Before running the kitchens of some of the most prestigious restaurants in the world, New Jersey native Judy Joo was selling fixed income derivatives at Morgan Stanley. “I just decided it was time to chase a passion, not a paycheck,” she says. That was in 2004. Today, Joo slices and dices her way through episodes of Iron Chef UK and heads up the kitchen at the Playboy Club in London. It’s never too late to sharpen your cooking skills, she says. You don’t have to quit your day job, either. We sat down with the Food Network star (and a lengthy list of questions) to find out how you can elevate your kitchen game.
How do you approach cooking?
Cooking is very much a science. The kitchen is a laboratory. Whether you’re whisking, mixing, or folding, it all makes a difference in the end product, so there are controls and there are variables, and everything affects the texture and the taste. It’s also an art where you can make things look absolutely beautiful. But, like with most arts, you have to work with the technical side. Architects need to work with engineers or else their buildings would never stand.
What are we (men) doing wrong?
There are two mistakes that guys just continually make. One is overcooking; you can always err on the side of undercooking—just take things off and then you can throw them back on—because once you overcook something you can’t undo that. And the other one is not planning ahead. If you know you’re going to have people over tomorrow night, you can make some things today and just keep them so you’re not so stressed right before the party or whatever.
What is an essential kitchen tool?
A microplane is really useful for grating, grinding, and zesting everything from hard cheeses and spices to nutmeg cloves, or even garlic or ginger. It’s a really versatile tool, because at the end of the day no one really wants to chop garlic. ($15, us.microplane)