When you cook together, how do you figure out who does what?

Growing up, I was always sous chef.  One of my parents would direct me to clean or chop or get ingredients ready while they did the planning work.

When I first married DH and got him started on his cooking journey, I would have the same set-up– I would be the directing chef and would make him sous chef.  Except his chopping was so slow sometimes I would give up and do the chopping.  We would try to switch roles, but he was terrible at delegating… he would just do everything himself.  During his cooking class, he learned the concept of directing/planning, etc. but he just could not do it in practice.  So I’d stand around the kitchen waiting to be told what to do and that would never come.  I’d have to either be the managing chef or I’d have to actively take over whatever sous chef task he was doing.

These days we’ve settled into a pattern that isn’t sous chef/managing chef at all.  Basically, we both look at the recipe.  I get out the ingredients while he reads through the recipe itself for any surprises (like hour rest/refrigeration times).  Then we both check the recipe and see what needs to be done next and pick and choose what to wash or chop sort of in order, but sometimes I know I skip things I’m not crazy about to let him do it, unless he delays them too long and I end up chopping that onion myself.  There are some jobs that he always does– he’s 100% in charge of any deep fat frying, for example.  I ALWAYS burn myself with splattering grease when I try, and he’s got a protective coating of fur.  Similarly, anything requiring the top oven goes to him because I am too short to use it without burning my arm.  But generally we both chop, we both stir, we both mix.  Sometimes we pour things out of heavy pots together with one holding the pot and the other getting stuff out.  This method is pretty similar to the inefficient but equitable way we handle most things in our household– we’re both responsible so if something gets forgotten or messed up we’re both at fault.  It works for us.

Though, when I cook with my kids, I am the managing chef and they are sous chefs (already DC1 is a fast and uneven chopper!).  For DC1’s one meal a week, zie does everything on hir own following the recipe with some assists from parents as necessary.

Do you cook with someone else?  How do you separate out the responsibilities?

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 21 Comments »

21 Responses to “When you cook together, how do you figure out who does what?”

  1. monsterzero Says:

    We make our own lunches on workdays but otherwise I do all the cooking. Our kitchen isn’t tiny, but it’s badly laid out so it doesn’t work well to have both of us in there. Also I don’t usually work from a recipe so there’s less planning and more “oh look we have this ingredient, I’ll put that in.”

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Badly laid out kitchens are the worst.

      DH has gotten to the stage where he doesn’t always need a recipe. When I’m cooking without one I tend to direct cleaning or chopping. Or we’ll just set things out on the chopping board and it will be obvious that chopping should be done.

  2. Foscavista Says:

    I do the majority of the cooking, but my husband has to do all the cleanup. (Cooking stresses my husband out.)

  3. Miser Mom Says:

    Huh. Even when I was a kid, my family has always pretty much done solo cooking. I hadn’t even really considered the idea of “sous chef”, and I’m kind of impressed that you do that.

    I’ve been smitten by the system that Amy Dacyzycn (of the Tightwad Gazette) described for her family: whoever cleaned up dinner one night cooked dinner the next night. That way, that person had a good idea of how to make the most of what was in the fridge + leftovers. But in my family growing up, we had a chore chart — a different person cooked each day of the week, more or less, and another person did the dishes.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Don’t you have lots of sous chefs when you preserve?

      • Miser Mom Says:

        Oh, yeah, usually I do! I guess I didn’t think of that as “cooking together”, but I suppose it is. In that case, when I work with people in their kitchens, they’re the boss; but we gather in my kitchen, I’m the one issuing directions.

  4. First Gen American Says:

    My younger son has been wanting to cook more recently and my mom was always horrible at teaching….which was always “you’re doing it wrong”, grabbing it out of my hand and taking over, so I try to do the opposite and give him as much hands on time as possible.

    My son gets to be the one mixing the ingredients and doing the steps himself. I will sometimes prep and hand him stuff just to speed things up but I am a fan of hands on learning. It’s amazing how easy it is for a new cook to skip a step in the recipe or do stuff out of order.

  5. K Says:

    So when will you be writing a deliberately controversial post on just how much one’s economic privilege is truly shaping their feelings, actions and language used during this Pandemic?

      • K Says:

        Oh dear, sorry I asked. I guess we are not reading the same things.

        My comment was NOT related to this post, sorry about that. :)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I’ve stopped reading most of the blogs on Ana’s blogroll if there’s something going on there (there was some awful libertarian thing that LV said at some point several years and several babies ago and I was just like, no I cannot waste my time on this anymore… and then the blackface/chick-fil-a things last fall with frugal girl… and… I guess there’s only so much unrecognized privilege I can handle consuming). Haven’t done deliberately controversial posts in a long time either.

        I do like reading blogs of women with privilege, but there’s something very different about xykdemiqz and OMDG and even Ana herself… like they KNOW they’re fortunate and don’t say privileged things that make me cringe (and I LOVE wandering-scientist’s blog, especially her weekend updates on Covid because she’s so good at reading and explaining about what’s going on). But yeah, if I had to read about how privileged people who just don’t think about or can’t even comprehend that regular folks cannot do what they are doing because they don’t have husbands with steady jobs pulling in so much money that even Joe Biden would give them a tax increase are handling the pandemic, I would probably want to claw my eyes out.

        How’s that?

      • K Says:

        And what you responded down below…..phew!! Thank you
        Maybe I will elaborate when I’m not in an active rage response to a work email…

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I’m definitely curious now.

  6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I prefer to either assign specific sous chef duties to PiC or JB, or just do them hours ahead of time so I can cook completely alone. I like the freedom of movement and of zero managing someone else. PiC and my styles are too different and I get resentful of being managed or following instructions these days. I’m a grump :)

    He gets stressed cooking new recipes, I don’t handle sharing the kitchen very well. So I do new recipes alone and he does all the reheats and leftovers management.

  7. bethh Says:

    In the Great Before I’d just gotten into a weekly routine of cooking with a friend who also lives alone – it was great for socializing, and having yummy leftovers for several lunches. He did most of the stovetop stuff, we’d divvy the chopping, and kind of alternated on who was doing which chunks of the recipe. Or we might work on two recipes and each would mostly own one while still subbing out tasks where there was vegetable overlap (like one person dicing onions for both dishes, for example).

    We’re going to start this up again in this complicated time of sort of reopening and I’m really looking forward to having a kitchen accomplice again.

  8. Debbie M Says:

    Generally my group cooking does have a boss and one or more helpers. The helpers may or may not do traditional sous chef jobs like chopping–we try to base it what people like or are good at or just matching what needs to be done next with who’s available next.

    As a camp counselor, I did all of the bossing and none of the cooking–the kids really wanted to cook, so I made sure my hands never touched a thing to maximize their participation.

    As a roommate, usually the helper is the one doing the delegating I guess, by asking “Would you like me to do X?”

    And sometimes there are one or more cooks plus an expert you can run and ask questions of (like the home ec teacher or the knowledgeable parent who is officially not cooking but of course is still available for questions).


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