7 Things to Learn from Gordon Ramsay ...

There are lots of things to learn from Gordon Ramsay if you're a home cook – or if you dream of being a chef, really. He's everyone's favorite charming bully – or mine, at least, because I think he's got Simon Cowell beat by a mile. The thing is, he's not a bully. He's loud and brash and bluntly honest, absolutely, but it's because he demands the very best. He demands the best because he truly loves what he does. He might have more fame now as a television chef, but his love for food, well-practiced technique, and innovation shines through. Just remember: of the many things to learn from Gordon Ramsay, telling anyone in your kitchen to eff off probably isn't one of them …

1. Keep It Simple

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Watch any of Gordon Ramsay's shows, and you'll hear him urge chefs, home cooks, and restaurateurs time and time again to keep their menus simple. That goes for your individual dishes as well. It's one of the most important things to learn from Gordon Ramsay because it's a lesson he hammers home all the time. If you do too much, then you can't serve a flawless dish. You'll get too caught up in trying to do everything all at once, you'll probably forget something, and you'll end up with something mediocre – or downright inedible.

2. Find Your Strengths

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Are you a master of baking? Do you cook impeccable Italian dishes? Can you make the best hamburgers in the world? Find your strengths and stick to them. By all means experiment in the kitchen, but make sure you have time. There's no shame in playing to your strengths and branching out from there. Start with spaghetti and work your way up to your own signature Alfredo sauce!

3. Always Taste

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You have to taste your food. It's your responsibility as the cook to make sure that nothing comes out of your kitchen tasting badly. Better that you discover if something has too much salt or not enough pepper, because then you have time to fix it. If your guests discover it, however, there's not much you can do but apologize – and kick yourself for not tasting your food in the first place!

4. Pay Attention to Detail

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The devil's in the details, especially in the kitchen. From the garnish you use to the set up of your plate, you have to think of everything. Fine dining depends on all the senses, and it doesn't matter whether you're serving burgers or Beef Wellington. Create a beautiful meal and you'll feel even more accomplished, because you're serving up the full package.

5. Keep a Clean Workspace

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You may have some garlic skins on your cutting board or a few stains on your apron, and that's perfectly fine. However, you should never cut vegetables on the same cutting board you used to hack up a chicken, your refrigerator and freezer should be clean, you should not have old, moldy food anywhere, and your plates shouldn't look like disaster areas when you serve them up. Some of these practices are dangerous but it's also important to be clean and organized. If you're workspace is too chaotic, you're bound to make a mistake.

6. Be Passionate

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If you lose your passion for cooking, your food simply won't taste as good. Once you've lost the plot or gone off, as Gordon likes to say, your food suffers. What's the point? Don't let yourself get to a stage where you simply don't care. If you do reach that point, realize that it's time to hang up your knives.

7. Never Serve Raw Food

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This goes without saying, but even accomplished cooks accidentally serve up a plate of raw chicken every now and then. Always cook carefully. Learn your temperatures, pay attention to your dishes, and double check everything. An overdone steak isn't pleasing, but it isn't hazardous. Your guests can forgive that, although they might decline your dinner invitations for a while. Put them in jeopardy by serving undercooked chicken or pork, however, and you might end the meal at the hospital, not at the dinner table enjoying dessert.

I love Gordon Ramsay, and religiously watching his shows has helped make me a better cook. Granted, I only cook for Heather, my family, and my friends, but they'll never get any underdone chicken or over-cooked scallops, and I can nearly make Beef Wellington in my sleep now. Do you watch any of Gordon's shows? Has he inspired you to become a better chef?

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