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Chefs' Culinary Secrets & Cooking Philosophies







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Chefs' Secrets & Cooking Philosophies | Julia Child, Devin Alexander, & Emeril Lagasse

Compiled by Vicki McClure Davidson



Cutlery image Julia Child

First female chef on television; had numerous acclaimed cooking shows, namely The French Chef and Julia and Friends. Was the first chef to take the intimidation out of French cooking for her American audience; extremely popular because of her lighthearted approach to cooking. Won a Peabody award and an Emmy; was a popular television icon for decades. Her Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook was hailed by critics and remains a best seller, as have been a great many of her other cookbooks. Died in 2004.


"A casserole is a very comfortable kind of informal cooking. You simply brown the meat, briefly blanch the vegetables, and put them all together with butter and seasoning. Then when you're ready to roast, you stick the casserole in the oven and let it cook quietly by itself, once in a while basting the meat and vegetables with their communal juices, while you go about other things."

"The perfectly poached egg, besides being attractive, has a tender white that is just set all the way through, and a yolk that is still liquid. I find that 4 minutes in barely simmering water is just right for 'large' and 'extra large' eggs."

"Pickled ginger, put up in brine and usually vinegar, keeps for months in the refrigerator; you can normally find it in Japanese and Chinese grocery stores."

Extracted from: Child, Julia (in collaboration with E. S. Yntema), Julia Child & Company, Alfred A. Knopf, NY, NY, 1978.


"Soup is a most attractive and nutritious way to take the edge off insatiable youth appetites."

"When you want a soup or sauce with a good brown color, you brown the ingredients in a frying pan before simmering them."

"Meats, poultry, and fish—each is unique, but so many of them cook in almost the same way."

"The perfect vinaigrette is so easy to make that I see no reason whatsoever for bottled dressings."

Extracted from: Child, Julia, The Way to Cook, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1993.


"Is cake yeast better than dry-active yeast? Does it have more flavor? Cake yeast often acts a little faster, but there are some brands of dry yeast that are very fast. I have not found any difference in flavor, because flavor in my opinion comes from the amount and length of the rise. How much yeast should one use? When you are doing the slow long rise that I recommend, use as little as possible because you want the dough to take its time. In general, take 1 package of yeast per pound (3-1/2 cups) of flour."

"Turkeys are so easy to roast, and so easy to keep warm for an hour or more if you treat them right, that they are the big answer at any time of the year to that problem of what to serve a large crowd of people. Turkeys are reasonably priced, too, when you buy them frozen and out of season. I admit I used to despise and loathe frozen turkeys, but that some years ago, when were stationed in Germany in a military housing project. During every holiday season, the local PX market was piled with surplus frozen turkeys garnered from heaven knows where, and soon the hallways of every building on the project were steeped in the odor of roasting rancid turkey fat. It took me a while to stomach any turkey at all after that trauma, and I was delighted to find when we did our television—and had 5 frozen turkeys to roast—that they were delicious."

"Be careful with canned or bottled clam juice: be sure it tastes fresh and fine, remember it is naturally salty, and use it in diluted form. When you need 1 quart of fish stock, for instance, use 1-1/2 to 2 cups of clam juice and add plain water; start with the smaller amount of clam juice and add a little more if you think it is needed."

"Trout and other small fish are easy to poach in wine: you arrange them in a baking dish, pour wine and water over them, add aromatic flavorings, and the cooking takes a mere 10 minutes. Serve them hot very simply with melted butter and lemon, or be elaborate with one of the great French fish sauces. On the other hand, let them cool in their poaching liquid, and their delicate flesh will reabsorb its own juices plus the flavor of the wine and seasonings. Then serve them forth cold, with a sour cream dressing or a homemade mayonnaise,, or, for total elegance, dress them in aspic for a beautiful cool summer's meal. Too few of us take advantage of cold cooked fish, and we should since it makes an easy first course or a delightful main-course luncheon dish."

Extracted from: Child, Julia, From Julia Child's Kitchen, Alfred A. Knopf, NY, NY, 1982.


"The only painless way of opening oysters I know of is to pick out each oyster at the market yourself. Choose only those with just enough of a gap at the hinge end so that you can take a beer-can opener, pointed end up, and just be able to force it into the gap. To open the oyster, you hold it curved side down on your work surface with one hand, force the beer-can opener into the gap with the other hand, bear down hard on the opener's handle, and up pops the hinge end off the top shell. Then take your sharp little knife and scrape down the inside surface of the top shell. Twist it off and loosen the oyster where it is attached to the bottom shell."

Extracted from: Child, Julia, Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2000.


Chef foods divider


Cutlery image Devin Alexander

Executive chef at Café Renee Catering in Los Angeles and food writer; is considered a healthy eating expert and is the author of the new book Fast Food Fix.


"If you sprinkle a chicken breast with herbs and sear it in a pan on medium heat, it's going to taste blah; take that same chicken breast and cook it at high heat, and you'll seal in the flavors and bring out the spices, and you'll end up with a dish that tastes entirely different and very enjoyable."

"Invest in an ultrafine shredder and you'll find you can cover more surface with less cheese. You'll get flavor in every bite, but far fewer calories."

