As the world's worst cook, I feel humbled asking Wolfgang Puck for advice in the kitchen.
For a moment, I think that he will read my mind and know that I can actually make pancakes that are burned on the outside, but raw on the inside. (It's a skill!)
Right now, Wolfgang – if I may call him that – is explaining the one dish that everyone should perfect.
"Can you cook an egg?" Wolfgang poses.
"I don't care if it's a scrambled egg or an omelet. I like to give people a pan and eggs. Then I say, 'Okay, make me an omelet.'
"You'd be surprised," he says of top chefs who can't do sunny side over. "Some have worked in these fancy restaurants, but often these chefs forget about learning the basics."
Wolfgang stars on "Top Chef Seattle," premiering tomorrow at 10 EST on Bravo. The world-renowned chef and restaurateur joins the series this season as a judge. He sat down to answer our stylish cooking questions.
Wolfgang Puck's Cooking Tips:
Q: Why is it so important to know the cooking basics like eggs? PS: Any tips?
A: "If you can cook an omelet, it's not unlike cooking a steak. It's the basics. To start, you have to put it in a hot pan, maybe with a touch of oil and a touch of butter. Before, season the eggs and add maybe a little bit of crème or a little butter or melted butter into the eggs. Cook the eggs fast enough so that way you can have them cooked on the outside and soft in the center. It's amazing how few people – how few professional chefs – can do it."
Q: What is your best advice to a new chef making dinner for someone else?
A: "I think the most important thing is to have the ingredients and make something you already made in the past because you will feel confident. If you make something completely new where you are not sure about the time or if the seasoning is right or the combinations of herbs and spices then it's harder. Don't go and cook Indian food if you've never cooked Indian food."
Q: What's the key to the perfect dish?
A: "The most important thing for me is to really buy the best ingredients. I just came from the fish market and I had the choice of if I should buy local Albacore from Maho Bay or a Bluefin Tuna, which came from Portugal. I said, 'You know what? They fished the Albacore yesterday and it's local, so I'm going to do that.' Now, I'm going to make it up into something for tonight….So, generally buy the best quality and keep it simple. I don't try to make too many decorations."
Q: What other food trends do you like these days?
A: "I love the Zen-like Japanese approach, yet I love strong flavors, too. I don't mind if it looks clean and clear. You know what you are eating! I will also love Italian, Chinese or Japanese flavors. I love them all."
Q: What's worse – failing to properly season a dish or overcooking it?
A: "I think for me if somebody would not season the dish, over season it or forget to put salt in, I would think, 'Why are these people on 'Top Chef?' It's like going to school and you forgot to put your clothes on. Now, anybody could cook a steak medium instead of medium rare. Or they could have an egg and cook it for four minutes instead of three and a half. It's just a little overdone. I could close an eye on that. But I would be very upset if a chef doesn't season the food right. I tell all my young chefs and everybody in the kitchen the most important thing for a chef is to taste."
Q: What lessons did your mother teach you about cooking that still come into play in your kitchen?
A: "It's amazing when you look across America. There is this whole farm-to-table thing. When I grew up that was totally logic. We went outside into the garden, picked the vegetables and made a vegetable soup. When we wanted salad, we picked some cucumbers and some tomatoes and a head of lettuce. When we wanted milk, we went next door to the farmers who had the cows and we got milk. If we wanted to make whipped cream, we let the milk sit and the cream rose to the top. We skimmed it off and made whipped cream for Sunday morning hot chocolate."
Q: What appealed to you about Top Chef?
A: "There are always new contestants and new guest judges. I think it's really very interesting the choices they make when they select the chefs. The show is a different kind of pressure from working in a restaurant. It's always exciting to see people come along and go to different places. It's certainly stressful…As a judge, I just have to taste and give my opinion. It's always fun to see the young chefs, seeing them all nervous and worked up."
Q: What makes a world-class chef?
A: "You know what? You could ask that for any profession. What makes a world-class musician? There are many different musicians out there who are world class. To me, a world-class chef has to have his own ideas and his own path and his own style. It's like being a world-class artist. You know, I could pain a mural like Picasso if I would apply myself and work a lot on it. I think of cooking in the same way. To be a world-class chef is someone who has learned, has a great palate and his own ideas."
Q: You're friends with Chef Emeril. Do you ever exchange any tips?
A: "You know, I love his barbecue shrimps with some barbeque sauce. He makes his own Worcestershire sauce and everything. I still remember each time I go to New Orleans and I go to his restaurant. I always say, 'I need the barbeque shrimps. I have to have them.' I like his food because he has strong flavors. When I go to a restaurant, I want to have really strong flavors."
Q: Right now if you could be anywhere in the world eating absolutely anything at this moment what would be it?
A: "I would be in Piamonte eating white truffles and having a great glass of Pavao."
Q: What is your guilty pleasure food? What is your favorite comfort food?
A: "I love fried chicken! I grew up in Austria and for me, the real comfort food is still Wiener Schnitzel and mashed potatoes. It reminds me of my youth."