The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks

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The author of The Sharper Your Knife tells the inspiring story of how she helped nine others find their inner cook.

After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, writer Kathleen Flinn returned with no idea what to do next, until one day at a supermarket she watched a woman loading her cart with ultraprocessed foods. Flinn's "chefternal" instinct kicked in: she persuaded the stranger to reload with fresh foods, offering her simple recipes for ...

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The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks

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Overview

The author of The Sharper Your Knife tells the inspiring story of how she helped nine others find their inner cook.

After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, writer Kathleen Flinn returned with no idea what to do next, until one day at a supermarket she watched a woman loading her cart with ultraprocessed foods. Flinn's "chefternal" instinct kicked in: she persuaded the stranger to reload with fresh foods, offering her simple recipes for healthy, easy meals.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School includes practical, healthy tips that boost readers' culinary self-confidence, and strategies to get the most from their grocery dollar, and simple recipes that get readers cooking.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Seattle food writer Flinn (The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry) guides you patiently in the kitchen like the mom you always wish you’d had to learn how to cook from. Although a graduate of Paris’s elite Cordon Bleu School, Flinn, like Julia Child before her, aims to demystify rarefied culinary know-how and bring basic cooking lessons to the simplest level.. Inspired by a cable TV show that walked guests through their own closets and tutored them on what to wear, Flinn chose nine eager-to-learn women of all backgrounds and ages for her experiment, examined their kitchen cabinets and refrigerators with them, and made each one prepare one of their typical dishes. The results were sadly predictable, as most relied on prepackaged ingredients. Moreover, the waste was staggering (many shop at warehouse stores and buy too much). Over the course of several weeks’ worth of lessons, recorded in chapters, Flinn instructed the women in the rudiments of preparing food: from wielding knives, comparing tastes (i.e., salts, mustards), cooking vegetables four ways then “splashing” with flavors, mastering a vinaigrette and omelet, handling chicken, meat cuts, and fish, and even baking bread. In the end, the women gained confidence under Flinn’s wonderfully encouraging tutelage, and fearlessly faced their kitchens and grocery stores with useful knowledge. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews

A Seattle-based writer turned chef demonstrates how readers can transform their lives with the right recipe.

After a stint at Paris' Le Cordon Bleu, Flinn returned to the States to pen her 2008 debut,The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. But after the critical acclaim and the endless book touring subsided, the author found herself at a loss for her next project until she stumbled across the TV program What Not to Wear. Envisioning a cooking class that would dig through pantries and cupboards in a manner befitting the show's hosts, Flinn took on a group of nine culinary novitiates and imparted technique and skill, giving them confidence in the kitchen. The author began by taking inventory of each participants' refrigerator, cabinets and eating habits. A friend's step-daughter, Sabra, was a disaster in the kitchen, so she usually relied on frozen dinners. One of her go-to concoctions, "White Trash Garlic Bread," is enough to give any reader, no matter how unseasoned a chef, pause: "She slathered one-half of a soft hamburger bun with Gold 'n Soft margarine, added a few hearty shakes of generic garlic salt, and topped it with dried Parmesan cheese from a can." Another woman admitted to buying in bulk, only to later feel awful about the amount of food she wasted. Flinn's chronicle of her culinary coaching discusses how her students fared, and acknowledges how the process led her to clean out her own cupboards: "I am in a battle with myself. It seemed that I had as much to learn as the people I'd just visited."

The author's humble approach is inviting and shows why her students were enthusiastic.

The Associated Press

"If you are going to read one book to change your diet and your life, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School is it."

From the Publisher
"The author's humble approach is inviting and shows why her students were enthusiastic." —-Kirkus Starred Review
The Kitchen Counter Cooking School
"This could be the most important book you'll ever read."
—Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me
“…[A] terrific, inspiring book…”-People (A People Pick, 4 stars)
"If you are going to read one book to change your diet and your life, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School is it."-AP

"Kathleen entered the kitchens of strangers and took the time to understand how they think about food before changing their cooking forever."
—Amanda Hesser, Food 52, The Essential New York Times Cookbook

“A life-changing book—entertaining, inspiring, and deeply educational."
—Erica Bauermeister, The School for Essential Ingredients

