These 3 Things Will Make You A Master Chef, According To Alex Guarnaschelli

What is the test of a great chef? Artful plate presentations? Masterfully timing all the components of a meal? Perfectly balanced flavors in every dish? According to "The Kitchen" host and "Chopped" judge Alex Guarnaschelli, it comes down to mastering three things. Guarnaschelli recently tweeted: "A chef I worked for for many years said that the greatest tests of a chef are soups, sauces and salads...@guysavoy"

Guarnaschelli's culinary career began in France, where she studied at the La Varenne Cooking School (via the Food Network website). After graduation, she worked at French establishments, including the prestigious Restaurant Guy Savoy in Paris. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Guarnaschelli said Savoy was one of her most influential mentors. "He taught me how to cook," she said. "He taught me how to think about flavor." Guarnaschelli went on to serve as sous chef at another of Savoy's restaurants, La Butte Chaillot, according to Food Network. It seems safe to assume she mastered soup, salad, sauces, and other skills by the time she was promoted to this position, as the role of sous chef requires excellence in execution (per Escoffier).

Soups, salads, and sauces are basic but important

Alex Guarnaschelli's belief that a chef's greatness can be judged by their soups, sauces, and salads was passed down to her by Michelin-starred icon Guy Savoy. On Twitter, New York Times food writer Eric Kim agreed with Guarnaschelli, saying that a restaurant's green salad has "always been, for me, a barometer for how good a restaurant is, the idea being that if they care about their lettuce, then it's likely they care about the rest."

Sauces are very important for a restaurant chef or home cook. They impart complementary flavor, add moisture to dry cuts of meat, and are visually appealing. Mastering the five "mother" sauces is a critical part of a classically trained chef's development because these are classics in and of themselves and can serve as a jumping-off point for an endless number of other sauces (via Escoffier). 

Similarly, although soup seems simple, "Making a good soup means you have to know what you're doing," according to George Brown Chef School director John Higgins (via Maclean's). The importance of soups was once explained by chef Fergus Henderson of the Michelin-starred London restaurant St. John. "Food has two things it should do: to sustain and to uplift. Both are in the nature of soup." A trained architect, Henderson says soup is the flying buttress of a meal: essential to its structural integrity. Soups, salads, and sauces: Perfecting them will take time and effort, but great meals start with these skills.