- Former White House Chef Andre Rush spoke with Insider about cooking tips and mistakes to avoid.
- Overbuying and over-seasoning are some of the most common mistakes home chefs make.
- The mise-en-place method is a helpful way to organize whether you’re cooking for a few or many.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In addition to his work in the gym, Rush has years of experience in the kitchen as a chef and sommelier.
While speaking with Insider about his partnership with Southern Comfort for the brand’s new Trail ReMix – a snack mix that includes whiskey-infused jerky, chocolate, and peanuts – the chef shared some of his best tips for home cooks.
Read on to learn his favorite easy recipes, cooking mistakes to avoid, and advice for feeding large groups.
His favorite breakfasts are packed with protein and never ‘boring’
Rush told Insider he doesn’t understand people who don’t like breakfast or think it’s a boring meal.
He likes to start his day with plenty of protein. One of his go-tos is an energy drink he described as “kind of like a meal replacement” with “all of the essential energies.” It contains oats, quinoa, amaranth, super grains, heavy-pour yogurt, and organic peanut butter.
He also said he’s a fan of bacon and eggs.
“I do a lot of eggs in the morning, usually a whole one and then the rest I’ll do with the whites. I always do soft-boiled,” Rush told Insider.
To keep breakfast interesting, the chef said, he also enjoys making “whimsical” dishes like “protein crepes.”
For cocktails, he suggested making your own simple syrups instead of buying them
When it comes to mixing drinks at home, Rush recommended making your own syrups rather than using pricey store-bought versions.
He also crafted some simple-syrup recipes to pair with a whiskey like Southern Comfort, including a honey syrup made by simmering honey and water over medium heat and a marshmallow syrup made by dissolving sugar and marshmallows in water over medium-high heat.
Alcohol can also add dimension to a number of dishes
If you’re looking to try something new in the kitchen, Rush suggested experimenting with infusing alcohol into your dishes.
“I like to think out of the box because a lot of people don’t necessarily know how to do pairings with food and liquors, especially if you actually put those liquids inside food,” he said.
Rush typically infuses red meats, like venison, elk, beef steaks, or bison, with alcohol. He also uses it to add flavor to chicken and seafood.
If you’re not ready for savory cooking with alcohol, try to flambé fruit, like in a bananas Foster dessert, or spike homemade whipped cream to add a twist to your dishes.
Rush said every home cook should know how to break down a whole chicken
Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned in the kitchen, Rush emphasized that every home cook should know how to break down and use an entire chicken.
He said you should utilize every bit of this “versatile protein,” including using the bones for stocks, broths, or sauces.
“Everything can start from that foundation of just knowing the principles of breaking down a whole entire chicken and using it the correct way, that you can turn into a couple of dozen dishes,” Rush added.
Doing this yourself can also save you money at the grocery store, where you pay for the convenience of having meats prepared for you.
If you’re cooking for a large group, plan ahead and do your research
Even if you’re not cooking massive White House dinners like Rush has, you still need to plan ahead to make food for big groups.
“You can make the most expensive-tasting and -looking dish with the least amount of money if you only do your research,” the chef told Insider.
He suggested going over who your audience is before deciding what and how much you need.
After you’ve done the grocery shopping, he suggested prepping some food three or four days ahead of time so you’re not doing everything the day of the event.
The mise-en-place method can be a lifesaver in the kitchen
Whether you’re cooking for two or 20, you should get your ingredients measured and ready before you start.
This is often referred to as the mise-en-place method – a French phrase meaning “putting in place” or “everything in its place.”
“I tell people go ahead and get your ‘mise en place,’ get everything together, know your audience, what you have, and then also prep days ahead of time,” he told Insider.
He said one of the most common cooking mistakes is overbuying
Planning ahead can also help prevent overbuying – one of the most common mistakes Rush said he sees home cooks make.
Before you shop, determine how many people will be dining and break down the ingredients you need per person.
For example, if you’re serving wine, figure out how many glasses you can get out of whatever size bottle you’re buying before you decide how many to get.
This can help you save money and reduce your waste at the end of the night.
Over-seasoning is the ‘worst’ mistake a home cook can make
Rush said most people tend to over-season, rather than under-season, their dishes.
“Another big thing people do is they overseason their food. That’s the worst, worst, worst possible thing they could possibly do,” the chef told Insider. “I tell people you can always add to, but you can’t take away.”
Know your culinary capabilities, and establish the basics before trying new challenges
Trying new things in the kitchen is the key to learning and progressing, but make sure you practice the basics first.
“I make things look simple all the time and they’re like ‘Oh man, chef, how did you do that?’ It’s simple to me because I’ve done it a lot of times …,” he said. “But you’re trying to chop the same way I’m chopping, or you’re trying to tie the same way I’m tying, but you didn’t practice on it.”
He went on to say that working above your skill level can often lead to injury. Before you try an elaborate meal with a lot of prep work, make sure you know how to properly, safely hold a sharpened knife.
“One of the simplest things people do in the kitchen is they don’t have sharp knives,” he said. “They don’t know how to hold their blades when they’re cutting things, they don’t know how to claw it.”