Kathleen Flinn: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School

Kathleen Flinn's The Kitchen Counter Cooking SchoolI was very excited to be offered a review copy of Kathleen Flinn’s latest book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School recently. Not only did I love Flinn’s first book, The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, but I had the great pleasure to meet her (albeit briefly) last summer in Seattle at IFBC.  She’s so down to earth and approachable and her writing style reflects this.  I also spent a very pleasant 20 minutes on a line for food chatting with her husband Mike, who introduced himself as “I’m just somebody’s husband, not a blogger” then I found out at the end of the conversation that he was none other than Kathleen Flinn’s husband. “Somebody’s husband” indeed!

So what’s this “kitchen counter cooking school” of which her latest book speaks? Well, it all started when Flinn encountered a woman loading up on processed foods in her local supermarket.  Being a Le Cordon Bleu graduate, Flinn was inspired by the subsequent exchange with this woman where she convinced her to swap the packaged, processed food for real food, to use her culinary training to help a group of nine women find their inner cook.  The students invited Flinn into their kitchens where she started by taking an inventory of each person’s refrigerator, cabinets and eating habits.  The kitchen “makeovers” were followed by a series of basic lessons where they learned knife skills, how to trust their taste and improve their food choices. In this new book, Flinn documents these women’s journeys, including practical, healthy tips to boost readers’ culinary confidence, strategies to get the most from their grocery dollar and simple recipes to get readers cooking. Take a look at the book trailer:

Flinn feels there’s a disconnect in her country (though it’s more widespread than just the US) when it comes to food and cooking. On the one hand, we find the culture of hero-like worship of celebrity chefs and cooking-as-a-spectator-sport television shows. On the other, marketers  have worked for decades to convince people that cooking for themselves isn’t worth their time, and that even simple dishes are outside their grasp. All this explains why one woman in the book told Flinn, “I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve eaten Tuna Helper while watching Gordon Ramsey.”  Yes, we laugh, but I am sure there are so many people who can relate (and hey, even I am not immune!). The rise of convenience food and decline of home cooking have a direct relation to the surge of obesity and diabetes. If people are led to believe they can’t cook, they put themselves at the mercy of companies whose interests are primarily financial to feed them instead.

Flinn believes in the power of home cooking and it’s her mission to help people find their way off the couch and into the kitchen.  And for those of us not lucky enough to attend Flinn’s school in person, she’s teamed up with Rouxbe.com to offer the new online series “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School lessons.”  Check out the free “knife skills” lesson by visiting Rouxbe.com/KitchenCounter and redeem the code “KITCHENCOUNTER” to view the lesson.

For my part, I read this book with great interest.  As many of you know, I teach a once a week cooking class to 9-11 year old boys (Les Petits Chefs) and though my students are pretty young and cannot be expected to know a lot about cooking (yet!), I found myself nodding in recognition as I read the book.  Naming ingredients, tasting them, tasting food as you are cooking to check the effect of newly added ingredients – a lot of what Flinn found herself working on with her adult learners was so similar to what I am working on with the boys each week.  Where Flinn talks about how Julia Child “imparted a more generalized sense of courage for cooks willing to navigate unfamiliar culinary terrain” (p. 167) I found myself nodding most vigorously.  What continues to amaze me about my group of little chefs is their willingness to try new things and their (mostly) complete lack of fear about being in the kitchen (well, science lab, in our case!).  Yesterday, for example, I had five little boys cutting up raw chicken (thighs, no less, so much messier than neat clean breast meat) and I watched them attack the task with great gusto.  No fear (though a few “ewws”) and they just got on and did the job, trusting me that the icky meat would be turned into something delicious in about 30 minutes (it was!).

