WDET At Home: Cooking Like A Pro During COVID-19

Mabel Gray Chef James Rigato joins CultureShift’s Ann Delisi on tips and tricks for first-time cooks, knife enthusiasts and more.

Michigan may be at-home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have world class cuisine. 

Chef James Rigato runs Mabel Gray in Hazel Park. He joined CultureShift fo “WDET At Home,” special programming focused on helping our audience do more from their domiciles. 

Rigato stresses that much of what is available to top chefs is available to you too. 

“Whole duck, bass, wild fish, the items you see in higher-end restaurants are available,” Rigato says. Even lobster can be ordered.

Click on the player above for the full conversation on cooking at home, and read insights below.

Chef James Rigato’s Cooking Tips

1. Diversify Your Palate

Rigato says to explore the Asian pantry for staples that pack flavor but last a long time: Fish sauce, soy sauce and Gochujang Hot Pepper paste are some examples.

For recipes, Rigato recommends the New York Times Cooking and Martha Stewart as they are vetted sources. 

2. Add Some Herbs and Spices

Rigato says the right spices opens up “endless possibilities” in cooking.

His single spice of choice would be Chaldean curry sold at places like Babylon Market, but also recommends smoked paprika and turmeric to start. 

Step-it-up: Buying whole spices in bulk fo a cheaper and fresher alternative to buying expensive pre-processed spices. Rigato recommends purchasing a cheap coffee grinder to 

For herbs, Rigato says learning to preserve certain herbs could help them last longer. He recommends rolling them in a paper towel, dampening it with a spray bottle, and then storing them in another sealed container in a crisper. Basil does not store well and should be picked fresh for meals. 

Step-it-up: For some herbs, like cilantro, buy a dehydrator and store it as a powder. It is better to dry a herb and fold it into a chicken rub than store it fresh. 

3. Don’t Throw Away Your Greens (Unless It’s Moldy)

Food waste is a big problem in the U.S., so do what you can to use everything you purchase. 

Rigato says a lot can go into maximizing your grilling and storing food for later. 

“Once you have the grill going, think about a whole week’s worth of grilling flavor. Try and have a grill day,” Rigato says.

For some leafy greens like spinach that can start to wilt, you can try making a salsa verde, pesto or chimichurris sauce — or throw them in a soup or roast them with salt. 

“Roast them on high heat with olive oil and salt, they’ll be delicious,” Rigato says.

4. Sharpen your Knives

Rigato says to avoid going to boxed-sets of knives, instead getting knives as you need them.

“I know a lot of chefs that are two-knife chefs, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Rigato says. 

A Chef Knife is a great, all-purpose knife he recommends. He recommends purchasing restaurant-worthy equipment from korin.com, and to take your knives to grocery stores or Farmer’s Markets for sharpening. 

Most importantly, never put your knives in the dish washer.

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  • Ann Delisi
    Ann Delisi hosts Essential Music, the Essential Conversations podcast series and the Essential Cooking broadcast and podcast. Born and raised in the Motor City, Ann is a broadcaster, interviewer, producer, music host, storyteller and proud Detroiter.
  • WDET At Home
    "WDET At Home" is a special program during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist our audience in learning new skills they can execute from the comfort of their domestic abodes.