tom Colicchio

Compiled by Vicki McClure Davidson



Cutlery image Jamie Oliver

Cooked for three years, at a young age, at the critically acclaimed River Café in London; popular, irreverent host of many TV cooking shows, including The Naked Chef and Oliver's Twist; has won four awards for his TV shows and has a number of best-selliing cookbooks. Food editor for British GQ magazine and has a regular column with the Saturday Times Magazine. Has been active in charity work, "Jamie's School Dinners," to increase nutritional awareness in England's working-class schools.


"Now I've got a really hot pan over here. I think the trick to cooking any mushrooms, whether they're cheap and cheerful, or these sorta nice wild ones, is that you've got to get a really hot pan... in the hot pan, get about 4 tablespoons of olive oil, or just vegetable oil, and put all of these mushrooms in. Now, that's quite a lot of mushrooms, but they're gonna cook down, and sorta reduce in size. But you want to get a hot pan, otherwise, they'll just boil, and they'll be really boring."

Extracted from: Oliver's Twist, "More Than Just a Lettuce Leaf" episode, season 1, episode 6, BBC/Food Network, first aired June 4, 2002.


"Always cook onions with a good pinch of salt and pepper."

Extracted from: Jamie at Home, "English Onion Soup" segment, season 2, episode 2, BBC/Food Network, first aired June 7, 2008.


"When shopping for kitchen equipment, you'll find that most cookware shops and department stores have all these high-tech pans with glass lids, glass bottoms, removable handles, and so on, but most of the time they're actually not very good. Just try to get yourself a minimal amount of decent sturdy kitchen equipment."

"Any really fresh fish will never smell—look for clear eyes, shiny scales, and red gills. And always trust your instincts. If you can't get to the fish because it's behind a counter, have a look at the way it's presented. If the tuna has been badly or unevenly cut, or if the cod is broken open as it has been dumped in a pile, or if the scallops are sitting in a puddle of fish juice or defrosted ice, then you know that the people behind the counter are not very knowledgeable or passionate about what they do. If, however, everything is neatly proportioned and arranged and nothing's sitting in murky water, then the chances are that you are in safe hands."

Extracted from: Oliver, Jamie, Jamie's Kitchen: A Cooking Course for Everyone, Hyperion Press, Inc., NY, 2002.


"I always think it's quite interestin' that the cheapest cuts of meat, like a shank or all those stewin' joints, they're actually the tastiest as well. So, don't be fooled that you have to spend loads of cash to get tasty food, because it ain't true."

"I've got some celery, and I'm just going to use the outside stalks. I like to peel it 'cuz I'm a little bit fussy, but you don't have to. The outside can be a little bit stringy, and a bit of a pain sometimes, so it's worth doing that."

Extracted from: Oliver's Twist, "Kitchen Builders," season 1 episode 5, BBC/Food Network, first aired June 12, 2002.


"I'm not a gardener, and I certainly haven't got green fingers, but having grown a selection of rosemary, bay, thymes, sages, oregano, and mint in window-boxes and pots over the last six years, I reckon I've had enough experience to tell you that it's so cheap and dead easy to do. It doesn't matter where you live, or how much space you've got. ...I found that potted herbs suited me best. Just spending $25 or so on a selection of herbs will give you an exciting range of flavors and you'll have them right there at your disposal—just with a snip of your scissors. Quite frankly, I've never had success with growing delicate herbs like parsley, basil, cilantro, and tarragon."

Extracted from: Oliver, Jamie, The Naked Chef Takes Off, Hyperion Press, Inc., NY, 2001.


"Nutmeg is quite an old-fashioned spice... I'm goin' to be using spinach, and spinach is absolutely best mates, lifetime mates, with nutmeg and marjoram."

Extracted from: Oliver's Twist, "Scarlet Division" episode, season 1, episode 16, BBC/Food Network, first aired November 5, 2002.


