Marcus Samuelsson's Advice For Cooking During The Pandemic - Exclusive

While daily life, meal schedules, and eating habits look a lot different for people all over the world, the Coronavirus pandemic has served to bring us together in the kitchen in a unique and collective way. We may not be very thrilled about it, but eating at home (and cooking at home) is the new normal. Whether with excitement over finally having time to take on the new culinary challenges and adventures that lie ahead, or with utter dread over having to use your stove for the first time, COVID has got most of us in the kitchen more often.

For some, the prospect of having to create most meals by themselves is an overwhelming one, but we've got you covered with some advice from an expert. Mashed sat down for an exclusive interview with acclaimed restaurant chef, cookbook author, and Food Network personality Marcus Samuelsson, who dished out his tips for cooking like a pro during the pandemic and finding some joy in the process along the way.

Make sure you've got your bases covered

All this pandemic-induced cooking is stressful enough for us as it is — don't make things harder on yourself by not having your basics down in the kitchen. Specifically, chef Marcus Samuelsson says two of the most important components to that include "improving your knife skills and getting better pots and pans."

Sounds simple enough; Make sure you've got some good quality pots and pans to work with, as well as at least one really sharp knife. Then, learn how to use that knife like a champ and you're on your way to great home cooked meals. Half the battle when it comes to cooking is prepping all the ingredients — chopping veggies, trimming herbs, slicing meat, etc. A good knife will make those tasks so much easier, so you can get on to the fun part faster. And by adding some good cookware to the mix, you're more likely to avoid a burnt mess, and (dare we say) have a little fun while you're at it.

Make it a family affair

One of the biggest pieces of advice chef Marcus Samuelsson offers up when it comes to cooking your way through COVID-19 is to make it an opportunity to socialize and bond. Samuelsson suggests using your devices to enjoy cooking and eating with your loved ones, no matter where they might be.

"I think actually cooking through FaceTime or Zoom is a great thing to do with your friends and family to stay social and do it collectively," says Samuelsson. He suggests seeing if you can "commit to one recipe that you're cooking and eating in real time." Even if things don't turn out quite as planned, you'll probably still have fun and learn something along the way.

With that in mind, Samuelsson also suggests that cooking with your friends and family could be a good opportunity to try something new together. "Having a recipe that might be above what you normally would do... could also be a great fun bonding experience," he says. Hopefully, the fun you and your loved ones have while cooking will have lasting effects once the pandemic is over, and encourage you to continue to learn together and cook with each other. "When we come back out of the pandemic... you're going to know more than your friends about something or your family, and now you can guide them through that," says Samuelsson.

Get outside your comfort zone

At the end of the day, while being forced to cook more may breed some resentment in the kitchen, the truth is that we might never have this much time at home again. So why not make the most of it, at least when it comes to your meals? Chef Marcus Samuelsson suggests we take this opportunity to "go outside your comfort zone," explaining, "this is the time to do it because you probably have more time to dive into a recipe that you would want to do normally, right? This is a chance to learn a food or a culture that you probably didn't know before."

So while you may be a pasta connoisseur or an enchilada enthusiast already, take a spin around the globe and see what else you can whip up. "If you cooked a lot of Italian food, well maybe it's time to look on the other side of the Mediterranean, maybe go into Moroccan food... or food from Israel or something like that," the chef suggests.

And if your novice culinary mind is spinning from talk of all these different cuisines, that's okay too. Samuelsson says to think of this time at home as your chance to start learning the basics, calling it "a massive opportunity to pick up a skill like cooking that you can now take with you for the rest of your life."

You can see chef Marcus Samuelsson on programs like the Food Network's Chopped and season two of Selena + Chef, streaming now on HBO Max.