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The Family Chef

The Family Chef

The Workspace

Clear counters will clear your mind. If you keep the kitchen counters as clutter-free as possible, the extra room will translate into a user friendly, enjoyable environment to get some creative cooking done. If your family uses the kitchen counters as a dumping zone for papers and keys, find another repository for these items. It may take a little while to retrain everyone in the family to unload their junk elsewhere, but be persistent. Eventually they will get the idea. You’re creating sacred space for family meals. And you may even have room for more people to help out!

     Every day you cook you will begin to establish a routine that can be a great source of comfort. We begin preparing each meal the same way by employing a little restaurant trick: We put on an apron and tie the strings so that two kitchen towels hang on each side of our bodies. Those towels come in handy when picking up hot pans, wiping our hands and brushing crumbs off the cutting board. The next step in our routine is pulling out the cutting board and knife and then laying the rest of our favorite cooking implements nearby.
     Jewels assembles all the meal’s ingredients by displaying them in a favorite basket or bowl before she begins. Surrounding herself with the sights and smells that make her happy motivates and inspires her. When she first started her current job, her new client watched Jewels with bemusement, assuming she was putting on a bit of a show. Over time, as she got to know Jewels, she realized that Jewels was indeed putting on a show—just for herself, for her own pleasure and to accentuate the sensual pleasure of making the day’s meals.
     In her efficient way, Jill pulls out only those ingredients she is using at the moment because it makes her happier to spend less time fussing and more time cooking.

Basic guidelines

• Keep your work space clean
Place your garbage can under or next to the counter where you’ve set up your cutting board so you can easily sweep carrot tops and crumbs into the trash and keep them off the floor. Your cleanup will be faster.

• Set up workstations for your helpers
Give each family member, no matter how old, an area of his or her ownto work on assigned projects. They will also be responsible for cleaning up their areas after they complete each task. By assigning spaces, the busiest restaurants keep large numbers of people working in an orderly fashion in the same kitchen at the same time. Kids will appreciate the responsibility and feel proud to have a place and a role of their own.

• Cook outside
Few families think to cook outside regularly, but we love to cook outside! When a large group of people cooks together, adding the outdoors gives us much more room. Outside is a great “station” for kids, especially for messy
jobs. You can’t beat the feeling of working on a cutting board in the fresh air.

Safety rule
We have a traffic rule in the kitchen: Call it out! When you pass behind someone else in a busy kitchen—with or without food in your hands—let them know you are there by announcing “Behind you” or “Behind you with a hot pan” or “Behind you with a full tray.” By observing these traffic rules, we avoid an untold number of collisions and spills. Calling it out ensures a safe cooking environment for everybody.

Everybody cleans up!
We really believe in this! If everyone pitches in, the work goes faster and the fun of shared activity continues. Cleaning up is as much a part of cooking as chopping or sautéing—and it can be just as much fun! Play music, sing, talk about your day and continue to enjoy one another’s company.

Jill's Smart Idea • You can also use a food processor to make quick work of all the chopping!