Much like reading sheet music, reading recipes doesn’t do much for lots of us. I just don’t really know what’s going on until I hear the tune or see the food being made. The best way I have found to learn to cook is by paying attention to others who are better than me, and then trying my hand at cooking what they are making myself. Aside from eating in others’ homes, cooking others’ recipes to the letter and trying out exciting restaurants, that’s why I so often turn to cooking shows when I want to feel inspired or learn to make something new.


things to watch

Below is a very small selection of cooking shows I enjoy watching, available to stream on YouTube:


French Cooking at Home, with Laura Calder

Growing up, Laura’s cooking showed me how making time for inviting meals can be a simple but powerful way to elevate the everyday.


Rachel Ama’s cooking videos

Besides her incredible hugs, my grandmother’s Caribbean cooking has always felt like the sincerest way for her to communicate the deep care and love she feels towards her family. Since, like me, she doesn’t care much for measuring ingredients or using recipes, I’ve had to find other ways of discovering the secrets of her classic island flavours.


Barefoot Contessa, with Ina Garten

Happiness in the kitchen and merriment around the table. How bad can that be?


Kenji’s Cooking Show, with Kenji López-Alt

Come for the laid-back and informative home cooking (first-person camera angles included). Stay for the adorable dogs.


anything Mary Berry does, really

I just really like Mary.


Nearly any TV show featuring a chef or home cook puttering about their kitchen and making family food is bound to grab my attention. I personally dislike all the programs that feature extreme competitions, glorify stressful cooking, and rebuke simple dishes or comforting classics — they make me feel edgy and I don’t learn much from them — but if these help you improve in the kitchen, then by all means go ahead and watch away.


things to read

If you prefer to consume words instead of images, but are keen to understand how to make food delicious (and what makes it so, as well as why), these volumes may be a good investment. They certainly were for me.


The Food Lab, by Kenji López-Alt

Are you (even just a little bit) a scientist at heart? If the answer is yes, then you will most definitely enjoy this mammoth of a cookbook.


Salt Fat Acid Heat, by Samin Nosrat

You could also watch the 4-part series inspired by the book rather than reading the book. Or, as I did, you could do both.


Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volumes 1 & 2), by Julia Child and Simone Beck

Unlike many recipes you can find online these days, Julia Child’s were tested and re-tested extremely rigorously. They are also a bit old (like fashion, food has its trends), but its underlying philosophy remains as relevant as ever. That’s why I enjoy reading the book’s recipes as though they are little essays — these days the 20th century book feels more like a reference standard than something one can readily cook from.


Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan

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Quite possibly the only cooking on Italian cooking you will ever need to read. Marcella Hazan was a master, and this book is her masterpiece.


people to talk to

Your family! Your friends! Small business owners around you who are cooking up great stuff! Ask if you can help them cook a meal you love, or watch them cook it, or if they have any simple tips to offer. Sharing meals is more than sharing fuel — it’s also sharing knowledge, sharing love, sharing tradition, culture, experience, and more. Make the most of those around you and learn to share more than “just” the food!