Extracted from: Bouchez, Colette, Chefs' Secrets for Healthier Cooking, WebMD website (


"The key to re-creating the Big Mac is obviously perfecting the sauce. Some say it's simply Thousand Island dressing, but the clever folks at McDonald's deserve much more credit for this masterpiece we crave. To re-create the sauce, I had to ensure that I had a supply that I could taste on its own — away from the other great flavors this burger stacks. So I requested "extra on the side." The friendly woman behind the counter didn't flinch. She quickly produced a sundae cup half filled with the salmon-colored sauce. When I took a big sniff, all I could smell was a chemicalesque aroma. Tasting, on the other hand, yielded that wonderful flavor. Several tastings and I was convinced. The secret ingredient? Mustard. Simple yellow mustard. Add that and a pinch of sugar to a Thousand Island-style sauce, and you'll be surprised how closely it resembles the real deal."

Extracted from: ABC News, "Recipe: Devin Alexander's Big Mac Makeover," April 27, 2006, (


Chef foods divider


Cutlery image Emeril Lagasse

Popular, Emmy-nominated and James Beard Award-winning television chef who specializes in Louisiana (primarily Creole and Cajun) cooking; chef at and/or owner of many acclaimed restaurants; has written a number of best-selling cookbooks and has been one of the most often-watched chefs on The Food Network; frequently uses the catch phrases "Bam!" and "Let's kick it up a notch." His TV cooking shows have included Emeril, How to Boil Water, Emeril Live, and Essence of Emeril.


"The term roux (pronounced "roo") as used in Louisiana cooking is equal parts flour and oil slowly cooked and constantly stirred until the mixture is brown and has a nut-like aroma and taste. It serves as a base and thickening agent for bisques, gumbos, stews, and gravies. I use three different colors of roux. Blond roux, the color of sandpaper, is used in delicate soups. A medium brown roux, the color of peanut butter, is preferable for gravies and dishes with fish and some fowl. A dark brown roux, the color of chocolate, which has an intense flavor, is used in gumbos and stews."

"When you're getting ready to cook, it's best to have your mise en place, which is a French culinary term referring to having all the ingredients necessary for a dish prepared and ready to combine up to the point of cooking. All that really means is to have your onions, bell peppers, or whatever else needs chopping done and measured, liquids measured, butter measured, spices and herbs ready—get the idea?"

Extracted from: Lagasse, Emeril, Emeril's TV Dinners: Kickin' It Up a Notch with Recipes from Emeril Live and Essence of Emeril, William Morrow Cookbooks, NY, NY, 1998.


"Grilling is for all seasons. You can grill indoors just as well as you can grill outdoors. But you guys out there who are grill masters, who go out and turn those barbeque grills full blast -- maybe you clean it, maybe not. Before you go out there, you take your protein right out of the refrigerator and you throw that on the grill wonder why it's sticking.

"You've got to bring the protein up room temperature for at least 30 or 45 minutes. Secondly, you should grill like a stove. Half of it should be medium-high heat, a third of it should be medium or medium-low and a third of it should be low. And you should rotate things so that everything you cook is not charred and burnt and not properly cooked internally. Invest in a meat thermometer -- they're cheap."

Extracted from: Kinsman, Kat, AOL Food, "Grilling Tips, Emeril Grills," (


"My family... always had the value of the family table and these cultural influences of growing up."

"I started cooking when I was about 10. I have memories like when I was 6 or 7 with my mom, and when I was 12 I started getting real serious about cooking."

"I'm working harder than ever now, and I'm putting on my pants the same as I always have. I just get up every day and try to do a little better than the day before, and that is to run a great restaurant with great food, great wine, and great service. That's my philosophy."

Extracted from:, "Emeril Lagasse," (


"[During the summer], I steam and grill more than I do during the winter months. At this time of year, I also like to cook en papillote: That's when the ingredients are wrapped in foil or parchment, which maintains the natural juices and nutrients—and is really delicious. And of course, New Orleans is great these days for seasonal food, like shrimp and our local Creole tomatoes."

Extracted from: Woodard, Stephanie, Ladies Home Journal website, "Secrets from All-Star Chefs," (;jsessionid=FS 1GWYIRN3UPXQFIBQPSBHQ?storyid=/templatedata/lhj/story/data/1185313451001.xml&categoryid=/templat edata/lhj/category/data/1131381265026.xml&page=4).


"Take a dish as simple as French onion soup -- you know everybody seems to have their own twist. Some people like beef stock, some a chicken stock, some a combination. Some people like thyme, others Swiss cheese or Fontina."

"Julia Child was a very special lady and a mentor to me. I grew up watching her television shows. I loved her "you know, I really don't give a crap" kind of attitude. If a piece of swordfish fell on the floor, well, a piece of swordfish fell on the floor -- that's reality. It's going to happen to Helen at home so why can't it happen to Julia? It gave me a little inspiration for show that I did called "Emeril Live." Julia and I met several times and she became intrigued with my Louisiana style and asked me to be on her show. I did a show with her where we did a gigantic crawfish boil in the backyard and then I did another show where I showed her how to make etouffee. And, I kind of grinned about that because I grew up in New England."

Extracted from: Kinsman, Kat, AOL Food, "Q&A with Emeril Lagasse," (



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