"A funny, thoroughly engrossing book...get ready to be inspired—and to eat well along the way." —Molly Wizenberg, Orangette.com, A Homemade Life
"An engaging...book on the joys of home cooking and the teaching thereof."-The Wall Street Journal
"The author's humble approach is inviting and shows why her students were enthusiastic."-Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Flinn guides you patiently in the kitchen like the mom you always wish you'd had to learn to cook from...the women gained confidence under Flinn's wonderfully encouraging tutelage, and fearlessly faced their kitchens and grocery stores with useful knowledge."-Publishers Weekly
"Flinn winningly offers inspiration to anyone who cares about cooking but lacks basic tools and skills."-Booklist
"An amiable companion to cookbook stalwarts such as Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything, Pam Anderson's How To Cook Without a Book, and Michael Ruhlman's Ratio, this title provides encouragement where the others offer direction. A mash-up of inspiration and reference, it will appeal to readers who enjoy a story with their instruction."-Library Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670023004
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/29/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathleen Flinn

Kathleen Flinn has been a writer and journalist for twenty years. Her work has appeared in more than three dozen publications worldwide, including the Chicago Sun-Times, USA Weekend, Men's Fitness, Smithsonian, and the Chicago Tribune, among others. Her first book, The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry was a finalist in the Washington State book awards. She lives in Seattle.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 20, 2011

    Wonderful book for anyone trying to live a healthier lifestyle, but lacking basic cooking skills/knowledge

    I'm a third gen non-cook, where holiday meals are celebrated by making reservations and cooking consists of trying not to burn mac and cheese from a box. This book isn't about recipes as much as it is about conveying basic cooking skills by following the journeys of nine self-professed novice cooks and their teacher. I have never taken a home ec class, and I grew up in a home where tv dinners were the norm. Living on my own, I've gotten tired of eating out and relying on frozen dinners. I need a change, but watching food shows is intimidating and confusing, and cookbooks almost seem written in another language. Thankfully, I found this book by chance in my local B&N. It's easy to read, with clear directions regarding basic skills like making soups from scratch, cooking vegetables, preparing simple pasta sauces, understanding what a flavor profile is. The author comes across as knowledgeable and funny, with an earnest desire to help those who haven't gone to culinary school. This past weekend, I made my first batch of homemade bread from a recipe in the book. It was so easy, I made additonal bread for a family dinner, and no one could believe I made it! Me, the one who can burn water! I highly recommend this book for those non/novice cooks. Also, I am looking to expand on what I learned in this book, and am impressed with both the recommended readings (I got the Artisian bread book following my bread success) and the online cooking videos that the author has partnered with rouxbe. The free demos are very straight forward, and the majority of the reviews for the site are positive. This book has provided me with a way out of being dependent on others whether it's the supermarket, a restaurant or fast food chain, for preparing my meals. Good luck to all of my fellow non-cooks.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    It Could Change Your Life

    Kathleen Flinn returns from Paris where she studied at Le Cordon Bleu. Back in the Seattle she is unsure what to do with her new culinary degree until a trip to a local grocery store give her an epiphany. Seeing a woman's cart filled with boxes of "ultraprocessed products" kicked her "chefternal" instincts into overdrive. As she talked to the woman she realized this woman was afraid to cook things fresh because she thought it would be too hard or wouldn't taste right. She spent some time traveling with her around the store and convinced her to put the packaged food back on the shelf and try cooking with real food. This made her start to wonder if she had found what to do with her degree.

    This led Kathleen to gather a group of volunteers who felt the same as the woman in the grocery store. She enlisted the help of other culinary professionals, rented kitchen space and started a class on cooking fundamentals from making simple Alfredo sauce to proper chopping techniques and even weekly taste testing of things like olive oil and salt. This book tracks the volunteers through the classes and includes common sense recipes and details for the reader as well.

    My Thoughts
    I enjoyed this book. My husband is the "chef" in our family and have inserted several post it's within the pages of things I want to share with him.

    This book really reads a lot like fiction, taking peeks into these people's lives with wonderful lessons and recipes as an added bonus. While very instructional it is entertaining and humorous. The author has a delightful writing style.

    With fast food quickly becoming the common way to eat these days, this book will teach you that fast food can be nourishing, tasteful and does not come from a drive thru lane. I was actually stunned how easy it is to make dishes that I thought could only be found in a restaurant, with wonderful flavor and none of the preservatives found it the prepackaged dishes found on the grocery shelves. This may be a book to add to your cookbook shelf after reading the story of the volunteer's journey at the The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. It could change your life.



    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Viking. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    This book was not only enjoyable to read, it was filled with facts, tips & useful information. I read the book, then went back, went through it again & filled up 4 recipe cards front and back with the things I'd learned that I wanted to keep handy. Now the book is going to a friend to read-I'd give it a 10!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2011

    Changed my life

    This book has changed the way i think about cooking 100%. If you feel like dinner is a chore, read this. Seriously. You guys know i hate cooking. I am really excited to make healthier meals for david and the kids now. I didnt know where to begin, but this makes it all feel much less overwhelming.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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