02/14/2014 01:23 pm ET Updated Apr 16, 2014

How Many Recipes Do You Need to Master Before You Can Call Yourself a (Home) Chef?

First appeared on Food Riot, by Kit Steinkellner

I've had this theory percolating in my brain for a while. Now I know how Darwin and Einstein felt, because my theory is undoubtedly on par with theirs and is almost definitely going to revolutionize the world in basically the exact same way.

Let me throw it down for you. I believe that there is a magic number of recipes that, once mastered, will allow said masterer to confidently call herself a "home chef" as opposed to previously used "I'm learning how to cook" or "I do a COUPLE of things REALLY well." Because being able to cook a couple of things doesn't make you a home chef, it makes you someone who can cook a couple of things. But then what DOES qualify someone to call themselves a chef. If you go to Le Cordon Bleu, the answer is pretty straightforward, you learn the recipes they teach you, you get a degree, shazam you're a chef. Maybe not an employed chef, but you are a credentialed chef. But what about those of us who are self-taught (or taught by very nice grandmas/boyfriends/whoevers)? What if you don't have a certificate, what if you haven't gone through a curriculum -- how do you know when you're officially a home chef?

So I came up with a rough guideline THAT DOES NOT APPLY TO EVERYONE but applies to me and could apply to someone who eats/cooks roughly like I do. But obviously, if your dietary needs are different, this looks different. Everyone's going to have to come up with a slightly different version of e=mc2/evolution for this one (so maybe Steinkellner's Theory Of Home Chef Competency will not match up with the greats after all). That said, allow me to present my list and you guys see what you think.


- 3 breakfast recipes

-3 brunch recipes (brunch is a little fancier than breakfast usually, only 1 of your brunch recipes should overlap with breakfast to prevent cheating)

-3 salads (that can be lunch or dinner salads)

1-2 chicken recipes

2-3 seafood recipes (a filet of something, a shellfish, and then double up on one of the above or be able to do some kind of seafood paella/bouillabaisse/risotto/ whatever).

2-3 red meat recipes (lamb/pork/beef/bison/duck, you have choices here)

2-3 main vegetable-based dishes

2-3 pastas

3-4 sides

3-5 meals you can cook for dinner for the person/people you live with (obviously can overlap with above)

3 meals you can cook for guests to impress and be fancy (again, can overlap with above, but should not overlap with meals you cook on a normal night at home for people you live with)

2-3 things you can bring to a picnic/barbecue/summertime event

3 desserts

3 alcoholic drinks

So we're looking at something like 25-30 recipes mastered (which means you've done it pretty well two or three times) in order to be able to call yourself, in good faith, a Competent Home Chef.

When I tried to explain my theory to a foodie friend over coffee a little while ago, she accused me of being "way too Emily Post about everything." This is neither the first nor the last time I will be accused of this. The perils and pitfalls of having a Downton Abbey heart in the Age of the Kardashians! Still, even if I'm being a little picky with my numbers, I think my point stands. If you can cook the amount of recipes I've listed above (or a similar amount with your own version of these categories), you have mastered so many kitchen skills, you know your way around so many different kinds of foods, were you to experiment with variations of your recipes, because you have the basics down, I imagine you could probably cook a couple hundred recipes well on the first go around (or maybe two) which feels pretty Home Chef Competent to me.

How do you feel about this kind of rubric? How would yours look?

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