My mom taught me to cook by what Phil calls American standards, too much fat, dripping, poly saturated oils. Phil couldn’t understand with all the hype going around with high cholesterol, obesity, blocked arteries and heart attacks. Phil could not get it through my head using the cooking methods I used. What I thought was healthy food I was soon to discover that I had no food knowledge at all.

This came to light, after a doctor’s visit along with the yearly blood work, also after a massive fight in the kitchen as I was making sloppy Joes. Phil’s cholesterol was through the roof and I had to figure out how to get it down. The fight alone in the kitchen over dinner was a real wake up call. I did the steps that I was taught, I didn’t know any difference, it’s how my mom was taught and how she taught me. I just never occurred to me that I could do all this in a healthier way. At the end of that fight, I walked out of the kitchen and refused to cook for the next 6 months. I told Phil that he just couldn’t stand there and yell at me for how I was doing it, it wasn’t fair. We needed to cook together and for him to show me the little tricks and good knife skills. Being a home cook, my mom never had them. She did the basic things but nothing like what Phil can do. Oh, by the way, Phil had the most dangerous job in the army, He was a cook.

On an average Phil would cook for 150 for lunch during the week at 3 Battalion, and anything up to one thousand recruits during the busiest time at 1RTB.  To give you an idea of what he use to cook, for breakfast it was nothing for 90 dozen fried eggs, 30 dozen poached eggs and 60 dozen scrambled eggs. Making scones 144 at a time is no big deal, making a casserole or stockpot of soup is no biggie to him. He has the knife skills that I can only dream of. I keep trying but in the end I usually ask him to do the cutting up for me. He has this BIG knife he borrowed from the army and forgot to take back, along with a baker’s rolling pin I refuse to use either. I just don’t have the confidence to get the job done with them.

Over the years we have cooked together and I have learned a lot from him. Especially how to cook in a more healthy way, which would bring the cholesterol down and taste good. Basically I started from scratch, learning all over again. Taking dishes that I know how to cook but getting the guidance in how to use less fat and oil, how to use spices and veggies that I never had access to until now.  We continue to cook together and try new things. I keep learning more and more each time we cook.

In 2009 a little unknown show came along called Master Chef. We had no clue what it was about but got hooked right along with the rest of the country. A lot of the first challenges made me realize that I don’t have some of the very basic cooking skills that I should. I need a recipe to make a basic pastry; I can’t do it off the top of my head.  It makes me realize what I just don’t know even basic stuff. Phil has the knife skills but I give it a go as he watches in horror and eventually takes over.

The contestants can make pasta from scratch. How good would that be, fresh pasta without all the additives and everything. What’s the difference in the dough for pasta and dough for a cobbler? How do you know what spice or spices is the best combination for the dish you are trying to create? There’s just a few of the questions that I find myself wanting answer’s for. As we continued to watch the weeks take place and people crack under pressure, made me wonder WHY put yourself through all that. Is the dream of a job in the world of food really worth it?

Master Class with Gary and George on Friday nights is one of the things I really look forward to. They take the time to look at dishes that look so difficult and in the end they are easy. They look at all aspects of the dish and show you the best way to make it. They go back over the challenges of the week and give extra little pointers about how they could have done something different or George might make a completely different dish. It just gives me more inspiration to increase my knowledge and learning about food and cooking.

Watching the current series has given me a goal. To make fresh pasta, have a good go at making something from scratch. Just the taste alone would be amazing and all the variations that are possible and just experimenting will be a blast with it.

I just want to thank Phil for helping me with this piece. You have been a big help in teaching me that cooking is fun but is also very healthy. That it’s fun and experimenting is ok, taking a basic dish and making changes is ok: those changes might work and they might not but at least it was fun trying.