Chef foods divider


Cutlery image Giada De Laurentiis

Popular and sexy Food Network chef; granddaughter of film producer Dino De Laurentiis. Began her professional training at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris; held positions as a food magazine stylist for magazines like Food & Wine, and cooked at the prestigious Ritz Carlton Fine Dining Room and Wolfgang Puck's Spago in Beverly Hills. Later founded GDL Foods, a catering company in Los Angeles. Host of several popular Food Network programs, including Everything Italian and Giada's Weekend Getaways. Spokesperson for Barilla, the world's largest producer and manufacturer of pasta. Recurring guest chef on the Today Show. First cookbook, Everyday Italian, showcased many of the delicious Italian recipes from her cooking show of the same name; second cookbook, Giada's Family Dinners, quickly became a #1 New York Times best-seller, as did her third cookbook, Everyday Pasta.


"I made lemon spaghetti in an early season of Everyday Italian, and to this day people still come up to me and say they love it. It’s very, very simple. Basically, you cook the pasta and mix together Parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, and zest and pour it over the pasta. The nice thing about this dish is its versatility: You can top it with chicken or serve it alongside a roast; you can serve it hot or cold. That’s why it has become so popular. The trick with this recipe is to use pasta water to create the sauce-you’ll get a much more flavorful sauce."

Extracted from: Murphy, Jen, Food and Wine magazine website, "Interview with TV Chef Giada De Laurentiis," (, 2008.


"Before you strain the pasta, save 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Then drain the pasta, add a little Parmesan cheese, then add your tomato sauce—and then mix in the reserved pasta water. The starches in the water help the sauce stick. It comes out really nice and creamy."

Extracted from: Esquire magazine website, "Giada De Laurentiis Loves Tomatoes," ( love/delaurentiis0807), July 19, 2007.


"Caramelized onions have a really high sugar content, they're so good... What I love about caramelized onions is how versatile they are. I'm going to put them on my little pizzette, but you can put them on bruschetto or top chicken or fish with them. Now I'll put them in my pan. We're going to cook them for an hour and forty-five minutes, so it's kind of a slow process. I know it looks like a lot of onions right now, but it's going to shrink down to very little. ...They're going to cook until they're golden and almost as sweet as candy. Yup, they will be."

Extracted from: Food Network website cooking video, Giada De Laurentiis, "Everyday Italian: Hearty Proscuitto Pizzettes," 2007.


"My most traumatic moment was my first time on the Today Show, four years ago. It was my first live television appearance, my first cookbook, and I'm nervous as hell. I made a grilled chicken breast with spinach pesto. Easy enough. At the end, Matt [Lauer] cuts into a piece of chicken with a fork, and I think, There's no way he could cut it with a fork; I hope that thing is cooked through. So he puts it in his mouth and realizes it's raw. It's basically just seared. The camera follows him into the kitchen, and he spits it out. And he comes back and says, "Are you trying to kill us here?" I almost died. What I wanted to say is, "I didn't cook the chicken, the food stylist did!" Then Katie [Couric] stepped in and said, "It's okay, it happens all the time, and Matt's a wimp, anyway." But I felt like the biggest jackass on the planet."

Extracted from: Dunn, Jancee, Redbook magazine website, "Giada's Recipe for the Good Life," (, December 2007.


"I use the juice or zest of lemons to bring out the flavors of almost everything I make. Lemon juice is fat free and full of clean flavor, and it's especially useful for lighter dishes. You can also use it as a substitute for the crispness of white wine in a recipe, if you prefer not to use alcohol. "

Extracted from: Cooking Light interview, "Table Talk with Giada De Laurentiis," (


Chef foods divider


Cutlery image Tom Colicchio

Chef and co-owner of New York's celebrated Gramercy Tavern, ranked New Yorkers' #1 favorite restaurant in the 2003 Zagat Survey, as well as chef/owner of Craft, the 2002 James Beard Best New Restaurant in America. Received the 2000 James Beard Award for Best Chef in New York City, and a James Beard award for Best General Cookbook in 2001 for his first cookbook, Think Like a Chef; recipient of five James Beard Foundation Medals as of 2008. In 2002, opened Craftbar, a casual adjunct to Craft, CraftSteak in Las Vegas's MGM Grand Hotel, and introduced CraftKitchen, a line of olive oils and condiments imported from Calabria, Italy. In 2003, opened 'Wichcraft next door to Craftbar in New York's Flatiron district, bringing Craft's ethic of simplicity and great ingredients to the ever-popular sandwich. Nominated for an Emmy for reality show Top Chef.