Flinn’s volunteers sadly don’t have that lack of fear (of both food and the task of preparing it) which is why they all find themselves intimidated by the thought of cooking real food.  They all lack confidence in their skills in the kitchen and ultimately, in themselves.  Flinn’s book is a fascinating look at how she takes the women through everything from knife skills to limiting food waste.  Flinn’s pride in these women’s achievements is evident in her writing – it’s inspirational to watch these women grow and evolve as cooks over the course of the lessons. Indeed, Flinn revisits the kitchens of her students at the end of the classes and all of them have made changes (some more substantial than others) to the way they shop, cook and eat. I know how rewarding it can be to teach (both French and cooking!) so I can only imagine how absolutely stoked Flinn must have been by the success of this project.

The book includes basic recipes and techniques so it’s not just a great read – it’s a must-have kitchen resource.  And honestly, the whole time I was reading it, I felt as though I were there in person, having a coffee, listening to Flinn herself. She has an easy, personable style and addresses sometimes uncomfortable truths in a matter of fact and not at all preachy manner. It’s an easy, yet at the same time thought-provoking read.

To celebrate the release of The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, I am pleased to have one copy of the book and this awesome (and useful!) magnet to give away to one lucky US or Canadian reader (sorry international friends).

The Kitchen Counter Cooking school magnetTo enter, simple leave a comment on this post, telling me the one thing you have learned that has changed the way YOU cook, shop or eat?

For a bonus entry, you can tweet the following:

I entered to win a copy of The Kitchen Counter Cooking School @eatlivtravwrite . You can too! http://bit.ly/nAOCWI

Then come back and leave me a comment telling me you did.

Contest closes Monday October 10th at 6pm EST and I will announce the winner on Tuesday October 11th. Good luck!

*Congrats to Lindsey who entered the “Family Favorites” book giveaway on behalf of her mum in the States. I am sure she will love cooking these healthy recipes!


52 Responses to Kathleen Flinn: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School

  1. Lindsey October 4, 2011 at 05:45 #

    Love the concept of this book! And YES!! I won the other cookbook!!! I will let other people enter this giveaway, but I’m thrilled to have won the family favorites book! I’ll send you my mom’s address =)

  2. Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen October 4, 2011 at 07:04 #

    I have often wondered what happened to her after her first book, which I have and thoroughly enjoyed reading. This concept sounds fantastic and I would be thrilled to receive a copy as one of your followers.

    The one thing that I have learned is that I “can” cook. As a young bride many years ago, I married a man from a gourmet background and I couldn’t do much more than boil water. My husband made me a deal. Just try and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll take you out to eat. On my own, I bought my first cookbook. My first dish was Chicken Rosemary and I chose it because (will you believe) I recognized all of the ingredients. Through the years we’ve had to eat out only a couple of times due to cooking failures. I became an accomplished cook and have won several cooking contests. And only because someone encouraged me to give cooking a try.

  3. Mr. Neil October 4, 2011 at 07:35 #

    I’m a blogger’s husband (sort of) too. I wonder if we should start a support group…?

  4. Liz October 4, 2011 at 07:39 #

    I have learned I feel much better when I cook with fresh ingredients vs processed foods. And my dishes taste better, too!

    Great giveaway~~

  5. Liz October 4, 2011 at 07:40 #

    I tweeted your giveaway~

  6. Debbi Hook October 4, 2011 at 08:00 #

    I tweeted the contest!

  7. Kim Foster October 4, 2011 at 08:53 #

    Mardi –

    Love this. Am very excited to read Kat’s book.

    I, too, was really changed by cooking with kids. I’ve also learned, just from Lucy and Edie, that they will learn to love whatever I’m putting in front of them, eventually, so everything I put in front of them should be great.

    We recently went to @ACookBlog’s house for dinner and he made duck pate. The kids loved it and have been asking to take it in school lunch ever since. It does matter that we’re doing this. Petit Chefs does matter and so does teaching a non-cook how to cook.

    We should all be passing it on.


    PS: I will tweet your giveaway as well!

  8. Rhonda October 4, 2011 at 09:50 #

    I’m one of those people who checks out other peoples grocery carts (I’m known people watcher too). I often see so many prepackaged everything and I think, do they even know how simple it is to make ‘X’ on their own?

