non-fiction Friday: Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn


The Kitchen Counter Cooking School:” how a few simple lessons transformed nine culinary novices into fearless home cooks by Kathleen Flinn, graduate of the famous Parisian cooking school Le Cordon Bleu, has truly truly truly transformed me. No, for reals y’all. I cooked an omelette. I poached an egg. I sautéed carrots using only my instinct – no recipe. I tried rosemary in my quinoa thinking, “If it sucks, who cares?”* Kathleen Flinn may not own her own restaurant, be on Top Chef, or be a household celebrity chef name, but she is absolutely my favorite chef in the world because she gave me confidence in the kitchen.

Kathleen was interview by chef friends on NPR, and had dozens of emails from people interested in participating in her cooking class. She chose nine volunteers, with her first order of business being visiting their homes to observe them in the kitchen, learn about their cooking habits and fears, and taste their favorite dish to prepare. Canned soup, frozen lasagna, and “white trash garlic bread” (hamburger buns, margarine, and canned parmesan cheese) were among the favorites…but all the volunteers admitted that they didn’t love what they made; it was just what they were comfortable with.

Meet Kathleen and her volunteers via this book trailer:

I think the biggest reason for Kathleen’s success, both with the at-home cooks she teaches in her book, as well as at-home readers, is her unassuming personality. Does she know a lot about the topic? Yes. Does she impose it onto us? No. Following up with the participants a few months after the last class, she found that all of them took away some things from the classes, but no one – not even she – took away everything. For example, Terri – who had a difficult time learning to use the knife properly – chopped onions in her food processor. Who cares?! The onions got chopped and she didn’t have to suffer through her least-favorite kitchen activity. Sabra still used the highly-saturated and processed Gold ‘n Soft margarine, but much more sparingly than she used to. Kathleen wasn’t looking to create clones of herself, she was just trying to arm those women with the know-how to make them more confident cooks who, dare I say, actually enjoyed the cooking process.

I am now a fan of Flinn’s for life. She has a few instructional YouTube videos, writes her own blog, and has another book which I have requested from my library and cannot wait to devour it! I loved this book so much that the night I finished listening to it on my commute home, I bought 4 copies from Amazon with the intent of keeping a copy for myself, and giving one to my sister, my best friend/soon-to-be-mommy, and my mom. They are all at different stages of cooking in their lives (I called one the other night and she was preparing Velveeta…I knew I was doing the right thing) and I think they can all learn from and become inspired by this.

Recommended for:
Anyone. The author does not yell at you for enjoying “bad” foods; she simply educates on various topics. What you do with that information is up to you.

Read-alikes:  (these aren’t necessarily read-alikes, but cooking books I’ve read and loved)
The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball was a fascinating look into the small organic farm life from the perspective of a girl from the big city. True story. More about farming than cooking, and just as non-pretentious as Kitchen Counter Cooking School. 

White Truffles in Winter by N.M. Kelby is a beautiful historical fiction about the real-life chef August Escoffier. The book will make you hungry.

*and for the record, it was way too much and I didn’t love it. BUT it was edible and I learned a lesson! Start with a little, you can always add more later. I didn’t beat myself up, I didn’t scold myself, I just learned.

3 Thoughts

  1. Your comments made my whole week! Thank you so much for taking away what I truly hoped readers would gain from this whole project. Now you’ve inspired me to do some more online lessons! Thanks!

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