The Mistake Amateur Cooks Make That Chefs Can't Stand

Most people can step into the kitchen, follow a recipe, and produce a result that's edible — even enjoyable. However, it takes a special quality to command a kitchen and create something out of thin air and the ingredients around you. In a 1983 article, the New York Times compared such people to skilled distance runners or musicians. An understanding of basic principles is required, as is a hefty dose of creativity. Sure, you can study those principles and commit them to memory, but the ability to apply them to diverse circumstances and sets of ingredients requires an innate flair for culinary invention.

This inherent quality separates chefs from cooks, according to CulinaryLab Cooking School. Chefs possess both a learned understanding of flavors and cooking techniques and can execute a dish without following instructions. Cooks, on the other hand, typically follow a recipe that's already established.

There are certain cooking secrets chefs learn at culinary school that cooks at home are simply not privy to. If you're in that boat, there's one amateur mistake you should try your darndest to avoid, as it can be quite annoying to chefs.

Toss the recipe and get creative

The innate qualities of a superb chef can be harnessed with a dose of creativity and invention. Great chefs aren't limited by rules and recipes, according to Food Network's write-up of José Andrés' advice to graduates of George Washington University. In fact, Eat This, Not That, reported, some can become downright irritated when they see amateurs following recipes to the letter.

That's because chefs don't always have exactly what they need on hand, which means they have to improvise according to their circumstances. If you're adhering to a recipe verbatim, it can be hard to adapt in such situations. The key is to understand what role is being served by the ingredients called for in a recipe, per Purewow. Once you know that, you can understand how to substitute. You can also then customize a recipe to fit your specific preferences.

This is a potential danger of meal kits, at least according to some chefs (via Huffpost). However, they can be a good place to start for the beginner who still has a learning curve when it comes to flavors and techniques in the kitchen.