Over the course of the year we get to talk to classes of trainee chefs, aspiring cooks, food lovers, and tour groups. While it is easy to impart knowledge about products that we deal with regularly, it is much more difficult to impress upon the attendees the importance of caring, and taking in every detail.
What we try to impress is that the one skill that differentiates the great, more than any other, is the ability to understand, and deal with the sourcing of quality produce. A great chef will try a number of different cheeses with us before settling on their final choice. Others will call, and ask for three new cheeses for their cheeseboard!
So important in this function is the use of all the senses. Touch, look, feel, smell, and taste where possible. Experience will help a lot in this regard, but caring does so too.
Often, in these encounters we find that the people we are talking to will not taste, perhaps an olive, or a blue cheese etc. If you do not taste you can never use the product to it's full potential. And if you are to be a great cook you need to taste all the way!
Another bugbear is when we are asked to match cheese with wine. Off course there are broad guidelines, but frankly there is a huge variability across any given type of wine, and even between different vintages of the same wine, and we cannot successfully pair cheese well without having tasted the wine!
So the message of the week is taste,taste, taste. It's so vital to cooking and food, and so often ignored.