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Chefs' Culinary Secrets & Cooking Philosophies







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Chefs' Culinary Secrets & Cooking Philosophies | Paula Deen, Gordon Ramsay, & Tom Colicchio

Compiled by Vicki McClure Davidson



Cutlery imagePaula Deen

Popular Southern cook on the Food Network, emphasizes easy-to-make comfort foods. Sometimes called "Queen of Southern Cuisine." Her success on cable TV was not planned. Following personal tragedies (has agoraphobia, both her parents died by the time she was 23, was divorced and with two small sons, wasrobbed at gunpoint while working as a bank teller), she was virtually house-bound because of her phobia for more than a decade. After her divorce, she needed to earn an income and had to fight her phobia so that she could support herself and her two young sons, Jamie and Bobby. She turned to her Southern-style cooking skills and started up a small catering service, The Bag Lady, making sandwiches and other meals, and her sons delivering them. Her specialty chicken salad was so popular, she was later hired by a Best Western Hotel in Savannah to cook; five years later, she opened her own restaurant, The Lady and Sons, in Savannah. The restaurant was a success and later moved into a larger building in Savannah’s Historic District. She successfully published a cookbook, appeared on Doorknock Dinners, where several episodes were filmed in Savannah. Appeared on Ready, Set, Cook! and got her own show in 2003, Paula's Home Cooking. An appearance on Oprah Winfrey's show, where she shared her inspirational life story, solidified her name across the country with millions of women viewers. Paula remarried in 2004 to Michael Groover, a Savannah port tugboat pilot.

Paula, always bubbly and natural, was the first host ever to have her language censored by the Food Network for a colorful word that she let slip while making hot wings.


"To eliminate odor from collards being cooked, add one washed, unshelled pecan to the collards pot before turning the stove on."

"If you're out of tomato juice, simply mix 1/2 cup tomato sauce and 1/2 cup water to create 1 cup of tomato juice."

"Never throw away chicken stock; fresh vegetables, such as peas, butter beans, turnip greens, collards, and rutabags, are wonderful cooked in it. Stock may also be frozen for later use in soups and sauces."

"Out of sweetened condensed milk? Make your own: Mix 6 cups whole milk with 4-1/2 cups sugar, 1 stick of butter, and 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tablespoon vanilla). Cook over medium heat, reducing liquid, for 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Cool. Yields 4-1/2 cups. This can be stored covered in the refrigerator for several weeks. Cut recipe in half for immediate use."

Extracted from Deen, Paula, and Berendt, John, The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook, Random House, NY, NY, 1997.


"Grandmother Paul taught me that, in order to have good fried chicken, you should wash and season the bird the morning you’re preparing it for dinner. Don’t wait and do it right before you start cooking. Throw it in the refrigerator, seasoned, that morning, and give it a chance to soak up all the salt and pepper and goodness."

Extracted from: Coyne, Katie, Good Housekeeping, "A Taste of Paula Deen," (


"We can't have an outdoor meal without having some form of a hot dog or a hamburger, so I've taken these delicious smoked sausage links and I'm gonna serve 'em up as hot dogs for Father's Day. And to make it a little bit special, I'm not gonna put it on a regular hot dog bun, girls, I'm gonna serve it up on a French baguette, with curried mayonnaise and onions and alfalfa sprouts. And it's gonna be delicious."

"For those who are watching their waistlines, I can take my boneless pork chops, chop 'em up, and serve them on top of a green salad and have grilled pork salad instead of grilled chicken salad."

Extracted from: Mohajer, Holly, Mo's Dinner owner, blog video interview, "Only in Raleigh Does a Local Raleigh Restaurant Owner Get to Interview Paula Deen," Southern Secrets with Paula Deen, ( / only-in-raleigh-does-a-local-raleigh-restaurant-owner-get-to-interview-paula-deen/), June 13, 2008.


"You don't have to be Southern to admire the smell of grits cookin'—hang with me, and even if you're from New Jersey, you'll be lovin' grits."

"We added baked chicken to the fried chicken because there are always those tourists who want to watch their intake of fried goods. We can always make concessions for the health-conscious by doing things like using smoked turkey wings to add flavor to our beans and greens instead of ham hocks, and we do. But you know what? Turkey wings aren't the same as ham hocks. Baked chicken can't hold a candle to the fried. Seems to me a better approach for weight watchers would be to look at Southern food as a treat."

Extracted from: Deen, Paula, with Sherry Suib Cohen, "Paula Deen, It Ain't All About the Cookin' - A Memoir," Simon & Schuster, NY NY, 2007.