    Someone could have a full time job scouring the grocery stores and showing people how to shop and cook! How cool that she actually did it. The book looks like it would be entertaining and useful.

  9. Carol C October 4, 2011 at 09:57 #

    Growing up with a mother who cooked everything from scratch, I learned well. I am proud to have passed this tradition on to my children who enjoy participating in the kitchen, too. My son, a sophomore at Vanderbilt University, and his friends have started a cooking show which is televised at the university. Its purpose is to teach other students that cooking can be easy, enjoyable, and especially tasty (college food gets boring after awhile). I would love to win “The Kitchen Counter” to gift to my son to make him a more knowledgeable cooking educator.

  10. Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. October 4, 2011 at 10:32 #

    When it comes to shopping vs. going out to eat, we’ve learned that by planning our meals out every weekend for that upcoming week, we eat out less. Having food in the house to cook means we don’t have to eat out, thus saving money and eating healthier meals!

  11. Dagny October 4, 2011 at 11:01 #

    I have learned that nothing matters more in the kitchen then confidence! Be confident, tell yourself you can do it, and don’t be afraid of messing up. Sounds like a great book, thanks for hosting the give away!

  12. Paula October 4, 2011 at 11:03 #

    I’m not entering the contest, just want to say what a wonderful review you did of this book and how lovely that you had the opportunity to meet Kathleen in person! While there are many who will benefit from this book, what strikes me the most is that if there were more people like yourself, bringing kids into the kitchen and introducing them to cooking at a very young age then the need for books such as Kathleen’s wouldn’t be as apparent as it regrettably is today. Keep up the great work you are doing with your Les Petits Chefs.

    P.S. As for Mr. Neil’s comment…they are already some support groups for husband’s of bloggers…they are called Golfers and Football Fans…just ask my husband! LOL

    • Mr. Neil October 4, 2011 at 18:56 #

      Two sports I despise, alas…I’m assuming of course when you say “football” you mean American gridiron – not the REAL football…in which case, I’m in. 😉

  13. Steve Zussino - Grocery Alerts October 4, 2011 at 12:23 #

    I have learned that it pays to be organized. Clutter is what gets people in trouble in the kitchen.

    Also a few sharp knives are important.

  14. Ginger G October 4, 2011 at 12:34 #

    … overcoming fear of yeast after watching “I Love Lucy” episode when she baked bread.

  15. Vanessa Schmidt October 4, 2011 at 12:46 #

    Great post Mardi!

    One thing I have learned about cooking is that you have to just do it!! The dish may not turn out, but you should at least give it shot before taking a box of something out of the freezer for dinner 🙂

  16. Cathy A October 4, 2011 at 12:50 #

    Learning how easy it is to make salad dressing by just knowing the basics. (3 parts oil to 1 part acid + herbs and seasonings of your choice) I learned this after reading about how bad store bought dressing is for you.

  17. Joy October 4, 2011 at 15:51 #

    What stuck out in my mind was when I learned how ratios could easily be used in cooking. It helped me have a better understanding in creating recipes and following them also.

  18. heather October 4, 2011 at 18:12 #

    I have learned that what I make is still good even if it doesn’t look like the picture in the cookbook. Its all about the enjoyment I got in making (and eating!) what I tried, and the pleasure other people have when I share whatever I am making.

    +I tweeted as @buttercuphll

  19. Michelle October 4, 2011 at 18:15 #

    I grew up on Kraft mac n’ cheese. When my mom was feeling creative, she would add cut up hot dogs and fashion the dinner into a smiley face on my plate. It was not until college that I learned that was not really cooking. A roommate was kind enough to teach me some basics, and wow, were my eyes opened. The joys of garlic! That was the first step–simply learning how to chop and saute garlic. I’ve come a long way since then, but reading reviews of this book have gotten me excited to take it up a notch–buying whole chickens, making my own bread. I have my own daughter now and I want her to learn a lot more from me than how to make mac n’ cheese.

