“when you cook and you mess up, you can always fix it”

by Sara Mead

Gotham Schools has a nice article up about students taking culinary arts classes at Rikers Island correctional facility in New York City. While anyone who’s watched an episode of (the late) Law and Order has heard of Riker’s Island, not that many folks know that Riker’s Island includes public schools that serve the many juveniles incarcerated there, as well as young adults who have not completed their schooling. The schools are part of New York City’s District 79, which operates alternative schools and programs across the city, and is one of the most forward thinking agencies in this area.

In addition to English, math, and other core subjects, the schools also offer culinary training courses, which enable students to acquire skills they can use after leaving Riker’s Island–and not just culinary skills. I love the quote that one young woman participating in the program offered to Gotham Schools: “You know what [Chef Sauerhoff–the culinary instructor] taught me? That when you cook and you mess up, you can always fix it,” she said. “That’s the point of cooking.”

That’s a great lesson for anyone learning to cook–as well as people getting up the courage to try to do so.

4 responses to ““when you cook and you mess up, you can always fix it”

  1. If the sense of this is meant to be, you can make mistakes while cooking and no one will send you to Rikers, then it’s quite true.

    Otherwise, I’m not so sure. Say your souffle falls or you leave the brown rice on the burner too long and it burns; what can you do aside from wash your pots and start over with fresh ingredients?

  2. Well, I assumed the statement did not apply to baking (which would cover the souffle), but you’re right that it’s hard to fix something that’s been burned.

  3. “Always” is a strong word, but short of outright incineration, there are very few mistakes that a good cook can’t recover from. You may not be able to get the dish you planned, but a competent cook usually won’t have to throw everything away and start over.

    Even when you burn something badly, it’s usually only part of it that gets carbonized. If you scorch the soup, you can usually decant the intact top layer.

  4. Sriracha.

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