An expert in the art of tasting comes from experience, says Stimbergs. In the current part of the culinary school, they explain how to properly season the dishes – so take the spoons!
KCooking seasonings such as pepper and salt. Both belong to each other. You can not cook without spices, it is no different in a starred restaurant from special everyday life. We are constantly savoring, every dish. When it comes to sauces or soups, for example, we usually reach for the tasting spoon in the middle of the cooking process and at the very end.
An astonishing number of chefs have used coffee grounds to taste. This quirk is rarely found among the younger generation, a simple spoon is enough. Of course, it should – always! – be unused.
It’s hard to savor, at least at first, when you don’t have a routine. In our observation, many people have concerns about seasoning properly, perhaps for fear of masking the “real” flavor of the dish. However, a little spice can quickly make a dish boring. If this is supposed to be the real taste, we’d rather do without it. We season to the end – our plates are full of heaviness. We believe that the taste should stay in the mouth for a long time and not evaporate the next moment.
How do you learn the art of tasting? There is only one teacher here: experience. When our apprentices prepare their first dishes, they are almost always inexperienced. It’s great to see the apprentices get braver – and more experienced – over time when it comes to seasoning.
Does the dish need more acid? After that, a few drops of citrus (direct acidity) or fruit vinegar (indirect acidity) may help. Can some sweetness bring the flavor forward? Then brown sugar is a good choice. Does the dark, salty sauce lack enough depth? Then a dash of soy sauce.
A common recipe for seasoning is the use of contrasts. For example, let’s make ice cream with Piedmont hazelnuts, and then finish it with sea salt. The taste receptors have more to do, and the taste experience heightens. Conversely, brown sugar can go well with brown sauce. Contrasts create depth, and the greater the depth, the more happens in the mind – the longer the impression lasts.
Taste is like a muscle, you can train it. Three years later, our apprentices are decent in taste. And at some point a very personal taste develops – seeing how a dish should taste. Such was the case with Sasha in his early thirties. He’s had his style for ten years.
There are many ways to train taste. Eat outside. Ask what’s on the plate. Be brave at home, there’s nothing wrong with over-spicing the dish. You gain culinary expertise in the same way as you gain drinking wine: you can read about it as much as you like, but you become a master of taste only by trying and experimenting – by experimenting. Travel is also beneficial. Immerse yourself in foreign cooking cultures, where unfamiliar spices are used. Last but not least: get feedback whenever possible.
Walter Stemberg and his son Sascha run the stellar restaurant “Haus Stemberg” in Velbert, which has just received the “Best Restaurant of the Year 2021” award from the magazine “Der Feinschmecker”. Every week they write in WELT AM SONNTAG about the basics of cooking, from proper kitchen equipment to the question of how to identify a good butcher or fishmonger. All episodes to read online.