The POV thing — we use that term a lot. In my own parlance, I refer to that as the warhead. Everything delivers that warhead and that warhead’s got to be the DNA of everything you are, everything you can be and everything you have been. And you’ve got to know what that is. Unless you know what that is, you can’t communicate it to others. A virus can’t replicate itself somewhere else if it doesn’t know what it is. That’s really what we’re talking about — we’re talking about infecting people with something in a way. You’ve got to be able to know what you are before you can do that. And everything else is about delivering that packet of information. Whether you call that a POV, a brand or a mission statement, whatever you call it — it’s what makes you the you that no one else can be. And if you can’t do that and identify it and know how to use it, then you’re not going to make it.
Alton Brown to Sarah De Heer Star Talk May 2014
What type of chef you are and finding your culinary “point of view” or a food niche isn’t as serious and complicated as all that.
And luckily being a Personal Chef isn’t nearly as cutthroat or dire as being booted of Next Food Network Star as Alton glowers in disappointment at you.
If you love food and you’re passionate about cooking you’re already 95% there to knowing your culinary POV.
What’s Your Cooking Specialty?
The easiest place to start is do you have an ethnic or regional cuisine you are most passionate about? If your main thrill is Mexican or Cajun or Southern French, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Polynesian, etc there you go!
Is baking your jam? BAM!
Do you excel on taking prepackaged food and sprucing them up like Sandra Lee?
Is everything you want to cook under 30 minutes?
Are you paleo, keto, Atkins, lectin-free, gluten-free, low-sodium, sugar-free, etc?
Are you a juicer, or into smoothies, or liquid fasts?
Do you wax poetic about the Mediterranean diet, or SPA, or eating healthy and in moderation?
Is vegetarianism, veganism, or raw foods your thing?
What’s Your Food Niche?
Would someone have to pry your dehydrator/grill/air-fryer/smoker/pasta machine from your cold stiff hands?
Is it gourmet all day?
Do you pride yourself on making everything from scratch? Sausage, pasta, jams, ketchup, baked goods?
Farm to table, only what’s in season?
Do you have to have fresh herbs in everything?
So let’s say none of these is really your bag, or pot as the case may be.
You think you’re just a general American cook with nothing really specific that stands out.
Well for starters, if you were in another country that would stand out right there.
But, let’s try to narrow it down.
What’s Your Culinary Point of View?
Think about what you WON’T cook. Octopus, eel, or other exotic-ish seafood? Offal? Do you like to breakdown your own beef?
When it comes to American food, what does that mean to you? Comfort food, old classics dishes, new American, wine country inspired, coastal etc?
Really the only thing that makes what you’re passionate about seem ordinary, is that you’re used to it. Take you somewhere else and make dinner and it would probably seem much more exotic.
I mean jeez, take Thanksgiving stuffing. An American icon, but people get fist-to-cuffs debating what it ‘should’ be.
Bread, cornbread, cubed, crushed, celery and onion, fruits and nuts, oysters, sausage, and don’t even get me started on stuffing versus dressing!
To start distilling what your cooking style is, compile a list of your top 20 or so recipes that are your favorites. Your tried and true, everyone raves about, you’d grab them on the way out of a burning house recipes.
You probably don’t even need the recipes, but you save them to pass down to your kids or just for posterity. Or the cookbook you want to make.
What do they all have in common?
If you still can’t see it, show the list to a friend that doesn’t cook. They will see it in a way you don’t at all.
Need more help? Get my What’s Your Niche cheat sheet here to help you figure out what kind of cook you are.
And let me know in the comments. What is your cooking passion?