January 3, 2018

If you’re earning culinary arts certificate online, chances are you’re thinking about all the great dishes you plan to make in the year ahead. With the right skills and plentiful ingredients, there’s no end to what you can accomplish in your kitchen. However, there’s also a lot of room for missteps that can lead to ill-considered dishes and unhappy customers.

Keep these chef no-nos in mind as you plot out your menus for 2018:

1. Don’t overseason

“Think carefully about the balance of tastes.”

A culinary education teaches chefs about the power of well-chosen seasoning for accentuating the distinctive flavors in a dish and adding intriguing contrasts. However, a common error for cooking professionals early in their careers is adding too much of a good thing. It’s crucial to think carefully about the balance of tastes as you sprinkle each pinch of seasoning and avoid overdoing it.

A good chef is constantly tasting a dish as it comes together and considering how to make the final product even better. As The Kitchn pointed out, throwing in salt a half-teaspoon at a time allows you to reduce bitterness and strengthen other flavors right up to the point of making the dish noticeably salty. An acid, like vinegar or lemon juice, will add a little brightness, and some soy sauce can bring in umami, or savoriness.

2. Never neglect your mise en place

One of the most vital lessons a chef learns is the importance of mise en place, which translates to “everything in its place.” The phrase indicates that preparation is paramount for any cooking professional. Still, English chef Richard Bainbridge, of the brasserie Benedicts Restaurant in Norwich, told The Independent that he considers poor time management the cause of numerous errors made by chefs.

Mastering mise en place is about completing everything that you can ahead of time. You set out all the tools you’ll need, grease your pans and measure and cut all ingredients. When everything is in front of you, you can make every step more efficient, preventing yourself from forgetting a necessary element in the recipe and cleaning up as you go.

3. Cut down on wasted food

Food waste is expensive for restaurants and bad for the environment. That’s why many chefs have become dedicated to finding ways to minimize the ingredients that end up in the trash. That means being careful when planning for the weeks ahead and purchasing only the ingredients you’ll actually use.

The Balance noted that clearly labeling and dating every item that goes into storage should be part of every kitchen’s standard operating procedure. Composting reduces the environmental impact of your garbage, using it to grow fresh produce. You can also get creative about exhausting more of the supplies you have on hand by creating special dishes and repurposing leftover ingredients.

Sometimes it's best to stray from the recipe and improvise.Sometimes it’s wise to stray from the recipe and improvise with the ingredients you have on hand.

4. It’s not always best to stick to the recipe

Learning how to follow a recipe perfectly is key to becoming a good chef. However, it’s just as important to try out your own ideas and be prepared to adapt as necessary. Chef’s Blade explained that unforeseen factors like an imprecise oven temperature can make a big difference in your final product. You have to be ready to alter your plans appropriately.

Even if all your tools are working perfectly, adding some of your own personality to the food you prepare is one of the most enjoyable parts of cooking. By avoiding common mistakes and trying out new ideas, you can put your culinary academy training to good use in the new year.