My name is Rob Shipman I’ve been a chef for 25 years, I’ve worked in various parts of the world… i.e. Japan, Switzerland, Cyprus, UK, Morocco and Ukraine. I love food and I love to travel. I worked for Hilton for 5 years, I was executive chef at Hilton Niseko Japan. In the late 90s I was executive sous chef at Nobu Park Lane, I worked there for 5 years.
It gives me great pleasure to share my recipes and my food passion with you. I hope you enjoy this website.
If I’m ever asked to share my thoughts on food, then I would say “keep it simple, honest and fresh. Always try to make a visual impact but never forget that the flavor and texture of a dish is paramount. Food should be fun, healthy and well balanced.”
Enjoy cooking, enjoy eating and enjoy life!
MSG, The misunderstood molecule…
I sometimes misunderstand my wife, and sometimes she misunderstands me, but hey what the hell, thats life. Hey, You know what? Millions of people eat every day, but do they really understand taste?
Hell no, of course not!
Look… Let’s talk Flavours….
Lets talk about Umami….Umami is the mystirious or elusive fifth taste. Umami is a Japanese word. Umami exists in all cuisines, its just that as it was discovered in Japan so we have no word for it in the west. Western science recognises 4 basic tastes. Sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Umami is the fifth taste, the savoury taste. Foods that are high in umami are mostly fermented proteins. For example miso, soy sauce, Thai fish sauce, cheese and tinned anchovy. During the fermentation process protein molecules are broken down into smaller molecules (amino acids) and umami flavour is created. umami is the foundation of Japanese cuisine.
MSG is one of the most important UMAMI molecules, but MSG is misunderstood and is generally classed as the (BAD GUY MOLECULE)
For God’s sake everyone is fricken scared to eat these days…MSG has a huge fear factor. Of course many people get a bad reaction to MSG. They used to call it Chinese restaurant syndrome. Unfortunately some Chinese restaurants in an attempt to dazzle punters taste buds are putting far too much of the magic dust into the culinary delights they deliver to the table.
Little do many folk know, but there happens to be naturally occurring MSG in many of the foods that we regularly consume. For example a raw tomato contains bucket loads of MSG and so also does parmesan cheese. As humans we actually need some MSG in our bodies in order to be healthy. Little do many know but MSG is an important amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, thus the essence of life. We use these components to build protein molecules in our bodies for our very existence. Not only that, but these cheeky little molecules make the food taste better. The notorious head ache problem after a visit to the local Chinese restaurant is most likely caused by eating a man made MSG powder that is unfortunately added in large quantities to the offerings (MSG OVERDOSE).
How is MSG made? I’ll fill you in. For the mass production of MSG In factories, they take molasses, a by product of the sugar refining process, and they add a special bacteria. The bacteria feeds on the molasses and the by-product is MSG. The raw MSG goes through a filtration process and Hey presto, pure MSG is made. Mind you, a good way to get natural MSG is by boiling Japanese kelp seaweed. That happens to be where it was first discovered. MSG was first discovered at Tokyo university by Professor Ikeda way back in 1908. The story is that he put a pot of water and kelp seaweed to boil and then he forgot about it. The pot eventualy boiled dry, and all that remained was was a white residue at the bottom of the pan. The professor tested the mysterious white powder and discovered that it was almost pure MSG.
I have written this hub with the intention of helping people to improve the results of their cooking. In my opinion this page is most suitable for people at the beginner or intermediate level of cooking, although having said that some professionals may find it useful too. This page may be used as recap to remember the (Back to Basics) of cooking.
Without further adieu, I will now set out to explain in my mind the basics of food preparation and my thoughts on gastronomy. I hope my readers find this to be a fun and useful read. If you have time then please do leave some comments and your rating at the bottom of the page. Feel free to be honest. You can be as brutal or as kind as you wish.
In the Kitchen Preparation is paramount. It Goes without saying that you will find the same to be true about many other aspects of life. I can’t stress enough the importance of preparation. You know the old saying “If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail”. My apologies for the old cliche, but the old proverb still holds very true.
