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Six Ways to Becoming Your Own Personal Chef


As summer kicks off, what better way to start really enjoying it than to get in your kitchen and cook!

And by cooking, I mean making a small effort to prepare summertime foods for a big, tasty seasonal reward. Believe it or not, summer is the best time to get in the kitchen and cook because foods don’t require lots of heating, stewing and such as do those of the Fall & Winter months.

If you’ve managed to get away without ever learning to cook, then now is the time. Check out your local farmers’ markets to become a localvore and find some cooking classes that will give you the basics you’ll need to slice, dice and perhaps lightly cook some of the tastiest dishes the year has to offer. Plus, being fully in control of what goes in your mouth offers a lot in the way of getting junk out of your diet and supporting yourself to feel better overall.

One of the biggest issues many clients initially come to me with is their kitchen. They hate their kitchen and feel like it’s completely detrimental to their effort of cooking since it wasn’t ever set up to be an easy, desirable space to cook, and it is seen as a place where diets are crashed and cooking is too hard. No wonder cooking and eating are such a struggle!

So if you feel like you’re in this boat (or something that closely resembles it), then these simple tips will make a world of difference!

Remove Your Obstacles

Your counter top is not a storage space for various knickknacks and paperwork. In order to make food, you need space that’s always kept clear. Plan to remove all the non-essential cooking items from the counter and keep it that way. Whenever you arrive home to make a meal, the task of putting things away or moving stuff doesn’t get in the way of actually cooking.

Buy a Good Knife

I can’t stress this enough. Don’t try to chop veggies and cut meats with steak knives (and sometimes regular table knives)! Those types of knives serve a purpose at the dinner table, however to easily prep food, you need to use the correct tools intended for food preparation. Though it’s common sense, you may have spent years using the wrong, dull knife to slice onions or tomatoes with extreme frustration.

Don’t worry about the brand, but carefully weigh your options. Buying a good chef’s knife is a bit like buying a car—it’s an investment that you’ll have for a long time. You’ll need to hold the different options of a good Chef’s knife in your hand to insure you like the weight as well as the price. One thing that is non-negotiable is that the tang (or blade) needs to run down the entire length of the handle. This way the knife will have more strength and balance.

Cutting Space is Key

Put the mini-cutting boards meant for cheese away! Instead, pick out a decent size cutting board close to 24″ x 18″ to ensure plenty of cutting space. I personally avoid wood boards because the cuts in the wood can hide food particles and mold since they are rather ‘soft’. You could find some nifty recycled board, or check out bamboo which is hard as hell and lasts a long time.

Spice Rack Roll Call

You can’t expect food to just taste good if you’re not willing to ‘enhance’ it with some spices and herbs. They are the best friends your taste buds have!

Go through what you have now and toss anything that’s 2 or 3 years old. Ground spices hold their pungency for 2 or 3 years before the oils in them begin to dissipate. Dried herbs can last for about one year. Sea salt is okay because it’s a mixture of minerals.

Your new and improved spice and herb ensemble should be kept in a dry, cool and dark environment (meaning a cabinet, not on the counter top). Here are some basic suggestions to start with…

  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Crushed Red Pepper
  • Basil
  • Garlic Powder
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Ground Cumin
  • Paprika
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Ground Nutmeg
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice

Storage Solutions

What are you to do with all of this cooked food? Eat it for leftovers. New flash, folks: food doesn’t go bad overnight when properly stored. Most can last a few days in the fridge and trust me when I tell you that you’ll know when food is bad. There’s no mistaking the smell and change in color. Get some great glass storage ware to house your extra grub! It’s very safe (unlike all that plastic stuff), and can go from fridge to freezer to counter top without much trouble.

Pan Head Count

Using the correct tools generally make a heck of a difference in the outcome which is why it’s wise to rethink using the same pan for boiling water and frying. Get pans that make sense for the job you need them to do, but keep it simple. Avoid anything with Teflon coating. Opt for stainless steel. Shop around, consider buying one piece at time (although typically a set may be cheaper overall), or stop by second-hand stores or yard sales for extra pieces that people no longer have room for.

I always suggest the following as a great foundation:

  1. Big soup pot
  2. Sauté pan
  3. Frying pan
  4. Smaller pots for boiling water, broth, soups, etc.
  5. Baking sheets
  6. Lids for pots

Wishing you loads of delicious food this summer. Now get cooking and please, share your summer recipes with us:!




Jennifer Fugo is a Philadelphia-based yoga teacher, health coach, and founder of Gluten Free School, an online classroom dedicated to healthy gluten-free living. Named a “Gluten Free Guru” by Philadelphia Magazine, Jen's spent the last 4 years vibrantly living gluten-free while coaching clients to do the same. For recipes, articles, events and yoga classes with Jen, visit her at and

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