Home cooking often means relying on a set of go-to recipes. They are quick, easy, and don’t require a lot of thought. But, cooking the same dishes, day in and day out, can get boring. You may start to feel that you’re lacking creativity in the kitchen.
You’re not alone. Even professional chefs, like Karen V. Davison, have days where they’re feeling less creative than usual. Ms. Davison, from Plano, Texas, has worked as a saucier, a sous chef, an associate chef, and a head chef in various restaurants. While her specialty is in fine dining, she also has an extensive background in home style cooking and is able to create healthy and delicious meals suited to any palette. For home cooks and chefs alike, cooking every day can make it hard to come up with new ideas. Ms. Davison knows that finding inspiration and connecting with your creative side in the kitchen isn’t always easy. She shares her secrets to staying creative in the kitchen.
Focus on Being Mindful
You might think mindfulness is just for yoga or meditation, but that’s not true! As Karen V. Davison notes, incorporating mindfulness into many areas of your life, including home cooking, can be great for your health and for boosting creativity. Be present and in the moment when you’re cooking. By being mindful and focusing on the task at hand, you can open your mind to creative new dishes at home. Mindfulness might not come easy at first — it’s not supposed to. But with some practice, it will come to you and will help you think outside of the box.
Use a Recipe
This might sound counter-intuitive. But, the truth is, being creative in the kitchen doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel. Karen V. Davison suggests looking for recipes that you find interesting and using them, but only for inspiration and guidance. The key here is to choose recipes that pique your interest and to use them to help you with the basic ideas. Then put your own twist on it. The recipe will help you focus on your creativity by taking care of the technical aspects like ratios and textures. Try to keep modifications similar in terms of ratios and textures for best results.
Challenge yourself. Try a new recipe every week or every month. Experimenting with new dishes can help expand your palette and boost your creativity by exposing you to new ideas. You can also take what you’ve seen in restaurants or at a dinner party and make it your own. Use the flavors you liked from the dish and eliminate the ones you didn’t. Make changes and tweaks — this is creativity at its finest!
Spice It Up
Pull out your spices and get the creative juices flowing. Try a flavor combination you’ve never tried before. Home cooking doesn’t need to be cookie-cutter. Test a new idea. According to Karen V. Davison, trying new things and learning what works well together will help you be more creative. Discovering successful flavor combinations means you can experiment with these new blends in different foods and recipes. To help you boost your creativity, go out and purchase some new spices! Try something you’ve never tried before. If you’re unsure about a spice, buy a small amount from the bulk section. These new spices will give you lots of opportunity for creativity and experimentation.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Not only will practice help you become a better home cook, but it will also promote creativity. In addition to loving food, Karen V. Davison loves the creative aspects of being a professional chef. The idea of being able to combine new flavors that excite people is very appealing. But she notes that being a good chef also means having the ability to know which flavors and textures go well together. The ability to do this with home cooking only comes with practice. So, practice with recipes, both new and old. This will help you become more familiar with flavor combinations, ingredient ratios, and textures. Once you’re familiar with these aspects of cooking, you’ll have the complete freedom and confidence to make changes and test out new ideas.
If you’re really stuck in a creative rut, don’t be afraid to discuss your ideas, or lack thereof, with others. There’s nothing like a brainstorming session to get the creative juices flowing. Talk to your friends, family, and colleagues about their recipes and ask them to give you their take on your ideas. You never know what creative dish might come out of a discussion like this. This is exactly what Karen V. Davison does. As a head chef, she is required to come up with new menu ideas every few months and, like a home cook, her creativity isn’t always at its best. She finds that brainstorming with her team can fix any creative block she faces. So, give it a try with your home cooking. Discuss recipes with your family and anyone else you cook for. Consider their ideas, what they like and what they don’t like, and run with it!