From Pre-Packaged to Home Cook

How pre-packaged ingredients turned this SideChef staffer into a home cook (and a new recipe for cooks of any skill level!).
Jonny at SideChef
Hi! I'm Jonny at SideChef. Self-proclaimed "dinner-for-one" expert because I always eat alone. Soups and stews are my favorite!

It began in front of a supermarket fridge...

I still remember the excitement I felt as I stood in front of a Woolworth's fridge, fascinated by Jamie Oliver’s ready-to-cook Middle-Eastern lamb chop. It was this day 6-years ago, during my study abroad program in Sydney when I discovered my love for cooking. Back then, I was a typical college student with zero cooking experience.

My cooking ability at the time was limited to toast and instant ramen. Lambchop for a first-time cook? “You know what? Maybe I am capable of cooking that,” I thought. I was feeling pretty confident even though the idea of turning raw ingredients into edible food was like reading Arabian Nights--magical, yet unrealistic. The pre-seasoned ingredients and step-by-step instructions made me believe that I could cook, and inspired me to take my first steps into the kitchen.

I stood in front of that fridge for a long time debating whether I was actually capable of cooking ‘real food’. I am so glad that I took the risk and bought it. When I got back to my apartment, I couldn’t wait to get my oven preheated. The truth was I didn’t even know how to preheat an oven, so I had to drag my roommate out of his room for help.

My roommate was the kind of impressive person that never ate out--he cooked every meal from scratch as he studied for his PhD. Our apartment was always filled with southeastern Asian aromas--curry, fish sauce, sambal sauce, lemongrass, chili, basil, you name it. Since he only cooks family style and there were only two of us, I got to try a lot of his food. Even though I wasn’t yet into cooking, I have always loved eating delicious food, and I especially love southeastern Asian flavors. I had been living alone for more than 10 years before we lived together, and no one around me cooked--I think I was subconsciously influenced by his passion and insistence on cooking during the time I lived with him.

With assistance, I got the oven preheated. I then read the instructions from front to back (and again back to front,) and anxiously placed the lamb chop on the baking sheet and into the oven. Waiting for it to be done was the longest 15 minutes of my life.

When it was ready, I pulled out the nicest looking plate I had and plated the lamb chops with care. Next, like any good millennial, I took out my phone, took a picture, and thought to myself, “that wasn’t so hard.” Those first bites of lamb hit me with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. It was the first time I felt something like that and it was the defining feeling that changed me from an exclusively go-out-for-food-person to a home cook. Peri-peri chicken, spicy shrimp, apple pork chops… my horizon quickly expanded without boundary after that night. This exploration shaped my current cooking style: I don’t focus on one type of cuisine, but dishes and flavors from all around the world.

Looking back now, I think I always had a desire to learn to cook. Would I use ready-to-cook ingredients now, 6-years later? Probably not. But I think that kind of packaging is one of the best ways to get people into the kitchen. Whether it be ready-to-cook ingredients, a passionate roommate, or Jamie Oliver, all you need is something that makes cooking less intimidating and more accessible.

If you’re eager to learn how to cook but hesitant about your skills, why not start with something easy, delicious, and impressive like this Avocado Chocolate Pudding? All you have to do is throw everything in a food processor and let the magic happen. Cooking can and should be fun, and I hope this recipe will be that ‘something’ that sparks your passion.

Hi! I'm Jonny at SideChef. Self-proclaimed "dinner-for-one" expert because I always eat alone. Soups and stews are my favorite!
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