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Health Hack #27 - Ingredient Driven Cuisine - Simple At Home Cooking Advice

Cooking During Quarantine

For many, quarantine has brought back the American pastime of daily cooking. I grew up in a household where cooking was a rarity, and just last week my mom acknowledged that she’s cooked more in these past two months than she has in the past five years combined. With restaurants compromised or closed, home cooking has become one of the swiftest ways to acquire a quality meal. It’s also an opportunity to maintain recommended social distancing, and for virtually all who have been relegated to working from home, it represents something to do, in a life now filled with more boredom and restlessness than ever before.

Now more than ever, cooking at home is fairly easy. If you’re a reader of this weekly article then you have the internet, and with the internet you have access to countless amazing recipes, all free and easily accessible. It’s not hard to find a recipe that appeals to your tastes and complies with ingredients that you have available. With the appropriate amount of time and resources, all of us can become chefs to some degree.

Personally, I find cooking from a pre-designed recipe at home to be a tad boring. Granted, there’s a time and a place, and when trying an entirely new method of cooking or type of food, I’ll generally gravitate towards a set recipe. But more often than not, I’ll allow for some experimentation. Combining flavors that seem to have synergy, tasting and tweaking as I go. Sounds like a chef-y approach, but I am not a chef. There are a great deal of basic fundamentals that all noteworthy chefs possess, and I’m always impressed when I pitch some ideas towards the chefs in our restaurants and watch as they make very choice alterations that almost always improve the finished product. But despite lacking that knowledge and training, I think my wife would agree that I’m still able to pull off some pretty nice scratch made meals. Much of this has to do with a certain ethos that we’ve slowly (and in some ways unknowingly) cultivated within Real Food Eatery since its inception.

Ingredient Driven Cuisine

Ingredient driven cuisine. This is a term coined by our co-founder, John, after about a year or so in business, once we began to better articulate how our approach to food differed from that of most other restaurants. Ingredient driven cuisine, as opposed to chef driven cuisine. It wasn’t something that we were innately conscientious of in the beginning, but as we began to define it further, it appeared that it had been with us all along.

Ingredient driven cuisine - allow the food itself to do the bulk of the work; worship whole foods and real ingredients, and let the real food relish in the spotlight.

Chef driven cuisine - allow the individual to do the bulk of the work; worship style and flavor, acknowledging that nutrition and wellness may not always remain paramount.

We worship whole foods at Real Food Eatery, and our approach to cooking is to allow them to shine. Use strictly natural ingredients, like spices and herbs. Remain hyper-diligent of using only the highest quality cooking oils, which for us equates to First Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for a dive into why we choose this particular oil, learn more from our previous article here.). Employ cooking techniques that preserve the integrity of the food being cooked.

Chefs provide the true magic in kitchens, and this is by no means a declaration that their approach is faulty. However there is an inherent danger within chef culture, which lies in priorities. In many cases, first and foremost, the objective is to dazzle. Ironically, it’s often as they’re pulling off this act of magic in achieving that umami flare that nutritional integrity tends to fall by the wayside. But when you impose restrictions on the ingredients that you allow yourself to use, suddenly the compulsion to add something suspect goes right out the window. What’s the most effective way to stop yourself from adding a bit of table sugar to a recipe that you’re aiming to sweeten up a bit? Be sure not to have any table sugar in your kitchen!

Employing This Ethos From Home


Select a whole food that you’re starting with, or if you’re going for a medley (like a stir fry or a salad) then you may start with multiple whole foods. Know that these are foods that you’ve had and love, and allow them to do the bulk of the work for you. You’ll aim to season them, not adulterate them. Two very different approaches.


There shouldn’t be a natural spice or herb that is off limits. Find a selection that both seems to make sense with the foods you’re preparing and jives well with your tastes. Be adventurous, but don’t hesitate to do a bit of research first. Online recipes can serve as a great starting point, providing a nice baseline to begin with, leaving you the ability to deviate and experiment without ruining everything. I'll often start with one recommended spice and then play with some additional ingredients. Consider salt a component of virtually every recipe, and pepper as well if it suits your fancy.


We swear by oven roasting our veggies, but there’s a variety of ways to cook, and roasting isn’t typically the most expedient. Sautéing, steaming, and pan frying are faster methods, and ones that happen to allow for much more tweaking as you go, as you're able to sample your work in progress and add new ingredients as you see fit along the way. Pro-tip - olive oil has a relatively low smoke point, so if cooking at high heat for short durations, you’ll want to consider some alternative, more heat stable cooking oils. Avocado oil and ghee (clarified butter) bode well here, in place of the more universal canola oil that we recommend staying away from (The Lowdown on Cooking Oils). But when oven roasting, the almighty EVOO is always a great choice.

4. ENJOY! (hopefully)

Knowing when to stop cooking is simple - taste the food! If you’ve achieved a desired texture, then you’ve likely reached the finish line. And even once cooking has ceased, it’s not too late to improve the flavor. Not quite savory enough? Adding a bit more salt can never come too late.  

Hopefully you find that the fears of being an at home chef are overblown. When you allow real ingredients to do their thing, you’ll find that they possess some magic in and of themselves. If interested in using any of our recipes verbatim, or using them as your baseline from which to deviate, feel free to contact us here ( and we’ll be more than happy to share.