Alex: Grad Student by Day, Creative Home Cook by Night

“The best thing Gen-Y-ers can do to gain skills in the kitchen is to utilize the internet. There are soooooo many resources online that teach cooking skills, no matter what level you are starting from.”

Alex Cook Smarts' Hero in the Kitchen
Alex is a young home cook juggling work and grad school while still trying to keep up her mom’s tradition of home cooked meals. While her mom taught her how to cook, she also uses the vast amount of resources on the internet to continually expand her cooking skills (and her boyfriend’s too!). Read her Hero in the Kitchen story below:

Name: Alex
Age: 23
City, State: Washington, D.C.
Outside of the kitchen I: am a legal assistant at a law firm and a full time graduate student.
I cook for: myself and my boyfriend. Some weekends I cook for friends and during the holidays I cook for family.
Being able to cook allows me to: get creative in the kitchen! I love trying out all types of recipes and making things from scratch.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal: Chipotle guacamole burgers with fig salad and adobo dressing.

How did you learn to cook?
My mom! She is a stay at home mom and loves to cook. She had the time and the opportunity to make delicious dinners from scratch. She learned to cook in her teens from a friend’s grandmother, who was really old school and would make everything that she could from scratch.

Aside from skills, one of the most important things I learned from my mom is that if a recipe doesn’t turn out the way we expect it to, it’s not the end of the world. We can try to learn from the experience and have fun trying again the next time.

What’s been your biggest kitchen challenge?
Stepping in my mom’s footsteps, I loved to make the most time consuming recipes even though I didn’t have that kind of time. I used to come home from work and try to make cheese raviolis with homemade dough and bolognese sauce or pot roast with whipped potatoes. I just didn’t have a list of go-to recipes that tasted amazing but wouldn’t take me hours to prepare.

Also when I decided to make something I wanted to look up every variation on that recipe so I could mix and match them into an amazing dish (another thing I do not have time for!). I just didn’t have a standard cookbook or resource that I could rely on completely.

How has your cooking routine changed recently?
Recently, I have learned through Cook Smarts that meals can be delicious but not take hours to prepare and cook. I was delighted with the flavors that I could develop in a short amount of time. I now love to tenderize and marinate meats. It gives dishes a deep flavor without hours of hands-on preparation.

Cook Smarts has also taught me that preparing side dishes ahead of time doesn’t change the taste. I used to try to cook or mix all ingredients immediately before eating to get the freshest flavor, but I have found that reheated, 2 day-old steamed broccoli tastes pretty much the same as fresh steamed broccoli.

What recent kitchen accomplishment are you most proud of?
Even though I’m using Cook Smarts’ meal plans, I add my own tweaks and changes. I’m excited to still express my own creativity and it’s kept cooking fun for me.

How has meal planning changed your life?
I now spend Sundays shopping for the week, prepping all of my ingredients, and pre-cooking any ingredients that I can. This saves me an incredible amount of time! Previously I went to the store 4 to 5 times per week and now I just go once.

“I have learned through Cook Smarts that meals can be delicious but not take hours to prepare and cook.”

What advice would you give to other ‘Gen-Y-ers’ that want to cook more or start to dip their toes in the kitchen?
This is probably so obvious, but I think the best thing Gen-Y-ers can do to gain skills in the kitchen is to utilize the internet. There are soooooo many resources online that teach cooking skills, no matter what level you are starting from.

When I wanted to learn how to cut a whole chicken (because they were for sale at the farmer’s market), I put my computer on my countertop, pulled up a YouTube video and followed along. My boyfriend is getting interested in cooking, and even though he could barely boil water, he now uses Wikipedia and YouTube to figure out how to julienne carrots, mince garlic, and chiffonade basil.


Alex, we’re so impressed by you! We’re also so glad to hear that you’re saving time in the kitchen while still preparing meals that you’re excited to eat. Thanks for letting us be part of this cooking transformation, and we’re excited to see your boyfriend transform into an expert home cook like you!

Alex' Favorite Cook Smarts Meal Chipotle Guacamole Burgers
To join Alex and cook meals like her favorite chipotle guacamole burger, check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!

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