Being safe at home has required that we all tap into some culinary creativity to get by. We’ve dusted off pantry items hiding in dark corners, finally read through our collection of cookbooks, and made grocery lists with flexibility and ingenuity at a time when some of our favorite products may be more scarce.
It turns out celeb chefs are doing the exact same thing.
Quarantine cooking has brought the pros—now hunkered down in the comfort of their own home—into ours in a more intimate way than ever. Michelin-starred chefs have stripped down to the basics, food personalities have opened up about their families recipes, all while providing comedic relief and a celebration of tradition in the process.
In the weeks since we’ve started to shelter in place, master baker Dominique Ansel has jumped on the banana bread bandwagon, Daniel Boulud serenaded us while making a decadent hollandaise sauce, “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi shared her humorous struggle of cooking with kids (expletives included), and even the Cookie Monster has gifted us with weekly “Snack Chats.”
With all of these resources available, it’s never been a better time to join a virtual cooking community. Chef Santana Caress Benitez offers weekly cooking classes on Instagram and her Patreon page each Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST., sharing recipes like creamy spaghetti carbonara, bacalao croquettes with lime aioli, plus scallion drop biscuits in a mushroom and red pepper ragout.
“I am honestly always cooking, but I am using every bit of food in my fridge to maximize my meals even more so than usual. I try to limit my trips to the grocery store to stay safe, so I am remixing leftovers and taking the time to prep batches of things like pie dough for quiche or turnovers and slow-cooked meats that I can freeze for an array or meals,” she said.
San Francisco-based Melissa King (who you might recognize as a return contender on the current season of “Top Chef”) has also found ways to multipurpose and slow down in her kitchen. Many of these projects have found their way onto her newly-resurrected YouTube channel and Patreon cooking tutorials.
“I’ve used this time to work on more time-consuming kitchen projects like fermenting kimchi, baking sourdough bread, slow braising large pieces of meat, and slow simmering bone broths," she said. “I’ve also been able to let go more of how I might 'normally' make something. If I don’t have any ingredients, I’ve been playing around with substitutions I wouldn’t normally think to use. It’s been a fun creative process!”
She's not the only professional working around missing ingredients. James Beard award winner Nina Compton shared that limited options have made her kitchen approach more about comfort and common sense than extravagance.
“In the beginning I was making grand meals for myself and my husband. We were doing dishes three times a day! I soon became more focused on making tasty meals that were simple things like roasted chicken and root vegetables—things that could be used for the next meal such as chicken tacos and root vegetable salad,” she said. That shift is something her social media following can relate to because many people no longer have the luxury to run to the store all the time.
But those luxuries we may have once taken for granted have given us a communal celebration of food that we probably would not have experienced otherwise. From getting creative with our favorite chefs online to finding ways to support local restaurants, using food as the common thread of our virtual connection reminds us that the kitchen has always served as a place of solace, even in the most challenging times.