Words of Wisdom from Chef Michael Smith and Bacon Candy


12 Dec Words of Wisdom from Chef Michael Smith and Bacon Candy

Eleven minutes and ten seconds into our half-hour interview, Chef Michael Smith uttered the most honest, excuse-free cooking advice I’ve heard in a long time.

I don’t have much patience for those who say they can’t cook. A hundred thousand generations have cooked. It’s a very easy thing to do. Suck it up, buttercup. You can do it!

Oh, I’d love to put Smith and Chris Kimball in a room together and see who emerges unbruised. My bets are on Smith —and not just because he’s 6′ 7″. He just makes more sense.

To support my prediction, compare these quotes from my wide-ranging interview with Chef Michael Smith against Kimball’s no-partying-allowed approach (“Cooking isn’t creative, and it isn’t easy. It’s serious, and it’s hard to do well, just as everything worth doing is damn hard.”)

Many people are scared of their own kitchen because they confuse unfamiliar with difficult.

If you think there’s only one way to do it, failure is imminent.

In Canada, local food is not sustainable in winter. Don’t hide behind mythology… The meaningful connection is not with fields, trees and farms, but with a person.

Stop. Look at your world and do what it takes to get rid of the processed food. Stop mortgaging tomorrow for today.

If  you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it.

Cooking is relentless. Some days I don’t want to do it.

If kids won’t eat anything but Kraft Dinner, it’s bad parenting.

All parents have two weapons in their [cooking] arsenal: Patience and persistence.

Eat dinner together every day – with no TV!

Do you agree or disagree? Do any comments surprise you? Got any to add? I’d love to hear from you!

As further proof that cooking is easy, I’m sharing a super-simple recipe from his latest book, Fast Flavours: 110 Simple, Speedy Recipes (Penguin 2012). Three common ingredients, half an hour, addictive delicious results.

Bacon Candy
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Canadian
Prep / inactive time: 
Cook / active time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 pound
The only thing better than bacon is sweet, spicy, crisp bacon. Bacon candy is an easy way to dress up any sandwich, snack, or salad — assuming you can resist the urge to eat it straight from the baking pan.
  • 1lb (450 g) thick-cut bacon
  • 1 cup (250 mL) or so of brown sugar
  • Lots of freshly ground pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Turn on your convection fan, if you have one.
  2. Nestle the bacon slices tightly against each other in a single layer on a nonstick or parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, evenly coating the works. Top with lots of freshly ground pepper. Bake until the bacon crisps and infuses with sweet caramelized sugar, 25 or 30 minutes. Cool on a baking sheet for a few minutes while the bacon candy hardens. Do your best not to stand there and eat it all -- exercise restraint! Serve and share!
Speed It Up: This is a great make-ahead treat, the sort of thing that's just as easy to make a lot of as a little. Once you taste it, you'll be glad you have leftovers. Make extra and you'll be ready when your bacon craving returns.

From: Fast Flavours: 110 Simple Speedy Recipes by Michael Smith. Copyright © Michael Smith, 2012. Reprinted with permission of Penguin Group (Canada), a Division of Pearson Canada, Inc.


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  • Maggie
    Posted at 20:15h, 12 December Reply

    There is certainly room for both approaches to cooking.

    I like Michael Smith’s approach to cooking – flavour rules. I also can’t argue with any of his comments, especially the one about eating “local.”

    On the other hand, Kimball’s approach helps the people who don’t know a lot about cooking to become more familiar with their kitchens. If they become more confident, they will see that cooking is not as difficult as they thought.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 13:32h, 14 December Reply

      Thanks for weighing in. I like your balanced approach. I suspect Kimball is playing a role when he makes such provocative comments, but it does irk me. On the other hand, many people have learned to cook using Cook’s Illustrated, so I shouldn’t be too hard on him.

  • Angelina
    Posted at 14:17h, 18 December Reply

    I agree with Smith’s philosophy except about picky eating. That may be true in many cases but he obviously doesn’t have a kid with OCD. My kid is an extreme picky eater and it isn’t just tactile issues – food can’t be messy or oddly shaped or touch anything or have the wrong texture or discoloring and flavors often taste off to him one day and fine the next. It’s mental illness, not bad parenting. And when your pediatrician tells you not to make a battle about food because your son’s mental and emotional issues make eating disorders a risk factor for him – you listen.

    I agree with everything he said up until the picky eating comment. I don’t agree with anything Kimball says except that I do happen to love Cook’s Illustrated and the Test Kitchen. I like the information they gather through their rigorous testing. But I do not share his cooking philosophy at all – especially about cooking being serious. I have fun cooking – it’s a pleasure most of the time.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 14:35h, 18 December Reply

      Excellent point! I am going to assume Smith’s comments are aimed at parents whose children do NOT have OCD. When you are dealing with such issues, you are wise to listen to the paediatrician/experts.

      I like how you make a distinction between the information gleaned from rigorous testing and Kimball’s philosophy. I do learn from Cook’s Illustrated, although I don’t always think this always results in “the best” recipe.

      Glad you have fun with cooking. I’m sure your positive attitude transfers to those who sit around your table!

  • Angelina
    Posted at 14:51h, 18 December Reply

    I try to remind myself that people are talking generalities when they speak of picky eating. My son’s issues have been really hard for me – I grew up in a whole grain unprocessed food household (raised by hippies) and my diet is full of fresh unprocessed food. I assumed that because my diet is good (except for too much cheese and beer) my son would be a good eater.

    Anyway – thank you for not being annoyed by my commenting about that.

    I tend to use Cook’s Illustrated as a general guideline. Their idea of “the best (fill in the blank)” isn’t always mine either. I’ve found their reviews very helpful. But philosophically I like what a lot of the newer chefs are doing with cooking – especially emphasizing simplicity and fresh ingredients.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 15:36h, 18 December Reply

      Why would I be annoyed at you sharing your opinion when I expressly asked for it? I’m very glad you spoke up. I know many people deal with OCD eaters and imagine they are thrilled to know they aren’t alone in the daily meal battle.

      I agree that Cook’s Illustrated reviews are helpful — reliable and detailed are big in my books. I often check them before purchasing a small (but expensive) appliance. Due to their rigorous testing, I figure if a food processor / blender / stand mixer can pass their test, it can survive what I throw at it — or in it!

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

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