I believe that the iPad is a fantastic platform for tools to learn and execute cooking techniques and recipes. I've tried a few apps over the past year, particularly the Epicurious application and Paprika, which is a great recipe manager (sounds like a review is due sometime soon!). So it was with great pleasure that recently I discovered, The Professional Chef, an iPad version of a book by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). The CIA is one of the top culinary schools in the world and they have trained such famous chefs as Anthony Bourdain, host of "No Reservations".
The Professional Chef certainly is an educational application. It isn't focused on recipes but is packed with information on cooking techniques, food handling and identification, and the fundamentals of how to be a good chef.
It is beautifully designed and that's obvious from the opening screen.
The application is divided into thirty-six chapters, which fit into seven fundamental sections:
- Part 1: The Culinary Professional
- Part 2: Tools and Ingredients in the Professional Kitchen
- Part 3: Stocks, Sauces, and Soups
- Part 4: Meats, Poultry, Fish, and Shellfish
- Part 5: Vegetables, Potatoes, Grains and Legumes, and Pasta and Dumplings
- Part 6: Breakfast and Garde Manger
- Part 7: Baking and Pastry
Now, I'm not kidding when I say that the application is very detailed. For instance, there are whole dedicated chapters to cooking eggs and cooking potatoes (Chapters 26 and 23, respectively). But the mix of text and multimedia videos really draw you in and I found it incredibly interesting to get into the intricate detail of each topic.
Inside each chapter there is significant detail and you can decide how much you'd like to learn on each topic. For example, in the Fruit, Vegetable, and Fresh Herb Identification chapter (Chapter 8), there are almost thirty subtopics for each type of fruit, vegetable, or herb. And to cap each chapter off you're given a brief quiz to confirm what you have (or haven't!) learned.
One of my favourite chapters is the Fabricating Meats, Poultry, and Fish chapter (Chapter 16) where you can get some great detail on butchering and preparation processes. Boning, trimming, shaping, and Frenching are all covered.
While the book is focused on technique and education, there are many, many recipes. In the Salad Dressings and Salad recipe (Chapter 27) there are just too many to list! And the Hors d'Oeuvre and Appetizers (Chapter 29) chapter lists dozens of great entrees to test on your next set of house guests. My personal favourite is shown below...
Lastly, if you want to add a distinct technical flair to your cooking, or if you simply want to ensure you know what they're talking about on Master Chef, you'll learn a lot in the knife skills and preparation sections. Remember, this content is used to train the best chefs in the world so there's a lot to learn. And it doesn't matter if you don't master the content - if you at least read and have a try you're sure to improve your cooking.
Now, the app isn't cheap at around $50AUD ($50US, at the moment) but it's a great investment and research tool. Seriously, I spent fifty bucks on Duke Nuke'em back in the 90s so in the scheme of things this isn't that expensive. And to be honest, it's hard to buy a good lunch out in Sydney for that amount so why not splurge a little and pick up this app? It might just impress your partner - or earn you the second date, as the case may be.