  20. Stephanie October 4, 2011 at 18:22 #

    I would love to read this book, great review!

    The most useful thing that I’ve learned is to read the recipe all the way through multiple times before even stepping into the kitchen. That way you’re not at a critical step when you discover that an onion needed to be diced or the butter was supposed to be at room temperature.

  21. Stephanie October 4, 2011 at 18:23 #

    Tweeted it! @clock_workLemon

  22. Nicole C October 4, 2011 at 18:56 #

    I have learned that cooking is not an exact science and that it is ok to change the recipe to make it more appealing for my picky eaters. I have also learned at I generally do better with a new recipe if there are pictures so that I can see what the final result should look like.

  23. Nicole C October 4, 2011 at 18:58 #

    I tweeted here: http://twitter.com/#!/ennsee/status/121358454513344512


  24. Rebecca October 4, 2011 at 19:36 #

    Make leftovers! It’s awesome to be able to come home after a long day of classes and just have to pop something in the microwave. I loved her first book, I’m sure this one will be great as well.

  25. Anne October 4, 2011 at 22:18 #

    I have been cooking for a long time and for a while I cooked a lot of complicated time-consuming recipes (this obsession was later diagnosed as a disease that affects many – dissertation procrastination).

    I have learnt that keeping it simple makes life easier and the food is just as good. It is also easier to get your kids to join in if it is.

  26. Ann October 5, 2011 at 01:20 #

    What a great idea and cookbook! The one thing that made a difference to me when I started cooking was someone said, “If you can read – you can cook! Follow a recipe and LEARN!” It’s been a love affair ever since!

  27. Jeannine October 5, 2011 at 09:17 #

    The one thing I have learned (unfortunately several times) is to not be so hard on myself when a recipe doesn’t come out perfect. I remind myself that at least I am trying something new, and now I’ve figured out what to do next time. Cooking is an adventure, not an exact science!

    So excited to read this book! Loved her first and passed it on to my own students (teenagers DO want to learn how to cook and eat well – who knew?).

  28. Jeannine October 5, 2011 at 09:19 #

    I tweeted the contest as well!

  29. amelia from z tasty life October 5, 2011 at 11:47 #

    Kathleen is awesome. I had a chance to meet her at BlogHer and she is coming to my town for a book tour.
    For me, going back to my (Italian) roots, where most meals are comprised of 3-5 ingredients, and shopping “simply” – just what I need for a few meals, less but higher quality-, rather than hording and stocking the entire pantry, has been key to keeping things healthy and real in my kitchen…

  30. Jamie October 5, 2011 at 12:04 #

    I just finished reading The Sharper Your Knife and loved it! I so want this book! I was lucky enough to have breakfast with Kat at IFBC NOLA and she is wonderful! I briefly spoke to her husband and did not even realize who it was until well after he walked away! I am lucky enough to be married to a man who not only is an amazing, fearless, creative cook but one who taught himself while he was in his teens. He taught me not only how to cook but how to shop, select ingredients and to slow down and appreciate the whole process. This is a book I would love to share with my sons!

  31. Jamie October 5, 2011 at 12:05 #

    I tweeted!!!

  32. Hector October 5, 2011 at 12:08 #

    Thanks for the giveaway! I used to cook on whims: if I wanted hamburgers, I went to the store and got everything I needed, but left materials that I wouldn’t use for a long time aging in my pantry. I’ve learnt how to plan my weekly meals better. I try to see what can work together, almost like a wave of meals, creating harmony in my cooking process and allowing me to optimize my pantry and stop waste.

  33. Laurie Ann October 5, 2011 at 12:59 #

    One thing that I have learned about cooking is to trust my instincts. The times I make mistakes are when I second guess myself and my palate. If I relax and let the creativity flow then I usually come up with something really great. I try to cook in a way that leftover ingredients such as vegetables can be used in the next day’s dinner or a soup and to use what’s in season. I’ve also learned, the hard way, that the time to test a new recipe is not when you are hosting a dinner party.

