Chef Antonio Ruiz Says You Need To Stop Being Afraid Of Salt - Exclusive

Back in 2010, not everyone was on board when legislation was passed that required restaurant chains to post nutritional data (via The New York Times). Corporations figured that when readily confronted with just how many calories, grams of fat, and milligrams of salt a given meal contained, many health-conscious consumers would eschew ordering certain menu items. While that may not have fully borne out, what's certainly true is that most of us use far less salt in our home cooking than professional chefs do.

And surprise, surprise, but that's one of the major reasons restaurant food tastes better than yours. You don't need to unscrew the cap from the salt shaker, but according to chef Antonio Ruiz, who has headed multiple kitchens and recently appeared on "Hell's Kitchen: Young Guns," far too many home cooks are using far too little salt to have much hope of making much that's all that tasty.

During an exclusive interview with Mashed, Ruiz dished on salt and the mistake amateurs make by avoiding it.

Make the most of every meal you cook

"So for home chefs, I think the number one thing that I've noticed [is] everybody being scared of salt," Ruiz explained. "Even just seeing at restaurants, when I came back from 'Hell's Kitchen' and I was cooking at my restaurant, I had gotten plate after plate after plate coming back like: 'Oh, this is too salty. This is too salty. This is too salty.'"

After his turn on the cooking competition, Ruiz was more committed than ever to making the best dishes possible at Texas Bistro, the restaurant where he works in New Braunfels, TX. And he hopes home chefs can find some inspiration to take their cooking up a level.

"I think people have to understand," Ruiz said, "when you're cooking at home, don't be afraid to grab some lemon juice, don't be afraid to grab some white wine, don't be afraid to grab some black pepper, just basics ... don't try to reinvent the wheel." He went on to suggest that the biggest difference between your homemade beef Wellington and chef Gordon Ramsay's version is the balance and effort put in. "He's looking at salt, he's looking at acid, he's looking at every single part or that dish."

And that approach need not apply only to "fancy" dishes, the chef added. "You can take that same philosophy and take it to anything you want at home, whether you're making spaghetti, whether you're making lasagna ... You want to make sure that the acid's there, the fat's there, the salt's there, and don't be afraid to over-season them. There is a time where obviously if it's too salty, it's too salty to them, but don't be afraid of that salt."

In order to keep up with the young chef, follow Antonio Ruiz on Instagram. Check out his work with Our Commitment that's geared toward mental health support for hospitality industry workers.