11 Cooking Tips from The Taste Contestants

11 Cooking Tips from The Taste Contestants
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11 Cooking Tips from The Taste Contestants

Two contestants from ABC's The Taste, Mia Morgenstern and Huda Mu'min, share their top cooking tips.

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Keep a Clean Kitchen

"Working clean is a super important part of being a cook, whether you are at home or in a restaurant," says Morgenstern. "Being organized makes a huge difference in the outcome of your food and time everything correctly."

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Keep Broth on Hand

"I always have broth in my pantry," says Mu'min. "You can make soups, you can make quick sauces [and] you can make reductions; it gives you a nice base flavor to build upon. If you make chicken, throw it in some broth let it marinate there for a second and your chicken will be juicy and moist."

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Take a Step Back

Morgenstern took note in an earlier episode when Bourdain had her start over on an aioli that wasn’t going well. He told her, “Listen. Start over, use more egg yokes and make a big batch of it.” "To take a step back can be really helpful,” Morgenstern explains. “That can really help to improve the product you make.”

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Keep Goals Within Reach

"Don’t be too hard on yourself," explains Mu'min. "People get stressed about the process of cooking because they are trying to do too much. Everyone is not a Wolfgang Puck. Just put your own personalty, heart and love into everything you make, and keep it simple."

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Be Efficient

"The way that you prep your vegetables and your meats really has a big effect on the outcome of your food, so it's worth it to take the time to do things correctly," assures Morgenstern. "If you need to peel a bunch of a carrots, invest in the tool that you should be using to peel the carrots quickly and efficiently. It will make your cooking faster and more efficient and you'll be able to time it better and do more."

"If it takes you an hour to peel your carrots, you won't have the time to make a really great sauce," she says.

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Dine with Chefs

Mu'min recalls dining out with the show's contestants once and ordering everything on the menu except two items."When you get chefs together in a restaurant, it is just a feast waiting to happen," explains Mu'min. "We don’t eat the same as everyone else. It is a very family-like setting; everyone is tasting things and analyzing [them]. It’s a reality show within itself actually."

"If you ever have a chance to eat with chefs, I think everyone should do it at least once," says Mu'min.

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Get the Most Out of Ingredients

"When [making] an apple tart or pie, most people would throw away the peels," says Morgenstern. "A restaurant chef will peel the apples, save the peels, core the apples, save the cores, use the apples for the tart and, with the peels and the cores, soak them in water, reduce it, make an apple flavored syrup and brush that over the top of the crust."

"Those little flourishes really take a dish above and beyond," she explains. "It's not that hard to do those things you just have to be aware of the product you are using and extract the most flavor out of the materials you have available."

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Buy A Great Dish Set

"Try to make things pretty and visually appealing no matter who you are cooking for," advises Mu'min. "People eat with their eyes first; you see food way before you get to taste it or smell it sometimes, [so start by] getting a nice dish set" that is within your budget.

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Get the Tools

"You need a super sharp knife and a good paring knife," promises Morgenstern. "I swear by my Y-shaped vegetable peeler and my microplane zester which I use for things like garlic, ginger, shaved chocolate or nutmeg. The food processor is something I use all the time; it's really indispensable."

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"Keep parsley on hand," says Mu'min. "You can always garnish with parsley, cheeses like parmesan or chives. They add something but also don’t compromise your dish."

"If you look at the plate you made, does it make you want to eat it?" she asks. "That is the first thing to ask yourself."

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Keep Learning

"I learn a lot by reading and absorbing what I see online and in books," says Morgenstern. "I have a lot of ethnic cookbooks to broaden my perspective on flavors, [and] I have a culinary cookbook I refer to for basic technique or if I need to know the definition of something."

"If you know chefs or caterers, just ask how they do something, [or[ ask to observe them one day," she offers. "Most people are happy to share their knowledge, especially people who are passionate about what they do."

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Huda Mu'min and Mia Morgenstern left ABC's The Taste last Tuesday after a challenge asking contestants to make a sandwich. While the challenge sounds simple, Morgenstern assures that it was anything but. "People think that a sandwich is is really simple to make, but you want to have different components, textures and flavors," she explains. "The only difference is that you are somewhat constrained because it has to go between two pieces of bread."

Morgenstern, a home chef, and Mu'min, a personal chef running Pretty and Delicious, each noticed surprising differences in the work of the home cooks and the work of the professional chefs on the show.

For Morgenstern, "the biggest give away between the home cooks and the restaurant chefs was that the restaurant chefs always had clean stations," she says. She also noticed a significant difference in the methodology of each group's cooking. "Restaurant cooks placed much more of an emphasis on developing flavors instead of just combining them," she says. "Most home cooks think, 'cilantro, mint, garlic and coriander seeds, that will go really well together.' The restaurant chef is thinking, 'How am I going to get the most flavor out of the lamb? How am I going to get the most flavor out of these herbs?'"

Morgenstern hopes to implement the professional strategy of developing flavors in her own cooking at home. "There is really no reason why you can't do it at home," she says.

Mu'min picked up on another difference. She also found that "the professional chefs plate a lot prettier," she explains. "For most home cooks, which I applaud, you are cooking for your family, so you aren't trying to make it pretty or like art, you are just trying to get it done."

Both contestants were thrilled to work with and learn from all of the home cooks, professional chefs and culinary celebrity mentors on the show. "Working with all those chefs from all those different backgrounds really opened my eyes a little bit to the multitude of things there are still to learn," Morgenstern explains. Mu'min agrees. "It was a really exciting experience," she says. "There were so many different personalities, backgrounds, philosophies on food and career paths."

Check out the slideshow above to learn Morgenstern and Mu'min's 11 top tips for home cooking, and catch the thrilling competition and big personalities tonight and every Tuesday at 9/8c on ABC.

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