Kitchen confessions: 'When I'm at home all rules are thrown out the window'

16 March 2023 by

The Caterer asked chefs to reveal the one thing they do when cooking at home that they would never do in a restaurant

Worry about washing are left at work

"At home we never bother washing a lettuce – usually we just cut through the head of the Romaine or gem and throw it into a salad. At work, of course we do." – Sarit Packer, co-owner, Honey & Co, London

"I taste with the same spoon I cook with – it's a big no in the restaurant!" – Brendan Eades, head chef, Tillingham Winery, Rye, Sussex

"I don't always wash as I go. I leave it to my husband, James, to tidy up after me at home. My fridge is a right mess. I don't label my freezer items so sometimes we end up playing freezer roulette. And I am also notorious for binge-watching a series James won't want to watch while cooking." – Nina Matsunaga, head chef, the Black Bull, Sedbergh

"I use a wooden chopping board. At home I have a proper butchers' block. At work we use colour-coded plastic boards, but they just don't have the same feel under the knife – it's so pleasurable cutting on wood, which is why I do so at home. It's lovely to use a natural product and every now and again I disinfect it with apple cider vinegar." – Candice Webber, culinary director, Bennett Hay

"I do loads of things that I wouldn't do at work – lick my fingers, especially when I'm baking, because who can resist when you're covered in cake batter? I double-dip spoons, use one chopping board for everything and at home I actually have to wash up after myself!" – April Jackson, owner, Wood & Water, London

"The thing that I do most often at home (but never, ever at work) is leave leftovers out on the counter to eat the next day. I don't have a huge fridge, so sometimes if I've made a ragu or something and have leftovers, I will quite happily leave it in the pot that I made it in (covered, of course) and leave it out on the hob to reheat and eat the next day. No judgement please." – Verena Lochmuller, development chef, Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, London

Chefs turn into singing, dancing superstars at home

"I don't think my colleagues would appreciate it if they saw the attire I wear when cooking at home. It basically involves shorts and an apron and not much else. I enjoy being free and comfortable. This attire is often accompanied by dancing, loud music and even louder singing. While I have been known to throw a few shapes in the kitchen at work, I save some of my wilder moves for home." – Robbie Lorraine, chef-owner, Only Food and Courses, London

"I play loud music. My music taste is very eclectic, it can go all the way from heavy metal, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath to French rap, so it's very, very mixed up." – Michel Roux Jr, chef owner, Le Gavroche

Fine culinary technique is cast aside

"So apart from the obvious, cooking in my PJs and double dipping! I never pick herbs if I'm cooking at home, with the exception of rosemary, I just chop herbs, stalk and all. The stalks have great and sometimes more intense flavour. But at the restaurant things need to be more refined." – Ruth Hansom, executive chef, Swinton Estate

"I am definitely guilty of using my finger to taste things at home, and I often reach for Frank's Red Hot sauce to pour over my food, both of which wouldn't fly in the Glebe kitchen." – Hugo Guest, owner and chef, Glebe House, Colyton, Devon

"My worst problem is that I buy stuff I find interesting from all over the world as we travel and think yes, I will cook this or that and make this or that and finally when you do find the stuff again its gone way past its useful date – forget its use-by date.

"Every now and again we do a clean-out of the cupboards and out comes stuff that should have been made into something two years ago or even more. So more often than not the bin benefits. I know my wife Pervin would like to hit me with them sometimes, but I tend to escape with just a few warning words." – Cyrus Todiwala, chef proprietor, Café Spice Namasté, London

"When roasting at home I always use throw-away aluminium cooking tins to avoid washing up, and I always cook everything in one tin. I also tend to roast alliums and garlic whole and just slip off the outer skins before serving – life is too short to peel and wash up at home." – Stosie Madi, chef, the Parkers Arms, Newton-In-Bowland, Clitheroe

Breaking the rules gets a little naughty

"He treats the kitchen like its commercial-grade, with porters on standby to wash the array of dirty pans left in the sink. Ingredients ‘magically' disappear from the cupboards, waiting for the fairies to replace them, and cooking a simple meal, which should take only two hours tops, commences at 10am on Sunday for an early evening service." – Lucy Davis, long-suffering partner of James Buckley, director of culinary at Levy

"I use one cutting board for everything, whereas at work I use different colour boards." – Kerth Gumbs, head chef, Fenchurch restaurant, London

"All chefs will tell you the importance of a clean kitchen and an organised fridge, but when I'm at home all rules are thrown out the window! I drive my wife insane, because I cause chaos simply making a quick sandwich – I leave crumbs in the butter and leave the lid off the butter dish, and ham or cheese is put back in the fridge without being wrapped. That's if it even makes it back to the fridge – more often than not it's left on the side with my excuse being ‘I haven't finished with it yet'. If my chefs could see how much chaos I cause they would have a field day and I'd never hear the end of it! I guess they'll find out now, won't they?" – Adam Bateman, chef and culinary director, the Grand, Birmngham

"At home, I tend to use the same pan without washing it, over and over again when cooking different items – I just tip out extra oil or fat as I go along, and use a paper towel to clean out any burnt bits. For example, I'll sauté some prawns, then remove them and use the same pan to cook some bok choy (it will soak up any leftover flavour), then remove that and throw some rice in and make quick fried rice with egg. One pan meal and easy to clean! At the restaurant, you can't cross-contaminate and always start with a clean pan." – Judy Joo, founder, Seoul Bird

"Cook naked." – Angelo Sato, chef-owner, Humble Chicken, London

"I'm already messy but do make more mess at home – not bad mess, I'm just a bit more relaxed. I never label, and I never check the temperatures. I try never to use cling film at home, and I would never use a horrible plastic board – it's all wood for me, wooden boards and wooden tasting spoons. I'm in love with a wok and keep meaning to bring it into my kitchen, but somehow never do. I'm not a big briner at home as there is not enough fridge space unless its winter. I'm generally looking for something very straightforward at home." – Margot Henderson, co-patron and chef, the Rochelle Canteen, London

Mystery ingredients make an appearance when no one's looking

"I love cooking with tinned fish at home, it's affordable and saves so much time. My favourite is a childhood dish, tinned mackerel or sardines in a tomato sauce, the perfect base for a fragrant and spicy curry. It's really nutritious. We only cook with fresh, seasonal produce at Opheem, so the above doesn't make the cut, but don't knock it until you've tried it!" – Aktar Islam, chef patron, Opheem, Birmingham

"Something I do at home that I'd never do in the restaurant is cook pretty much everything in an air fryer. I know it's not cool, big, or clever, and it's not a fryer as such, but it's brilliant, quick, economical and I love it." – James Chant, creative director, Matsudai Ramen, Cardiff

"I rarely cook at home, to be honest. After a busy few days at work you just want to flop and do the bare minimum in the kitchen – it's something quick and convenient. If I fancy pasta for dinner I'll often buy the pasta and the sauce ready made – something we would never dream to do at work!" – Tarryn Bingle, head chef, the Rectory, Malmesbury, Wiltshire

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