The 24 in 24: Last Chef Standing Judges Tips for Home Cooks

Food Network

Are you a home cook looking to elevate your culinary skills? Get inspired by the expert judges on 24 in 24: Last Chef Standing! Whether you want to perfect seasoning techniques, improve knife skills, or understand the importance of mise en place, these game-changing tips for home cooks will help you prepare dishes that will amaze even the most discerning palates.


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Seasoning a Pork Tenderloin with Brooke Williamson

Brooke Williamson demonstrates that seasoning a meat dish is not as simple as it may seem. She shows us the art of mastering this crucial step, which can make or break a meal. In this example, it’s a pork tenderloin.

“There are a couple of things to pay attention to when seasoning a piece of meat,” Brooke explains. “First, start with dry, clean hands.” This ensures that each grain of salt actually lands on the meat rather than sticking to your hands.

She recommends using a liberal pinch of salt and evenly spreading it over the meat, ensuring the entire tenderloin is covered without any salt being concentrated in one spot. “[You want to] drop it from a distance that’s not so high that it’s going to get everywhere, but high enough so that it evenly distributes all over the piece of meat,” says Brooke. Then, flip the tenderloin and repeat the process on the other side.

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Next, you want to taste your food as you’re cooking to ensure it is properly seasoned. “Tasting your food throughout the process of cooking is incredibly important because you want to season at every stage of the game,’ Brooke describes. “While we’re checking for doneness, you can always taste your finger and make sure that you can taste that salt. If you taste no seasoning on your finger after touching that pork tenderloin, you want to go back in there and season it further.” She adds, “Under-seasoning can essentially break a dish just as much as over-seasoning. Flavourful food starts with properly seasoned food.”

Knife Skills with Jet Tila

Jet Tila values speed and accuracy in the kitchen, and perfecting your knife skills are among the most important tips for home cooks.

It all starts with how you grip your knife. “The grip is going to determine how fast and accurate you can be,” Jet shares. “It’s called the pinch grip. If you do an okay sign and your thumb and your index are pinching each other, just take that thumb and index and pinch the blade of the knife.” He adds, “If you hold the knife out, it becomes an extension of the arm. That’s why this grip is rock solid and it makes you fast.”


One question you should ask yourself when chopping something like onions or other vegetables is to dice or slice. “There’s two modes of cutting. There’s the French rock which is the down and forward motion. Then there’s more of the Asian cleaver style, which is up and down,” Jet explains.

Whether you slice or dice, you always want to guide and measure with your non-dominant hand, (the hand that isn’t holding the knife). “It’s like a computer mouse,” says Jet. “I always teach the mouse button is going to be the measure of the size of what you’re cutting. And it’s also going to help anchor.”

Another helpful tip is to batch certain actions together. With onions, for example, you cut the tip and tail of all of them first, then peel them before you’re ready to chop. “You should have a giant mass by the time you’re ready to cut onions that are peeled and ready to go,” Jet advises.

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Mise en Place with Bryan and Michael Voltaggio

Mise en place isn’t only for professional kitchens, it’s also a helpful practice at home. Michael and Bryan Voltaggio share why it’s something you should incorporate into your routine each time you prepare a meal.

“Mise en place is everything in its place. But I think for chefs, it’s really about the mental organization and the physical organization that goes into building a dish,” says Michael. “It’s about setting yourself up for success.”

Bryan adds, “We make sure that we have everything set up for our station, every single service. That way, we’re never having to reach far for an ingredient to finish the dish. It keeps the efficiency in the kitchen better, keeps our consistency and our dishes to where we need them to be and where we want them to be.”

Before cooking any recipe, measure out your ingredients and set them up on your counter or workspace in steps that correspond to your recipe so everything goes smoothly. It’s physical preparation, but as Michael points out, it’s also mental preparation that helps you get into the right headspace for cooking.

The tips for home cooks don’t end there, either. According to Bryan, pre-measuring your broth or stock and freezing it in ice cube trays will elevate your kitchen game. “That way, if you need it later, you always have it at the ready. You can crack a couple of those cubes out to finish the pan sauce or fortify something that you’re cooking.”

Related: Michael Voltaggio’s Kale Noodles with Chorizo Breadcrumbs