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Even Chefs Make Mistakes Part 2


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This post is a continuation of my WORST mistakes of all time!  These are skills I have learned by way of mistakes.  I hope to never make them again, and prevent you from ever making them in the future!  I even added a recipe that I adapted from non-kosher to kosher.

1.  Knife Skills

Without going into any details in respect for the uneasy reader, I have had stitches, twice, on my hand from the slip of a knife.  Let’s just say I was dealing with a slippery cantaloupe and also decided to cut a parsnip in the air without a cutting board.  These mistakes ended me in the hospital on Shabbat and on my sister’s bat mitzvah.

If you don’t have knife skills or know how to use a knife properly, take classes.  Knives are extremely useful but can be dangerous if in the wrong hands and not used for the purpose they were intended.

2. All Flours are Not Created Equal

One section in culinary school was “The Art of Making Pasta.”  Rolling out the pasta dough was an athletic feat in itself.   It resulted in utilizing anything that could grab the never ending rolled out pasta from falling on the floor.  We were literally wrapped in this thin and tasty dough.  Recently, I made one successful recipe and decided to make another!  I gathered up all my ingredients (or in chef terms mis en place’) and mixed it up.  One problem, It wasn’t holding together!  Confused, I ran over to the flour to grab more and realized I put my spoon into cake flour, not the AP flour sitting right next to it! Cake flour has a lot less gluten then AP flour and therefore, it won’t become as dense; bad for pasta, good for cake. Completely ruined and a waste of ingredients, I dumped it out.  That mistake makes me double check every flour I use, and when something calls for a certain flour, I use it!

I have started my internship at Solo Restaurant in NYC and love it!  My first mission was to create a vegetarian pasta dish and I chose ravioli.  As I tried to conjure up how exactly we made ravioli in school, I related back to my past article about pasta in my blog, AliBabka, titled “Mama Mia.”  Instead of looking at the recipe, I (the chef ) decided to make classic pasta dough like we did in school.  After two batches turned out more on the al dente’ side, I decided I wanted to make something more soft and buttery.  Traumatized by my past experience, I was fearful of wasting ingredients.   Long story short, I ended up making lighter pasta, using cornmeal and some extra fine flour combined with AP Flour.    Without my mistake I wouldn’t have thought to add the regular flour to my cornmeal mixture, it just needed a little boost of gluten!     Mistakes can be made again, but we have to own them and use them to our advantage.  I probably could have saved the cake flour ravioli by adding AP flour too it.  With experience, comes knowledge and I hope some of my knowledge has or will help you.

I also want to share this seasonal potato salad I know you will love.

Red Potatoes with Basil and Chives

I’m not a potato salad kind of gal.  Well at least I wasn’t until I discovered an oil based (not mayo) potato salad.  It can be served warm or cold and doesn’t leave you with that heavy feeling.  The basil and chives really brighten the dish and make it flavorful and fresh!  Reminiscent of a potato salad I made in my non-kosher culinary school, you can throw some crispy smoked beef “bacon” in this salad and really amp up the flavor and add a great crunch!

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About Alison Gutwaks


Alison Gütwaks is a graduate of the prestigious Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan. After many years of experience in the culinary world working as a chocolatier and sous chef, Alison, originally from Columbus, OH, ambitiously made her way to New York City where she received her BA from Touro College and graduated with a degree in Culinary Arts from ICE. As part of attaining her degree in the Culinary Arts, she trained as a sous chef in Solo Restaurant. Alison is former Chef and Event Planner for Celebrations Kosher Catering in East Hanover, NJ,and helped spearhead the opening of the catering company by contributing her innovative and fresh ideas. She recently moved back to Columbus and is currently working as the recipe developer for OSEM, an Israeli based company. One of the things that made her different than most of the other students in culinary school was that she was an Observant Jew and kept the laws of Kashrut. In April of 2012, She was interviewed in a front page cover story in the Greater New York section of the Wall Street Journal showcasing her blog AliBabka and explaining how she was able to graduate from ICE and strictly uphold Rabbinic Law. Keeping kosher in the culinary world has pushed Alison to be extremely creative by substituting ingredients and coming up with new takes on classic dishes. She believes that anyone can cook with a little direction, the right tools, and a whole lot of patience.




5 Responses to Even Chefs Make Mistakes Part 2

  1. avatar says: AlanB

    consider using vital wheat gluten, for adding that extra gluten to any flour

  2. I have given up purchasing any store brand flour for my baking. After years of making challah that turned out hit or miss based on the varying protein levels of those flours, I have decided to only purchase King Arthur, Gold Medal, or Pillsbury flours. And yes, when baking challah, I even add vital wheat gluten to those flours. I have to say that my challah rocks now!

  3. I always add gluten when making whole wheat breads or challah, but never with white flour, not sure why, but I will start. I also had problems making pasta dough with cake flour once, I added some regular flour and kept working it and finally got it, but it was way too difficult. The Italian flour is best.

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