I promised my readers on January 2, 2011 that I would start an educational online cooking show by February 2011. I am happy to report that I created the first episode two days ago and I edited the video and uploaded the result today, 1/11/11.
As a side note, I started my company Silveroffice, Inc. 3/3/03, and on 6/6/06 I offered to give my domain gOffice.com to Google, Inc. for their use in branding what is known now as Google Apps. Google didn’t take me up on my offer, thank goodness, as I continue to use the domain for Silveroffice.
I plan to regularly release episodes of my cooking show, which I’m titling for now ‘Cooking Lessons With Kevin Warnock’.
I have a brand new and very photogenic temporary video production set I built in my garage. It’s sparkling new, and has never before been used for anything. I am proud of building this studio, as I had to learn new skills. For example, I personally cut the hole for the sink in the granite counter top. I also installed the granite counter tops and the cabinets and all the other appliances. This space looks like a real kitchen, but it’s not because there is no stove or oven yet. Originally the plan was to install one before I learned San Francisco doesn’t permit two stoves in a single family house. However, there is an exception for moving image production facilities, and I am using that exemption to bring you this cooking class series. Because of the exemption, I could install a permanent stove, but for now I will not, because a portable catering butane burner will work better from an aesthetics perspective, because I can place it right in front of the video camera and I can thus face the camera directly. If I had a normal range, the camera would need to be to my side, which would make it difficult to see what I’m doing.
I don’t store food on set, and I never use the set for personal cooking. I do all my cooking for sustenance in my real kitchen upstairs in the living area of my house. I welcome a visit at any time by San Francisco building inspectors to verify this claim, as I don’t want any trouble from the City. I don’t even have the refrigerator running except when I’m actively producing a video, to save electricity. An inspection will turn up a legitimate video set, not an illegal second kitchen. You can see in today’s video when I tried to use the microwave that I had to remove the instruction book from the oven, as I had never used it to heat food until this video.
I prepared this first episode using my camping propane burner. I didn’t know there are butane indoor safe burners that have enough heat output to cook Chinese food when I shot this video. Now that I know, I will be ordering the proper butane burner for future episodes. Please don’t use a propane camp stove indoors as they’re typically not supposed to be used indoors. I had a huge fire extinguisher a few feet away when I recorded this video, so I was taking precautions. Also, I only brought the burner inside right before shooting, and you can see me take it outside as soon as I complete the cooking in this episode. The proper indoor ready butane burner only costs USD $59.95, so if you have an electric stove but want to try gas, the entry price is quite reasonable.
When you watch this video, keep in mind this is my first run through ever. I did not practice even once beforehand. So there are some (charming?) errors in this video. For example, I forgot the cooking oil and a plate to serve the results on, so I had to run upstairs to my real kitchen during the shooting. I could have edited those moments out, but I figured I should just post this as is to show my very first attempt.
I used no recipe, and I have never made this dish before. I selected the ingredients moments before I shot this video. This is the way I usually cook Chinese food… I see what I have in the refrigerator and go from there. This works fine, and I’ve created some dishes that are delicious just by experimenting like this. Some of the most unusual dishes result when I run out of a key ingredient and have to leave it out.
The reason I’m doing this show is that I believe people eat out way too much. This contributes to obesity, poor health, financial difficulties and retirement marked by reduced standards of living. These are perhaps radical claims, but if one were to take a few hundred dollars spent eating out each month and invest that in a Standard and Poors 500 exchange traded fund (ETF), one would have a mini fortune saved at retirement. One would also probably be much slimmer and healthier and happier as well.
Home cooked food is often thought of as the ‘gold standard’ of eating. So why do so few people practice it much? I would suggest that people haven’t been taught how to cook and thus they’re intimidated. Until about five years ago, I didn’t know how to cook more than about two dozen dishes from memory. I rarely opened a cookbook, even though I owned perhaps 10 of them. I ate out a fair amount, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I ate a lot of canned prepared foods like Progresso soup, Dennison’s chili and Chef Boyardee Ravioli. I can hardly bring myself to eat these products now, even though I was conditioned for years by advertising to love them.
