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Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons Share Tips on How to Be a Better Cook

In the Kitchen With Gail and Tom

Like last year, Top Chef judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons joined forces to host a seminar at the 28th annual Food & Wine Classic. Since I'm a huge fan of the show and enjoyed their lively banter in the previous demo, I was excited to see what the dynamic duo would cook up. This time, they were inspired by one of the magazine's regular features, Chef Recipes Made Easy.

They chose three ingredients: merguez sausage, garbanzo beans, and harissa, and each made a distinctly different dish. Tom's was the chef's way: an elaborate preparation that involved homemade sausage, stuffed leg of lamb, and fresh garbanzo beans. Gail created something more accessible to the home cook with store-bought sausage and canned garbanzos. As they cooked, they chatted; to see some tips I picked up from Tom and Gail,


  • You want to be a good cook? Tom says you have to practice: "the more you practice, the better you'll get."
  • If you don't have a convection oven, Tom advises searing meats, like large roasts, in a hot pan on the stove before placing it in the oven. This will ensure an evenly crisp exterior.
  • When it comes to cocktails, Gail sweetens hers with infused simple syrups. The gin-tea concoction she made was sweetened with a mint-infused simple syrup.
  • Both Tom and Gail believe one should never be afraid of touching their food.
  • Gail happily pointed out that Tom is the best kind of chef: he cleans while he cooks!
  • Colicchio reminds us to not be wary of longer preparations. He says, "the longer it takes to cook something, the more flavors will develop."
  • Don't be cheap when purchasing cooking equipment. "Buy the best you can afford," Tom recommends. "A well-made, more durable pot or pan will cost you more, but it will last you a lifetime." He suggests buying three quality pieces instead of 20 cheap pieces.
  • When you can't find an ingredient, ask your favorite restaurant chef to locate it.
  • Don't always make the same recipes. Tom and Gail proved that with just three ingredients, one can put together an endless possibility of dishes.

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