Secrets from a Legendary Chef

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This is one of my favorite chef faces.  Just look at Louis Szathmary.  Doesn’t he remind you of the Muppet’s “Swedish Chef?”

Chef Szathmary was Hungarian-born and a beloved Chicago chef for many years.  He was the owner of a landmark Chicago restaurant, “The Bakery,” from 1963 to 1989.  His individual Beef Wellington put the windy city on the culinary map.  Johnson & Wales University, which has a breath-taking culinary museum, has a special exhibit seen above with Chef Szathmary, where he donated 400,000 items.  I see a road trip in my future.
One cookbook you will find at the museum is “The Chef’s Secret Cookbook.”  Some are recipes from his iconic restaurant, but most are from his personal files.  The chef loved sharing his recipes, but not everyone believed they were complete, thinking no chef would ever give up his secrets.  Many chefs passionately guard their secrets, but not this chef.  When patrons of his restaurant would ask for recipes, he would give them.  He would tell people that he was able to give the recipes, but not his long years of experience.  The chef would say, “You see, my dear ladies, cooking is like playing the piano- it needs talent, training, and practice.  For this is the first secret of good cooking, the most important “secret ingredients”:  constant training, constant practice, devotion, and joy in cooking.  Yes, you must love cooking to do it right.”

The chef put a lot of love and effort into this book.  He would give his recipes to average home cooks with little or no experience and watch their techniques and ask their frustrations.  He worked on each recipe to make sure any cook could prepare his recipes with success.  This effort took several years of his life to complete, and it is all in this book for us to enjoy.  Each and every recipe has a “Chef’s Tip.”  For example, in the recipe for blue cheese meatballs, one of the tips reads as follows:  “Crumble the blue cheese with a fork on a metal pie plate and freeze for at least 1 hour, keeping them in the freezer until you add them to the meat.”  The chef could have written an entire book just on his tips!

I love this book, not just for the classic recipes, but for the appreciation of how the recipes are written.  If you want to know how to write the perfect recipe, find the book.  I also love cookbooks where you can almost feel in the pages how much love went into writing the book, and the chef’s passion for preparing and sharing good food. 
Chef Szathmary says it best at the end of his intro to the book-  “Let’s stop the talk and start the action.  Light the fire, rinse the pots, and get going.” 
I’m ready!!

One Response to Secrets from a Legendary Chef

  1. September 25, 2014 at 2:18 am #

    I loved going to his resteraunt when i was a kid,my dad worked there and every christmas he would dress up like santa claus and give everybody awesome presents such a nice guy

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