RECIPE FREE | Cooking with the Senses

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WHAT is Recipe-Free Cooking?

I was first introduced to a free-style kind of cooking by my younger brother when I was about 22. He could go into my sad excuse for a fridge holding whatever groceries I had mustered at some point in the week but that had now gone bad, and miraculously make a meal for two. I would actually be amazed. How does one just COOK a dish with whatever one has on hand?! WITHOUT recipes, grocery shopping, laboring over ingredients and quantities and methods.

Years later I would meet my Hubby, and his best friend Chef Fong. He is the truest form of ‘Chef’ I personally know. I doubt he’s even ever read a recipe. He has a magical way of understanding food on levels I’ll never attain. On a trip to Italy a few years back, I would watch in awe while he took two bites of a dish and start listing off every herb, spice and fat therein.

Most recently I joined a group of online cooks through La Peetch Cooking School in Southern France, just north of Cannes. I’ve been learning more and more about this thing called Recipe-Free Cooking, and am loving every moment.

So, what is it?

Cooking with the Senses

I like to call it Cooking with the Senses. My brother, lacking in actual culinary experience, would use his eyes and his mind. He would look and assess and imagine flavors mingling together. Chef Fong smells and tastes. Makenna at La Peetch uses them all – listening, smelling, tasting, touching, seeing – at every step while building a dish or a menu.

Can anyone achieve this style of cooking?
YES! I believe so. But, like anything, it can take training if you don’t come by it naturally.
I sure don’t, and I’m sure I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to learn – but at least that life will be delicious.

‘a set of IDEAS for making a LOT OF THINGS.’

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WHY Cooking without Recipes?

The word RECIPE in the dictionary means

‘a set of instructions for making something.’

Sounds rigid. Inflexible. For something extremely technical, it’s perfect. For everything else? I’d prefer something along the lines of

‘a set of IDEAS for making a LOT OF THINGS.’

I love the idea of being able to create on the spot, dishes that make sense with whatever’s on hand or in season or growing in the garden. To be able to improvise and change up flavors and never get bored by a menu item or a particular food. I like building a library in my mind – and tummy – of flavor combinations, methods, techniques, and learning how to blend and re-blend them.

Want to join me?!

TIPS for Cooking with the Senses

1. Get a handle of the BASICS
Follow our TIPS
Join an online Masterclass – or two!

Attend a local ‘Basics’ Class

2. Approach food like you’re building with blocks

Have a base ingredient and play with Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat + Umami around it

(thanks, Samin Nosrat!) for taste;

Use color, smells, and all your other senses.

3. Don’t be afraid to fail. Make notes, try again.

4. Memorize basic ratios for success, such as in a roux or sauce or as in a quick batch of fresh pasta

5. La Peetch suggests working with ‘contrasts + compliments’

6. Do you travel? (Covid-pending) Take classes abroad! Experience and learn flavors and spices from all over the world.


For someone – like me – it might take awhile to truly be comfortable cooking without recipes. For some it might be an easy transition. Either way, just keep cooking!


I’m excited to hear what you think!?
Ready to go??

Follow along with my Story of Belonging. Not only can you read stories of how I’ve come to find an ever-evolving place of belonging in the Kitchen, all sorts of Recipes and Non-Recipes follow each chapter. Perhaps it will encourage you to find your own Kitchen adventures!