You don’t have to know how to cook to be a food blogger but you’re missing out


I do love to cook for friends

An alert reader, P.Shihui, forwarded to me a rather angry blog article titled “Must a Food Critic Know How to Cook?

Obviously, according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, the answer is no but the blog entry goes on at length to justify why a food critic does not need to know how to cook.

My first impression was: I don’t think a food blogger is automatically a food critic and wow, someone’s feeling very insecure.

I won’t go into the blog post itself because it’s rather tedious but I’d like to share my thoughts on the joys of cooking and how it makes me, I feel, a better food blogger.

Gai Pad Krapow!

Gai Pad Krapow

One of the my life principles is self-reliance and it comes from a quote in my favorite Robert A. Heinlein novel:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

– Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

Of course, one of the motivations to cook a tasty meal is that I get to eat a tasty meal. So cooking has been pretty much a part of my life.

My fondest memories of my parents is spending time in the kitchen with them either frying a steak with dad, making char siew pao, or simply marveling at the tremendous amount of work my mum puts into making Kueh Lapis.

With the knowledge and experience from cooking, I marvel at the techniques, the skill, the creativity and the care that goes into creating a dish. I become a more mindful eater.

Raw Octopus marinated in Minced Parsley, Sea Salt, Black Pepper and good Olive Oil...

Raw Octopus marinated in Minced Parsley, Sea Salt, Black Pepper and good Olive Oil

And being a mindful eater, you appreciate a dish in different dimensions: how each ingredient interacts with the other and how cooking melds the flavors. Basically, you’re able to tell Rosemary from Thyme and Shit from Shinola.

I think the multi-dimensional thing comes in handy especially when talking to chefs and cooks. I see a baker just die a little when a food blogger gives a ham-fisted comment like a particular pastry is too sweet. I think somewhere a kitten dies too.

There are people who say that you can get by with just reading up and using the technical cooking terms in your writing. They are right up to a certain extent but again, they are missing out on the full experience. That knowledge is incomplete.

And it will show in the writing. Needless to say, my favorite food blogs are usually writers who can cook.

I need to tidy up my workspace...

I don’t have a kitchen, it’s a small cooking galley that makes my butt look big

Cooking is a skill that is worth learning, it’s not expensive but the pay-off is significant in that it can be another expression of love and it opens a new dimension of experiences and as a person and a food blogger, that is no bad thing. And finally, having some experience in cooking will, probably, prevent you from writing something like this:

Churrascaria has long been associated with the roasting of poorer quality meats for hours till it becomes so tender, ideal for the masses with the limited budget.

– Hoongy,

Soba So Good

Chilled Soba with Honey-Ginger sauce

Tea-Smoked Eggs (Interior)

Tea-smoked Eggs

Egg In A Basket

Egg in a basket

Making Blueberry Sauce for my Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Making Blueberry Sauce for Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream


Practicing Chopping Matchstick Ginger

Braised Oxtail in Red Wine Jus Raymond Blanc

Braised Oxtail in Red Wine Jus


Edamame Pasta with Parsley Pesto


Vinegar Pork Trotters


Cured Hamachi


Posted on 13th Jun 2012 in Food and Drink, Fun, Musings


There Are 10 Comments


Bern commented on June 13, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Agreed. While not being able to cook doesn’t automatically disqualify you as a food blogger / critic, a sound knowledge of how flavors work together, that only a seasoned cook will possess, is undeniably advantageous in critiquing food.


DSD commented on June 13, 2012 at 9:21 pm

I agree!!!


FoodieFC commented on June 13, 2012 at 10:22 pm

well, written. time to pick up the apron!


Jacob commented on June 13, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Brilliant article! You put it out in a great way.
By the way, never mind the butt, my eyes popped at the sight of those 3 chunks of meat!


imp commented on June 14, 2012 at 1:28 am

i also agree. but…i dunno how to cook. *hangs head in shame* Will stick to eating! then, i’m no food blogger. WOOT.


yixiao commented on June 14, 2012 at 11:19 am

good post, ivan!

though i have yet to find my bearings in the kitchen, i belueve knowing or learning how to cook humbles one =)


yixiao commented on June 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm


spelling ugh.


bookjunkie commented on June 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm

It’s the very reason why I enjoy reading your blog so much and also why I don’t consider myself a food blogger 😉 I can’t cook for nuts and one day I should buckle down and learn but I guess you have to have an innate passion for it.


ivan commented on July 10, 2012 at 11:15 am

@bookjunkie, imp and yixiao: Start small and easy and I promise you there is no greater joy than seeing your loved ones tucking into something you made.


CF commented on April 9, 2013 at 11:58 pm

Really hits the spot! And I have to say your food + photography looks more than amazing. 🙂

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