"For some reason, when young cooks first come into my kitchen, they all seem to cook mushrooms the wrong way; they throw the entire batch into a very hot pan, crowding them together. Immediately, the mushrooms release water, the temperature in the pan drops, the water pools in the pan without evaporating, and the mushrooms stew in the liquid and become a watery, rubbery mess. Instead, the mushrooms should be cooked in small batches, which will keep the temperature in the pan from dropping and will give them sufficient space for their water to be released as steam. They should not be moved around much, since this only bunches them further and keeps the mushrooms from caramelizing and developing their deep, nutty flavors."
"All of my recipes call for kosher salt instead of table salt. Kosher salt is more porous, and therefore, less salty than table salt; using it allows me to evenly salt the entire length of the food without it becoming too salty. I also use unsalted butter as I cook, so that I can control the saltiness of the recipe myself—first, when I season the uncooked roast, and last, when I finish it with a light sprinkling of coarse sea salt, which has a nice, clean (unchemical) flavor."
"A vegetable should be cooked until the crunch is gone but the resistance remains. No more, no less."
"Guidelines for fish are hard to give here, since people vary widely on how they like their fish cooked. Usually, when fish turns opaque, it is cooked through. (I like it when it still has a touch of translucence, except in the case of very meaty fish, such as tuna, which I like seared on the edges and rare in the center.) Try to take the fish out of the pan a few moments before it's done, as it will continue to cook on its own."

Extracted from: Colicchio, Tom, Think Like a Chef, Clarkson N. Potter, Crown Publishing Group, NY, NY, 2000.


"If I had one ingredient to take to a desert island, it would be mushrooms."
"If you're going to spend money on anything, make sure you get really great pots and pans and really great knives. The rest of the stuff doesn't matter."

Extracted from: "Top Chef's Tom Colicchio Shares His Recipe for Success," June 27, 2007, (


"I can go out and buy clams and some shallots and garlic, chop it up, put some wine in it, olive oil. Let the clams steam open, add chopped up tomatoes and mustard greens and toss with pasta. That is going to take me 20 minutes. It's a great simple pasta dish. It is that easy. Anybody can do it if they want to do it. It just takes practice."
"We're eating healthier food at home, so he's [Colicchio's teen son] eating what we’re eating. For us the challenge is he likes soda and he likes sweets, so we have to limit that. I think the patterns are set very early when the kids are young. But at the same time, there are some flavors kids just don't like. For him, he'll eat peas, but he doesn't like broccoli. Green was always an issue. For a while he wouldn't eat anything with chopped parsley. He still doesn't eat raw tomatoes, it's the goop inside. I had the same issue when I was a kid. But there are also things he loves that he probably wouldn't if he hadn’t been exposed to them. For instance, he loves caviar."
"What chefs can do when it comes to getting the word out is have people understand food differently. If food is well sourced and well prepared, I don’t think the word healthy needs to be brought into it. It's healthy because it's wholesome. That's what we should focus on. You can buy a box of low-fat macaroni and cheese made with powdered nonsense. I'm not worried if I'm using four different cheeses and it's high in fat. It's real food. That's what's more important."

Extracted from: Parker-Pope, Tara, New York Times, "Even Top Chefs Have Picky Kids," February 19, 2009.


"Simple food doesn't mean simplistic. It requires a healthy dose of skill and hard work."

Extracted from: Colicchio, Tom, Craft of Cooking: Notes and Recipes from a Restaurant Kitchen, Clarkson N. Potter, Crown Publishing Group, NY, NY, 2003.



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