To celebrate our first annual Taste of Fall section, we thought it was only appropriate to speak to an area chef. We chose Chef John Bogan, owner of the Lake Geneva School of Cooking. Located in the historic parsonage connected to the Geneva Village Shops in downtown Lake Geneva, the school is the perfect place for those wanting to improve their culinary skills through hands-on preparation and dinner demonstrations. The school also hosts corporate team building events and private parties to celebrate special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, YOUR CULINARY TRAINING, AND WHY YOU STARTED THE LAKE GENEVA SCHOOL OF COOKING.
I knew I wanted to be a chef at twelve years old. I loved being in the kitchen and cooking with my mother and grandmother. I participated in my high school culinary program and then attended Johnson and Wales University for Culinary Arts and Food Service Management. I started the Lake Geneva School of Cooking in 2008 because at that time, I was the general manager of a restaurant and I wanted to get back to being a chef. I thought this would be a great avenue to continue practicing my culinary skills while incorporating education, entertainment, and sharing that cooking can be fun.
WHAT ARE A FEW SECRETS TO BECOMING A GOOD COOK, AND WHAT ARE A FEW OF THE MOST COMMON COOKING MISTAKES?
The secret to becoming a good cook is “mise en place.” That is the general term for organizing and preparing everything you may need for a menu or recipe. It is essential for success in the kitchen. I find that the most common mistake while cooking is whether on the grill or sautéing, people play with the food too much. Let it caramelize and obtain color because color means flavor.
IF I’VE NEVER PICKED UP A SPATULA OR SAUTÉ PAN, WILL I BE LOST IN ONE OF THE CLASSES AT THE LAKE GENEVA SCHOOL OF COOKING?
Oh gosh, no! Each class offers a variety of beginner, intermediate, and advanced dishes to choose from. My staff and I are always ready to answer any questions and give pointers that will help you during the class and beyond. If you are really “culinary challenged” the wall of wine is waiting for you!
IS IT DIFFICULT TO LEARN HOW TO PROPERLY PAIR FOOD AND WINES?
Just like the other finer qualities of life, the more you practice the better you get at it. You should not be intimidated by trying to pair food and wine. Ultimately, there are certain nuances of food that go together with sweet wines, peppery wines, and wines with high tannins. All in all, it should be a fun journey.
WHAT ARE A FEW OF YOUR FAVORITE DISHES TO PREPARE IN THE FALL?
One of my favorite fall dishes to prepare is a fall harvest risotto. The dish is very versatile because you can add any of your favorite harvest vegetables. Another great dish to prepare in the fall is ratatouille because it is light, aromatic, and flavorful. It has all of my fall vegetable favorites in one amazing dish.
WHAT ARE THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT INGREDIENTS EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE IN THEIR REFRIGERATOR OR PANTRY?
Well, everyone should have the ticket! That is Chef John’s Seasoning. It is the ticket to great food! Each dish needs to be seasoned properly; otherwise, it will never reach its full potential. The seasoning makes good food, great food. The second most important ingredient is extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil can be used from sautéing to dressing a salad. It is something I use in the kitchen multiple times a day. The third most important ingredient to have is butter. Although many people stay away from butter because it is “unhealthy,” I like using real ingredients, like butter, because it adds color and flavor to food.