Chef foods divider


Cutlery imageGordon Ramsay

World-renowned chef and TV personality, has been awarded a total of 12 Michelin Stars (third in history to achieve this); in 2007, became one of only three chefs in the United Kingdom to hold three Michelin stars at one time. Has starred in several award-winning primetime TV shows (Hell's Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares) in the US and the UK; he has written many popular cookbooks. Well known for his quick temper and verbal assaults of chefs in his kitchen.


"In Britain, sardines are regarded as the poor man's fish. Yet, in places like Roses, which is a town two hours outside Barcelona, sardines caught locally are the absolute king fish, the jewel in the crown. The nice thing about cooking and eating sardines (grill them, as they are oily) is that everything is self-contained. They have a very high protein value, so I like to eat them around running time—whether I'm training for a marathon or just out jogging. We serve sardines at the Boxwood Café and it's a nice way of eating something which has maybe been a bit forgotten about. Don't waste your time trying to pick all the bones out—they will be so soft that they will just disintegrate."

"The secret of success [when making the ultimate Caesar salad] is to roll the leaves around the bowl, to coat them in the dressing so your hands don't bash them up. The less manhandling you do, the better."

Extracted from: Ramsay, Gordon, Kitchen Heaven, Penguin Global/Penguin Books Ltd., London, 2005.


"Noilly Prat is one of my secret flavorings. This classic vermouth, with its hint of sweet aniseed, is perfect for enhancing fish and shellfish. I often use it in combination with a little Cognac. Like sherry, it is a fortified wine, so once opened, it can be kept in the pantry."

"Wild mushrooms have distinctive, individual flavors that combine beautifully in sauces."

"If the notion of eating raw oysters from the shell doesn't appeal to you, then try them marinated—the best of both worlds."

Extracted from: Ramsay, Gordon. In the Heat of the Kitchen, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, 2003.


"All kids love burgers. They are so simple and quick to make that I fail to understand why parents ever buy processed patties packed with additives and preservatives."

Extracted from: Ramsay, Gordon, Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy, Quadrill Publishing Ltd., London, 2005.


"I just don't think it's a very good advert when you're going out to dinner, a romantic dinner, you're sittin' there with your wife... and you look into the kitchen and you see the chef, and he's like 350 pounds. Not a good advert to see a fat chef. ...There's nothing worse than watching a chef who's overweight that's sweating. Half that sweat's going into your dinner... it's seasoning things, and I just don't like fat chefs sweating in my food."

Extracted from: Late Night with Conan O'Brien TV interview, NBC, broadcast April 30, 2008.


Chef foods divider


Cutlery imageTom 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' 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.


"Shellfish with bacon is a classic combination. The sensation of salty, briny clams with slightly sweet pancetta is one of my favorites."
"When choosing vegetables, think like an Italian peasant: Even an Italian of the most modest means will spend a few extra lire on the best tomato, the freshest herbs, the fruitiest olive oil. If you've ever eaten a simple tomato salad in Italy, you know what I mean. What I'm getting at is that you should always buy the best you can afford. These ingredients aren't more expensive because they're trendy or have a chic label. In fact, in the case of condiments, you will find yourself using less because the flavors are more intense and go farther."
"Morels are one of the great gifts of the mushroom family. They are elegant and earthy, with a distinctive nutty taste and a dark, honey-combed surface that acts as a sponge to soak up flavorful liquids."
"My partner at Gramercy Tavern, Danny Meyer, likes to say that the best way to get people to try something new is to let them know it is roasted. The term manages to conjure comfort food and adventurous cooking simultaneously, along with the image of gorgeously browned edges and caramelized flavor. Lamb, beef, pork, venison, rabbit, squab, chicken and turkey, foie gras, whole fish, fish fillets, lobster, almost every vegetable: you name it, I roast it."
"As a rule, I prefer pan roasting. It allows me to effect a transformation on something almost immediately. Roasting in an oven cheats me of the audible, visual, and tactile cues that are such a gratifying step of the cooking process. For some people, the end result alone—the perfectly browned sea bass, the crisp chicken—is the point, but for me, the process of browning the meat, watching the sugars in the surface caramelize, and listening to the sizzling sound of the butter, the sputter as the moisture in the herbs meets the juices in the pan, is as satisfying as the result. Watching as the dish transforms from a group of separate, inert ingredients into a new thing altogether is rewarding even before the first bite. When you learn to pan roast for yourself, a practical benefit is that in time you'll come to recognize the audible and visual cues of correctly cooked food, and you'll find yourself relying less and less on the times and temperatures printed in any recipe."

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


"The most overrated seasonings are truffle oil and micro-greens. I don’t want to see micro-greens in my kitchen. The most underrated has to be salt and pepper. These seasonings are so essential, but something home cooks especially tend to ignore or not appreciate the importance of."

Extracted from: Bruni, Frank, Q and A: Tom Colicchio, Diner's Journal, New York Times Daily Blog on Dining Out, (, August 10, 2007.



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