Esther the Zester | Kitchen inspiration comes from a variety of sources – Times-Standard

I was fortunate to have a career in the restaurant business for many years, both front and back of the house. I started as a hostess, and at the beginning of my career, I worked my way up to become a certified trainer and then assistant manager of the front of the house. Then, as any 20 year old can admit two decades later, I got bored.

So, I spoke to the head chef and asked him to let me try the kitchen, and surprisingly, he took a chance.

I worked my way from the salad station to the chef, running up to a line of 13 people. Fast forward more years than I care to admit, I became disabled and unable to work any longer. Now I enjoy being a home cook, slowly working on my cookbook, writing a food column, constantly reading books and magazines to continue my culinary knowledge, and watching a plethora of cooking shows.

I wanted to share how I continue to open my palate by learning about my favorite shows, chefs, local restaurants, and reads. Even former professional chefs can learn something every day, and now, as a home cook, I can learn shortcuts to use in a personal kitchen that might not be used in restaurants. So let’s go :

My three favorite competitive cooking shows are “Tournament of Champions” (TOC), “Top Chef” and “Chopped”. When it comes to “TOC”, it’s amazing to see some of the most talented chefs in the country spin a wheel and have to cook with random ingredients on the fly. Personally, I learn unknown kitchen utensils and tons of other cultures with phenomenal ingredients. “Top Chef” shows all cooks, whether home cooks or professionals, what true culinary art is all about from their plating. Learning how to layer sauces, purees, vegetables and meats helps me build my own dishes creatively. And with “Chopped” it’s great to learn how to create delicious meals out of anything, from a crazy ingredient to opening cupboards, fridge and freezer to create an amazing meal for you. and your family.

I used to be the only or one of the only female chefs in all the kitchens I’ve worked in, so when it comes to watching cooking shows, I’m really inspired by the best female chefs in the world. industry, such as Brooke Williamson, Alex Guarnaschelli, Kristen Kish, Tiffany Faison, Maneet Chauhan, Melissa King, Amanda Freitag… the list goes on, but I also admire so many male chefs from Ming Tsi, Jet Tila, the Voltaggio brothers , Alton Brown, Richard Blais, Bobby Flay and Michael Symon to name a few. All of these chefs, among countless others, including the chefs I have personally worked with, bring their culture, traditions, techniques and love of food, and it’s contagious.

Finally, literature: Even though Anthony Bourdain is gone, I have a lot of books written by him, and I’m learning from him to this day. I also have random books on knife techniques to hone my skills – pun intended – and several books on cooking terms, phrases and techniques. Finally, personally, I use Food Network magazine (my “little chef”, Bea, fell asleep during the study part of my day) and Food and Wine magazine, where I find inspiration and new ideas to create my own original recipes.

Obviously, I’m passionate about food and consider myself lucky to be in a small community that has such amazing local restaurants. To name a few of my favorite spots, I enjoy a juicy ribeye from the AA Bar and Grill to a cold beer and hot wings on the patio with the best view in Six Rivers Brewery to a crispy salad and pizza loaded with Babe’s… I could go on and on (definitely try as many local places as you can no matter where you live.)

In the end, it doesn’t matter if someone has been cooking for over 40 years in a professional kitchen or is a novice cook with only three months under his belt – when it comes to cooking, the true passion and love that is put in everyone the meal is the secret ingredient to any dish, and we can all learn from each other and teach each other new cooking tricks.

Savor and love your cooking, be open-minded and live with more zest!

Esther Kennedy is a Myrtletown resident and recipe creator. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Facebook at