“I’m a firm believer that sauces and rubs are the best ways to boost flavor.” – Brian
When Brian isn’t engineering software, exercising, or playing jazz trombone, he is enjoying the art of cooking for his loved ones. He used to be in a repetitive weekly cycle of pasta, seafood, and stir-fries, with only minor variations. Then he found Cook Smarts meal plans. Today, he and his wife regularly experience the joy and intrigue of a wide range of cuisines that take their taste buds around the world! Armed with new flavors, techniques, and sauces, Kitchen Hero Brian has brought his cooking skills to the next level and has more time to spend on other activities he loves.
Name: Brian Gerstle
City, State: Chicago, IL
I cook for: family, friends, and myself.
Outside of the kitchen I: work as a software engineer from home, spend time with my wife and our two dogs, hang with our friends, exercise at the local climbing gym, or play jazz trombone.
The strangest food I have ever eaten is: Not very strange, but I enjoy the occasional oyster! Maybe I should travel and try more exotic foods.
I cook because: Mostly, because I love to eat – but also because it’s fun, healthy, economical, and satisfying.
Favorite CS meal so far: That’s a tough one! My wife and I have starred a lot of meals on the site, but the one we’ve raved about and cooked the most for our friends and family is the Maple-Dijon Panko Salmon. I’m a firm believer that sauces and rubs are the best ways to boost flavor, and the crust on that salmon is a triple threat: sweet maple syrup, savory butter, and salty soy sauce!
How did you learn to cook?
From my family and friends. Most of all my mom, who kindled my love of home-cooked meals by having us get together for a delicious family meal almost every night and teaching me to pack my own lunch.
What’s been your biggest cooking challenge?
I love a good sear, and getting that sweet Maillard reaction action without the contents of the pan sticking, burning, or over-cooking is a challenge I’m finally starting to overcome – without setting off the smoke detector! To be fair, it almost feels like cheating when you have a gas range, good pans, and sous vide.
What’s been the biggest change in your cooking / eating routine since starting Cook Smarts?
Cook Smarts has been a boon for us in many ways, but the biggest impact by far is how much it has broadened our dietary and culinary horizons. Before, we’d do minor variations on the same weekly theme centering on pasta, seafood, and stir-fry. Now, we regularly venture into new culinary territory and revitalize classics with new flavors, techniques, or sides. Diversity on this scale would have taken significant time and resources to pull off on our own, but Cook Smarts makes it nearly effortless.
“Cook Smarts has been a boon for us in many ways, but the biggest impact by far is how much it has broadened our dietary and culinary horizons.”
What have you learned since starting Cook Smarts’ meal plans?
I recently posted on Instagram about the “sauce donut” stir-fry technique, which was a game changer for us! On a broader note, I’ve learned how to fine tune our meal plan to make the most of our time in the kitchen.
Tell us about your proudest kitchen moment.
Most recently, I was very proud of how well my Curried Red Lentil Soup with Roasted Cauliflower turned out. The curry’s flavor and consistency was comforting but not too rich and the cauliflower was browned just the way I like it.
What are your tips for health and success in the kitchen?
The best thing I’ve been doing lately is doubling recipes, especially sauces and dressings. If I’m unexpectedly short on time, having staple ingredients (salad greens, rice, frozen meat) plus leftover sauce or dressing means I can quickly throw together a basic, but tasty meal instead of falling back on take-out.
Thank you for sharing your cooking experiences with us, Brian! We are so glad that Cook Smarts has helped send you and your wife on culinary adventures into unknown territory. We hope that our meal plan continues to give you delicious leftovers and extra time to spend on good friends, your two dogs, staying healthy at the gym, and all that jazz.