Another reason to cook at home is that you can use better ingredients than found at most of the world’s restaurants, and still save money over eating out. For example, I shop at Rainbow Grocery, a coop that sells mostly organic non meat products. Food here costs about double what it costs at a typical grocery store that sells mostly what Michael Pollan calls ‘industrial food.’ But food from Rainbow in my estimation is twice as intensely flavored as industrial food. I was a huge skeptic such could be the case, so I encourage you to try to find some organic vegetables and prepare the same dish twice at the same time, in two different pans on different burners. Then sit down and sample the results from each dish. I predict you will be able to tell the difference blindfolded. Michael Pollan writes about a reason that could explain the superior taste of organically raised vegetables. He writes, and I’m doing this from memory, that vegetables that don’t have the protection of commercial chemical pesticides to keep them free of harm from insects will make their own defenses, and that these defenses enhance the flavor. In effect, commercial pesticides make vegetables lazy, so they don’t taste as good as organic vegetables. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying, and if so, please correct me.
Few restaurants use organic produce and meat because it costs more. So if you eat out, you’re generally consuming more pesticides and other industrial inputs that you probably would be better off to avoid.
I’ve watched very few cooking shows on television, perhaps fewer than 30 hours my whole life. So what you see here probably will look childish in comparison. I read in a major publication recently that it takes years of grooming for a new television chef to be minted. I am starting out with zero minutes and zero years of grooming, so please be kind.
I am doing this show by myself for now, so there is no cameraperson. The camera is fixed for the duration of the show. I am using a good camera and the show is being presented in high definition at a resolution of 1280 x 768 at 25 frames per second. I am shooting in full HD, and once Vimeo.com (which hosts the video for this blog) allows long full HD clips, I’ll upgrade to that format. The camera I am using is a Canon 5D Mark II. This camera can shoot for only about 15 minutes at a time before I have to hit the record button again. So you’ll see a couple of stops and starts. There’s nothing I can do about this for the time being. I hope that Canon updates its firmware so that when one clip ends a new one is instantly started so the two clips can be stitched together in editing software so no break is detectable.
Eventually I hope to get a second 5D Mark II that I can mount on the ceiling over the burner so I can shoot looking down into the pan as I cook. Then I can edit in closeups of the cooking action to show you exactly the progress I’m making. For the time being, I will occasionally tilt the pan toward the camera so you can see what’s happening.
I am encouraged by my first attempt. I think the video studio looks nice. I used four auxiliary 4′ long fluorescent bulbs slightly off axis from the camera to brighten up my face, and I plan to add another four on the other side of the camera. These are mounted perpendicular to the floor and parallel to my body.
When I get into other projects like baking bread and making pizza, I’ll get a countertop convection oven, which I’ll be able to position precisely to give you a clear view of what’s going on.
I hope to educate my viewers as I educate myself. While I am reasonably good at preparing Chinese and Indian cuisine, I plan to learn and then show you how to prepare many other cuisines.
I probably will not ever be truly expert in anything I show you, as I am not a chef, and I am not pretending to be. I have never taken a cooking class, and I don’t really know if anything I am showing you is technically correct. But I hope and expect that if I make a glaring error that my readers will write to me to tell me, so I can improve.
I plan to talk about food quality, industrial food, how to shop and many other topics while I am also teaching you to cook. Since I have no plans to edit down video into a short segment, I will need to fill up time when the food is just cooking. I plan to fill this time be talking about subjects that I think you should know about. I have no idea if this will be welcome or annoying, but I’m going to give it a try. Please let me know what you think.
This first episode will show you you to make a Chinese dish I call Chicken with green beans, zuchinni and peppers. Here’s the ingredient list. Watch the video to learn what to do next.
1/4 pound boneless chicken breast
1 medium onion
1 cup Jasmine rice
1 1/2 cups water
15 green beans
15 small brown mushrooms
1 medium zucchini
1 tablespoon chili bean sauce
1 tablespoon garlic chili hot sauce
1 tablespoon guilin sauce
1/2 small green pepper