  34. The Slow Roasted Italian October 5, 2011 at 13:27 #

    I have learned more balance and it has changed how I prepare meals. More protein and veggies, less starches.

    Great giveaway!

  35. The Slow Roasted Italian October 5, 2011 at 13:28 #

    I tweeted your message @Slow_Roasted

  36. Tiff October 5, 2011 at 16:48 #

    Sounds simple, but a good, sharp knife makes everything better. Especially when you’re dealing with stuff that needs to be julienned. I love my Global Santoku!

  37. Tiff October 5, 2011 at 16:48 #

    I tweeted, too:


  38. Jason October 5, 2011 at 17:27 #

    I’ve learned a ton about cooking with local, fresh ingredients. My neighbor is a retired chef, and he has taught me so much about so many things, but ultimately, everything boils down to “use local, use what’s in season, and be creative.”

  39. Jason October 5, 2011 at 17:28 #

    Just tweeted the contest! (@archi77) Thanks!

  40. Sarah @ pão e queijo October 5, 2011 at 21:01 #

    What a great book! Up until a few years ago, when I started living on my own, I just didn’t cook. Now it’s my passion and I’m a blogger, too. There have been so many important lessons, but mainly building up technique through experience and learning to cook intuitively.

  41. Sarah L October 6, 2011 at 01:18 #

    I’m not sure if this is a cooking lesson, exactly, but one important thing that I’ve learned is that I need to think up a meal idea before I buy groceries. If I just buy ingredients that look good, I end up a few ingredients short for everything.

  42. Beth October 6, 2011 at 05:14 #

    One thing I’ve learned is to teach my kids to cook. They’ll need to look after themselves when they’re on their own. Great contest!

  43. penny aka jeroxie October 6, 2011 at 08:37 #

    I love her first book too! Will be checking this out on Amazon.

  44. Whit @ Whit's Amuse Bouche October 6, 2011 at 13:08 #

    What a great concept for a book! In my weekly cooking classes I come across the same thing, women who feel afraid to trust themselves in the kitchen. So glad to see it’s a trend we can all work towards fixing!


  45. Whit @ Whit's Amuse Bouche October 6, 2011 at 13:10 #

    And tweeted, Mardi!

  46. Lindsay Murray October 6, 2011 at 22:13 #

    Moving away from my grocery store and into the farmer’s market has made the biggest difference in how we view, cook and eat food. Last winter, we undertook the 100 Mile Challenge and it was fascinating to see just how much was available to us, but just how accustomed we were to buying what we want, when we want it. We realized by making food from scratch, like crackers and pasta, we ate a lot less of it and we cooked it perfectly, savouring each bite. Now, we buy local meats, fresh goat milk, breads and have a veggie CSA, which means our grocery store visits are significantly less.

    The book looks great and I’d love to check it out. I upped my chances with a Tweet. 🙂

  47. Amy Kim October 9, 2011 at 15:42 #

    I’ve learned that home-cooked food always always ALWAYS tastes better and that I feel a whole heck of a lot better feeding MY food to my kiddies!

    Thanks for your book review!

  48. Cindy N October 10, 2011 at 13:22 #

    I have learned that much of what is found in the grocery store is NOT actually food bit rather processed food-like products. Further, if it has a health claim, steer clear!

  49. Cindy N October 10, 2011 at 13:24 #

    I tweeted the giveaway info at https://twitter.com/cinnymom/status/123448451810865153

  50. Renee October 10, 2011 at 14:58 #

    I tweeted this giveaway as eater111

  51. Renee October 10, 2011 at 15:04 #

    Being part of a CSA has changed the way I cook. I incorporate more and more veggies into my menus. Any recipe can be adapted to contain added vegetables. I also have to prepare veggies more simply, due to the sheer volume I have to process. I love Kathleen’s first book. I did not know she had a new one out.

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