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Jan 20, 2013 02:55 PM

Cooking or Eating Out: What is more important in making who you into a food expert?

Based on another thread, half of the responders eat two or less meals a week from restaurants, and 2/3rd eat five meals or less. This is actually lower than I would have guessed. :)

My following question is: "What do you think is the most important aspect in making you a good foodie, gourmet, food epicurean, food expert or whatever you may call yourself? The ability and experience to cook gourmet meals? The opportunity to taste and appreciate vastly different cooking styles from restaurants?"

What do think is the more important in shaping your food adventure?

A) Almost all about cooking and food preparation (>90%).
B) Largely about learning to cook, but eating out is important too.
C) About 50:50.
D) Largely about eating out, but learning to cook is important as well.
E) Almost all about eating out (>90%).

For myself, the answer is (B).
The act of making the foods makes me understand the foods beyond what tasting alone can ever bring. For example, I have had numerous cookies since I was young, but it wasn't until I started to learn to make these items that I finally appreciate all the details. The act of cooking enhanced my ability to detect these foods in finer details which I won't have otherwise. There are differences between a person who has played football versus a person who has solely watched many games. On the other hand, the mere act of cooking can be limiting. First, learning to perfect a food item is time consuming. I cannot possibly learn to cook even 1% of the world dishes in my lifetime, so eating out can increase my food exposure. Second, eating out provides me realistic meters/comparisons which cooking alone cannot.

Thank you for your input.

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  1. I wouldn't call myself any of things, and think that "expert" is a status that cannot be attained by any simple formula such as you have given, but only through a lifetime of devotion to the subject, by whatever path. And it can be bestowed only by the acknowledgement of others.

    In my opinion, James Beard was a food expert, but his path to expertise cannot be duplicated by others.

    1. I would say "B" as well. Eating out is what inspires me in the kitchen. It also teaches me other flavor profiles. Nothing beats working, working, working in the kitchen, though. Also, by eating "out" I would include eating at other people's homes, not just restaurants.

        1. I'm just a food dummy… The more I learn, the more stupid I feel.

          Both, C. It's a feedback loop.

          1 Reply
          1. re: calf

            <I'm just a food dummy>

            Food dummy actually sounds adorable -- like Butters.

          2. Hi, ChemicalK!

            I learn about food differently from cooking in and eating out. Eating out certainly gives me exposure to varied cuisines, ingredients, plating options and generally ambitious culinary undertakings that I couldn't or wouldn't attempt at home. But cooking at home gives me an appreciation for techniques, equipment and ingredients.

            There are some things I could probably make at home but don't because of the time and/or effort involved. Or sometimes I just don't have access to certain ingredients. But also, I'd never equate myself to a professional chef, so even if I were to attempt a challenging dish, it wouldn't be the same as having it prepared by someone who really knew what he/she was doing.

            One other thing -- my home kitchen and restaurants aren't my only primary sources of food learning. I learn a lot from books and TV, and of course from right here on Chowhound.

            7 Replies
            1. re: CindyJ

              < I learn a lot from books and TV, and of course from right here on Chowhound>

              But would that not be part of home cooking?

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                No, I wouldn't necessarily consider it a part of home cooking. Here's an example -- some time ago, I began noticing mentions of the word "umami." I saw it in articles in food-related magazines and heard it mentioned on various TV food shows. It was a concept I had difficulty grasping at first. So I posted questions here, and googled it, and I finally came to understand it. It required neither cooking at home or dining out.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  I see. Thanks. I thought you meant you read some recipes and tried them out.

                  Still, you found out the definition of "umami" by reading, and then associated the word to a taste which you have already knew. The actual understanding is still through tasting it from your own cooking or tasting it from dining.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    It's funny, Chem, my family and I recently had a long discussion about umami and concluded that it's really not a taste, per se, but more a sensation of an enhanced or "elevated" flavor profile. It's not like sweet or sour or bitter or salty, which are easily identifiable. It's that "Je ne sais quoi" attribute -- you can't quite identify it, but you absolutely know it's there.

                    1. re: CindyJ

                      Well, the definition of "taste" is a difficult one.

                      It is like "Is Tomato a vegetable or fruit"? Culinary, most people treat tomato as a vegetable. Scientifically, tomato is a fruit.

                      If we want to definite taste as in something very noticeable, then "spicy/hot" would be one, and in fact many people considered the 5 tastes to be: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy. However, from a biological point of view, spicy is not a taste. It is very noticeable -- even more so than all the others, but it is not uniquely generated from the taste bud. Scientifically speaking, it is actually a sensation of pain. In this regard, umami is a taste. It is not as noticeable, but it is a sensation detected by the taste receptor on the tongue.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        How interesting! I can absolutely understand how "spicy" might be considered a taste because its sensation is easily detected, much like sweet, salty, bitter and sour. But biologically, it's not a taste at all. Umami, OTOH, IS a taste, just not as noticeable as the other tastes. So on which part of the tongue are the taste receptors that detect umami? It occurs to me that I may be equating "taste" with "flavor" and I'm beginning to see that those are two different characteristics.

                        I know we're going way off on a tangent here, and maybe it deserves a thread of its own, but I'm intrigued by the concept of umami.

                        1. re: CindyJ

                          <So on which part of the tongue are the taste receptors that detect umami?>

                          I believe you can taste umami anywhere on your tongue, but it may be more focused on the base of your tongue, according to this old article.


                          But I have read that umami receptors are really all over the tongue.