I love combining flavors and feeling accomplished when I make something that truly tickles the taste buds. – Peter
Kitchen Hero Peter has many kitchen successes that go beyond cooking up delicious, healthy, and beautiful meals. He saves money with meal planning, teaches and inspires his boyfriend to cook, and is currently writing a cookbook with his mom. Peter’s passion for cooking and eagerness to try new foods allow him to experience success after success, which you can read more in his Hero in the Kitchen story below.
Name: Peter Petrzala
City, State: Currently Chicago, IL
I cook for: myself and my boyfriend; sometimes I host dinner parties.
Outside of the kitchen I: am a graphic designer; I enjoy grocery shopping and writing lists with pen and paper (not even kidding; I love scratching things out), going to the gym, traveling and eating as many new foods as possible.
The 3 pantry items I cannot live without are: cheese, butter, soy sauce (terrible combination, but individually, are bomb).
I cook because: I have a strong passion for it. I love combining flavors and feeling accomplished when I make something that truly tickles the taste buds. I love trying new foods from all over the world. Cooking is the best way to not only save money, but also to try to cook whatever I’m craving without having to search and drive to a restaurant.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal so far: Creamy Cajun Pasta with Chicken
HOW DID YOU LEARN TO COOK?
Growing up, my mom did not want me in the kitchen. She claimed I would make a mess, so I was forced to stick to the microwave. It wasn’t until junior year of college, when I moved into my first apartment, that I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted in the kitchen. My roommate at the time taught me how to make Lu Rou Fan (rough translation: minced pork with rice) – a cheap dish very popular in Taiwan. After I learned how to make that, my passion for cooking just snowballed / skyrocketed. Now, every time I visit my parents, my parents always ask me, “So what are you cooking for us this time?” Not only do they ask me to cook something every time, but I am also collaborating with my mom on a cookbook.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR BIGGEST COOKING CHALLENGE?
Oh man, besides the dishes in the sink, my biggest cooking challenge, if I had to absolutely choose something, would be not setting off the fire alarm (hah!). Sometimes I get impatient and turn the heat to high. Unless you’re bringing something to a boil, I’ve learned that very rarely does something require the heat to be all the way on high, unless you’re trying to fill your apartment with smoke.
While I was already saving money by cooking more than eating out, I’ve been able to save even more money with Cook Smarts because I don’t just go down aisles trying to buy what I think would go great in a meal.
What have you learned since starting Cook Smarts’ meal plans?
I’ve learned that it’s very possible to have a meal plan in place while saving money. I love going to the grocery store knowing exactly what I want to buy for cooking. While I was already saving money by cooking more than eating out, I’ve been able to save even more money with Cook Smarts because I don’t just go down aisles trying to buy what I think would go great in a meal. I’ve also learned how to use ingredients I might not have used before (ex: peppers in adobo sauce; artichokes).
TELL US ABOUT YOUR PROUDEST KITCHEN MOMENT.
As cliche as it sounds, my proudest kitchen moment is inspiring my boyfriend enough to want to learn how to cook. He’s inspired by how motivated I am with cooking. Especially now that we’ve moved in together (for the first time!), he wants to learn and now we cook together. He’s my handsome sous chef. 😉
WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR HEALTH AND SUCCESS IN THE KITCHEN?
Experiment! Don’t be afraid to combine ingredients. With experimentation, sure, sometimes ingredients do NOT go well together, but sometimes you discover an amazing combination that will really knock your socks off.
Also, don’t be afraid to try something NEW! Even the pickiest eater might be surprised if they at least TRY to go out of their comfort zone.
Health-wise, try to incorporate a veggie or two in each dish! And if you have to have a carb, try a new carb outside of the typical potato or rice. Try quinoa or bulgur instead of rice. Or couscous. Or sweet potato! Or cauliflower mash. There are hundreds of possibilities.
Peter, you’ve come a long way in your cooking journey – from only using the microwave to cooking (and plating) up some gorgeous meals! Thanks so much for letting us be a part of your cooking accomplishments by sharing your lovely food photos with us and being such an inspiring member of our cooking community. Wishing you the best on your cookbook endeavors, and who knows – maybe one day your boyfriend will be featured as a Kitchen Hero as well!