The “Flavor Crank” Newsletter
by Chef Johnnie

“Setting Up Your

Kitchen To Cook”

Chef Johnnie’s Guide to a perfect space to cook in…

Your cooking area…
Your cooking area is very important. You should make sure it is always clean and that everything you need to cut with or stir with, etc. are within arms reach.

You should have a nice large wooden cutting board as well as a couple of plastic and easy to move around and wash cutting boards also. You will want to cut and season your poultry items on a different plastic cutting board then you would use for your vegetables or red meats. I usually have my cutting area right next to the sink which allows me to quickly wash my cutting boards and tools if needed.

Also in your cooking area you will have your stove and refrigerator. Hopefully on the counter right next to your stove you will have a large vessel or container that can hold all of your cooking utensils like, metal spatulas, rubber spatulas, stirring spoons that are wooden and plastic, two pairs of tongs, a spider for draining ravioli from a pot of boiling water, etc. You want to be able to reach for what it is that you may need at a moments notice without having to take a few steps in another direction to grab what you need. It’s more efficient if everything is right there. It’s safer, especially if someone else is in the kitchen behind you and it is much faster and more convenient. It will also be good to have a place to hold a lot of clean dry dish towels for holding hot pots or pulling items from the hot ovens, wiping down your surface areas, etc.

The things you need from the refrigerator will be right there for you. You do not need a lot of space to perform efficiently in your kitchen. All you need to do is pivot around and go from point A to B to C. Keep this in mind when setting up your cooking space. It really works and will save a lot of time and stress.

Your spices and oils and vinegars should also be right next to or above your stove, preferably on a tray on the counter next to the stove either on the right or left side. Remember “within arms reach” is the key. This way you can see what you have and grab it.

Your Knives are important also. Actually they are one of the most important items you will need to begin cooking a wonderful meal. Whether you are cutting vegetables, proteins (meats) or poultry…or even bread, it would be a good ideal to have several types. A serrated knife for cutting bread and tomatoes, A chef’s knife for cutting proteins and vegetables, a pairing knife for cutting small fruits and vegetables likes apples, oranges and mushrooms. Using a magnetic strip just behind your cutting board on the wall will make for a perfectly positioned place within arms reach or a knife block within arms reach out of the way of kids will work great also.

Things Here and There

You are going to need a few extra things here and there like; Aluminum foil, plastic wrap, small and large zip lock bags along with at least two sizes of mixing bowls, measuring cups, measuring spoons, a small strainer, and a cheese grater. These are seemingly unimportant items but you will soon find out that they are vital to helping you stay calm while in the heat of things.

And finally…

Your Cookware (pots and pans) is important. You really only need 5 to 6 pots and pans and lids to the pots at least. A nice heavy pan is the way to go in my opinion. Ikea makes various types of pots and pans and they are pretty decent for what you pay for them. They may only last for two to three years max but as you start your journey to cooking on your own, you can’t beat the price. Now with that being said, when I moved out on my own, I decided to buy some nice things for myself and one of those nice things included a set of fine cookware. Cuisinart was the brand and it had everything I needed. It set me back a few hundred dollars but to this day and ten years later I still have 8 of the 12 piece cookware set I bought many years ago. All Clad is a good one also. You decide what you think will work best for you. You can go to the websites of each of these cookware companies and compare the pans and the pots and the packages. I would get something that is not too expensive for now. You can always upgrade later on. Make sure you also get a couple of sheet pans for cookies and a roasting pan for roasting items in the oven.

What’s in your cupboard? What’s in your pantry?

A good shopping list is the key to a quick and painless trip to the supermarket. But making sure you have a well stocked pantry will ensure that you’ll have most of what you’ll need to cook once you decide to dive in.

Okay everyone. There are a few basic items that you are going to need to have if you want to make things easy as an at home cook. Below I have put together the ultimate check list that you should go ahead and try to purchase during the next two or three shopping trips to the grocery store.

You should choose a brand that you feel comfortable with. Some of you may have memories of what your parents purchased in the grocery store as you were growing up. Nine out of ten times what they purchased is just as good as anything else out there. Just be sure to check the expiration dates on some of the things listed, especially your dairy items and spices.

Everything is listed in its own category’s order of importance just in case you cannot afford to get everything in one trip. To make it easy cross off the items you already have but first check their expiration dates.

Your Pantry

Oils, Vinegars and Condiments


Canola oil, extra-virgin olive oil, toasted sesame


Balsamic, distilled white, red wine


Ketchup, Mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Soy sauce, Chili paste, Hot sauce, Worcestershire


Kosher salt

Black peppercorns and a peppermill (grinder)
bay leaves, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, ground coriander, cinnamon

Vegetable Bouillon cubes

Dried herbs and spices:
cumin, oregano, paprika, rosemary, thyme leaves, cloves, allspice, ginger, nutmeg

Spice blends:
Chili powder, curry powder, Italian seasoning

Vanilla extract

Canned Goods and Bottled Items:

Peanut butter

Preserves or jelly

Low-sodium chicken and vegetable stock or broth

Canned tomatoes

Tomato paste

Canned beans:

Black, cannellini, chickpeas, kidney




Grains and Beans

Panko (Japanese) Breadcrumbs

Regular and whole wheat Pasta


Rolled oats


Dried lentils

Baking Products:

Baking powder

Baking soda

Brown sugar


All-purpose flour

Granulated sugar


Refrigerator Basics:


Cheese: sharp cheddar, feta, Parmesan, mozzarella

Large eggs


Plain yogurt

Corn tortillas

Freezer Basics:

Frozen fruit: blackberries, blueberries, peaches, strawberries

Frozen vegetables: broccoli, bell pepper and onion mix, corn, edamame, peas, spinach

Storage Produce:


Onions (red, yellow)


Dried fruit:
Raisins, apples, apricots

Nuts or seeds:
Almonds, peanuts, sunflower

This was a beginners version and with the tips I’ve given you here, you should be able to make a fairly large dent in your process. Do not allow this list and information to get you flustered. It can all be done bit by bit. I would suggest taking a few days to look at things and maybe even a few trips to the grocery store to purchase your pantry items. You will be fine as long as you follow my tips for setting up your kitchen to cook!

For more detailed information contact me at any time and I will give you a list of product names and my preferences and opinions on what items I think are best for cooks at various levels.

I will also be posting videos soon so remember to register your email address at the top of this page on the right side to receive more information on a very special newsletter and video post each month. 4 to 6 videos will be posted along with all sorts of information and tips on “How To Cook”.

Contact: Chef Johnnie at

Leave a Reply