So what tips can I give to the beginner on how to prepare? Firstly I suggest that you make a plan. What am I going to cook? If its just a bowl of pasta for lunch then you probably wont need to write a prep list, But if you are planning a nice dinner to impress some important guests then I would advise to write a prep list. This will help you to organize yourself in the kitchen. When you make the list put a little star beside the things you need to do the day before, for example you may want the marinade the meat the day before. You may want to make the beef or chicken stock the day before.
If you are doing a five course meal then I would advise to put the items for each course into separate trays, then when the time comes to finish the dish its easy to find all the components of each course.
Cut the fish and meat into portions, slice and prepare all the vegetables in advance. Pick the herbs. Sharpen your knife in advance. All these steps will help you to be successful in the kitchen. Good luck!
To be able to cook well, for a start it will help if you can understand a little about the physiology of taste. I believe that a basic understanding of the science of taste will help you to achieve your objectives in the kitchen. I use a term called ‘Flavor Buddies’. From my understanding it was Chef Jean Georges Vongerichten who first used the term. Flavor buddies are all the flavors that belong together, the classic combinations that you find in so many dishes, such as strawberries and cream, sashimi and wasabi, fried fish and lemon, chocolate and orange, foie gras and sauteed apple. The list goes on and on. I think the important thing though is to try to understand why those flavor buddies work so well together. There are reasons why these combinations work so well you know. For example the acidity of the lemon cuts across the oiliness of the fried fish. If you want to start being creative, if you want to begin to make your own recipes, your own creations then you will need to have a good knowledge of all the famous flavor buddies. Eventually you will gain the confidence to start creating new flavor buddies of your own.
The five basic tastes are as follows. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. I refer to umami as the fifth taste, it is the elusive and mysterious flavor factor. It is also known as the savory taste. Umami is a Japanese word and we don’t really have a word for it in English, but I refer to it as the savory taste. it was first discovered in Japan by Dr. Ikeda in 1907 at Tokyo university. He was doing experiments with Kelp seaweed and as the story goes he was boiling the seaweed and left the pot to boil dry by a mistake. The residue he found at the bottom of the pan was identified as almost pure MSG. MSG happens to be one of the amnino acids that plays an important factor in the taste of umami. So what is the fifth taste? It is commonly found in fermented protein, for example cheese, dry fish, dry meat, miso and soy sauce. All of these items have plenty of the fifth taste. So what does this all mean in the kitchen when we cook. Well in Japanese cuisine the fifth taste is the foundation of all soups and sauces. Umami is still very important in the cuisine of any country of the world though. My philosophy is that if you are able to capture a good savory taste in your soups and sauces then when you do the finishing touches you will not rely so much on herbs, spices salt and pepper to try to make up for imperfections of your base. In other words if you get the basic tastes right then you wont need to doctor it up later. If its not brocken then don’t fix it.
When you make a menu, first of all try to think of the occasion. Who is coming to dinner? How old are they? What country do they come from? What kind of food would they probably like. Ask all the questions and then create your menu. I’m not trying to be prejudiced, but just try to bear in mind that peoples eating preferences will depend on their experiences in life. Don’t forget to consider the time of year. What is in season. Don’t make the menu too short furthermore, don’t make it too long. If the menu is long then make sure the portions are not too big.
If its a 5 course menu then make sure you incorporate different temperatures, colors, textures and cooking methods. For example a cold salad a hot soup or vise versa. A steamed dish followed by a roasted dish etc.
Keep it Healthy
I suggest that you do try to keep menus healthy and balanced. Include plenty of fresh vegetables. Try not to be too heavy handed with cream and butter. Dietary fiber is very important for a healthy body so try to use some whole wheat, grains or beans.
Presentation is very important indeed. They do say “The first bite is with the eye”. I recommend to choose your plates carefully. if you start off with good plates your already half way there. Do think of contrast, a round object on a square plate, a square object on a round plate. Dark food on a light plate, light food on a dark plate. Try to leave some space on the plate, nothing looks worse than an overcrowded plate. Some space on the plate will add elegance. Give your food some height this will give it more impact. Make use of colors and fresh herbs.