Let me first start off by saying I strongly despise the word “foodie.” I just don’t get what it means. Does it mean you love to cook or you’re just obsessed with the Food Network? Do you love looking at food photos but secretly only eat salads and order from Chop’t everyday for lunch? Countless times at parties or events, I have friends that introduce me to their friends saying, “This is Alex she’s a foodie, too, and you should “chek” out her blog!” I let it roll off my back because first of all, I am ever so grateful for all of my readers and my friends who appreciate my hard work. However, I’d like to go ahead and say, I am not a foodie. I am not made of food, I do not watch food on TV, and I rarely cook. I am, however, obsessed with the growing restaurant scene, eating amazing food, the act of hospitality, checking out new restaurants, and meeting all of the people that work in them. Therefore, I rather call myself a “restaurateur” than a foodie, but the problem is that word is already taken, and I do not own a restaurant. Anyway, you get my drift?
So since most of the world uses the term foodie, I’m conforming, but only for this article so that it makes sense for you and you can apply it to your own life. There are plenty of people out there who always express wanting to be more involved in the food world and ask about my culinary lifestyle. I’ve realized a lot of people are intimidated by food and don’t want to look dumb when eating out, so I’m going to use this space to teach you how to understand the food and chef world a little more so that you can impress your food loving friends or co-workers at your next gathering and feel a little more comfortable.
- Read menus. Sometimes I can be too picky and only look at buzz words on menus that are familiar. When this happens, you miss that short rib with glazed apricots because you are so used to ordering chicken or you skip the eggplant because you think you don’t like it. It has sriracha honey on it, so that’s a big miss you just made by reading over it. My point is, make sure you really take a look at each thing on a menu. You might find something on there you’ve never tried before and chances are if it’s a popular restaurant and receiving a lot of hype right then, that you’ll learn to love a certain food because they know what they are doing with those knives.
- Try Everything. Get rid of the habit of saying “I don’t eat that.” I didn’t eat a lot of things when I first moved here. I didn’t eat Brussels sprouts, eggplant, avocado, short rib, mustard, octopus, to name a few. Now scroll through Chekmark Eats and try to find a post that doesn’t have one of those things in it! I will say a lot of the reason I didn’t eat those foods were because I had never been exposed or I had them prepared wrong. With food being at the top of everyone’s list these days, and especially in New York City, restaurants aren’t going to last if they don’t know how to make these things. So find the best spot known for octopus or Brussels sprouts, for example, and dive in! I’m sure you’ll figure out that you do like these ingredients, you just need to find the right spot.
- Talk to Waiters and Chefs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s what your waiter is there for – to guide you! Sit at the bar and talk to the staff or sit at the chef’s table/counter for an even better experience. Ask how dishes are prepared and this is just an easy way to learn about a chef’s cooking style. The more you talk and hear about something, it will slowly become second nature for you. Before you know it, you’ll be asking the waiter if that duck you just ate was sous vide. Ha!
- Watch YouTube. My friend Top Chef Winner Hung Huynh who used to be the chef at Catch taught me this one. If you don’t know how to cook something, YouTube it. Someone will be on that screen whipping up scrambled eggs the easiest way possible.
- Read Eater, Grub Street, Zagat, Insider Food, The New York Times Food Section, Thrillist. These are the news reporters seeking out the new restaurant openings and iconic dishes from chefs. This is where you’ll find out where to eat, who is doing something new, and first looks of new spots so you can check out their menus and photos.
- Listen to Bon Appétit’s Foodcast (Podcast). Adam Rapoport, the magazine’s editor in chief, interviews famous chefs from around the world, food writers, and his own staff every Wednesday. You’ll learn cooking techniques from Jacques Pépin and tips on spices to put on your cauliflower from chefs in South Carolina and New Orleans. Expose yourself to chef talk.
- Instagram. Follow me and some of my favorite dining partners in crime on Instagram such as: Eating NYC, NYCDining, LikeItsYourLast, CheatDayEats. They will show you where the newest spots are to eat, the tastiest, and craziest trends. You can eat with your eyes and then add them to your list. Most of these ‘grammers don’t post photos of food they don’t like, so you can trust that it’s recommended.
- Ask Questions. Everyone loves to talk about food. If you want to get involved in a “food” conversation, just mention the last best burger or cookie you had and you’ll be sure to get everyone hyped up. You are now one of us. Jk.
- Try New Places. Stop making date night always at L’Artusi. Reward some of these other hard working chefs and try something new. It’s exciting, and you won’t get stuck in a routine.