Welcome to Cafe 4111! A site to demystify the kitchen for anyone who thinks that cooking delicious food is too difficult, time-consuming or expensive. Through this site, I want to take you from thinking “I can’t” to “I can make that!”
I’m Nick and I have NOT been cooking my whole life. I didn’t grow up in a restaurant or on a farm, nor did I start making family dinners at age 13. I didn’t start cooking until I was 23. In college, a gourmet home-cooked meal consisted of pasta, store-bought vodka sauce and chopped up hot dogs (Today, writing that sentence makes me cringe). I figured there would be way too much to learn, plus I would be wasting so much food and money due to my mistakes. I thought a delicious meal was something other people made, not me, and so I left cooking to the chefs.
In January 2017, a switch was flipped and cooking suddenly became an entertaining challenge. Inspired by Netflix shows like Chef’s Table and Cooked and a few overpriced, poorly cooked restaurant brunches, I began turning to my girlfriend (now fiancee!) a couple times a week and saying “we can make that.” Most times, this was met with a “why not, let’s try it!” and sometimes it was met with a “Stop it. No, we definitely can’t.” (Don’t try to make croissants at home unless you are very patient and enjoy infinite failure.) This also corresponded with a phase where I’d give my girlfriend an ingredient-by-ingredient cost analysis to show how much we were overpaying for every restaurant meal. I’m still surprised she didn’t leave me.
Looking back, it makes sense that I got into cooking because I enjoy making things. From Lego spaceships and K’NEX rollercoasters to $5 and 15 Scallops and Zucchini dinners of course! It’s the logical progression. Why? Because creation is the essence of cooking. Every time I cook, I am conducting a short experiment with immediate, tangible results. Every time I step up to the stove, it’s an opportunity to create a dish greater than the sum of its ingredients.
I also love that cooking allows me to give to others. Not only do you get to impress friends and family with what you make, you always get to bring people together. There’s something special about being able to say, “Here, I made this for you.” It implies the devotion of time and thought to someone outside of ourselves which is the most valuable gift we can give. Plus, a shared meal presents an opportunity to put our phones away and have the real conversations that build meaningful relationships.
I do not profess to know it all, nor would I call myself a great cook, but I do enjoy it, and at the end of the day that’s what’s important. A simple recipe for happiness: Spend your time doing what you enjoy.
Let’s knock out some cooking misconceptions right away:
- As with any new skill, there will always be plenty to learn. Through the recipes on this site, you will see that the barrier to learning to cook is surprisingly low. Can you go to the grocery store? Yes. Do you have a pot and pan? Yes. Good. Then, let’s get after it.
- Good ingredients taste good. If you buy organic, local, preservative-free ingredients, your food will still taste good regardless of what you do to it. We can only screw it up so much. Overcooked wild caught salmon? It’s still going to taste like wild caught salmon. Undercooked it? Call it sushi. The point is good inputs = good outputs. Invest in good ingredients and more often than not your results will be good tasting food.
If you have been wanting to venture into the kitchen but don’t think you can or don’t know Where To Start, these recipes are for you. Together, we will tackle everything from the staples to the gourmet and show you simple, delicious ways to cook anything at the grocery store using only standard tools and appliances. There is no experience needed, no barrier to entry, all you need is the desire to learn and you will be successful.
On top of learning a new skill, having fun and impressing your guests, you will also see how cost effective cooking is through an ingredient-by-ingredient cost analysis at the end of each post (all the costs are based on Houston, TX or Amazon prices). Regardless of where you live, I guarantee that when you compare the cost of your homemade creations to the local restaurant’s prices, you’ll come out on top. For example, if you make $0.13 and 20 Minute Espressos from organic, fair-trade coffee beans or $0.10 and 5 Minute Cold Brew, how much money are you overspending at the coffee shop every year? And don’t even get me started on the $2,000+/yr savings from meal prepping just lunches for work…
To get the most out of this site, use it as a guide and not a rulebook. Everyone has different taste buds. So if you want to tweak something, tweak it. Triple the vanilla. Halve the vinegar. Experiment and be creative. And don’t give up on any recipe until you’ve tried it twice!
You can make it!
Ready to get started today? Check out these fun and empowering recipes: