Lessons from the Leftover Chef

I have been told that I am a pretty good cook. I have cooked on dates, for family gatherings, parties, used my BBQ skills to impress friends, and have even won a few friendly cooking competitions – including one that was against an actual trained chef! My drunken shepherd’s pie is the shit y’all!….. sorry.


My mom was a good cook and while I helped her every so often, I didn’t usually take on the bulk of the cooking until I hit college and had to fend for myself. Plus, being of college age I had all of zero money. Most money was used to try to impress women (it didn’t work) and so I learned to cook but still had no money for supplies. So I cooked with what was in the fridge at home and what I could afford (nothing) and became the “Leftover Chef.”


I didn’t really know it at the time, but I was basically acting out the Food Network show “Chopped” on a daily basis where I would open the fridge, see what random ingredients were in there, and decided how to put them together. I now watch that show with new interest because I see the items they are giving and say to myself “I can make that into a burrito!” In fact, most of the time I am envious of the ingredients that they have on the show because I was working with much less – and it was usually leftover Chinese food or last night’s dinner. As long as there was some sort of meat in there, then I was usually good to go.


Here is the list of essentials that everyone should keep stocked in their kitchen at all times and are usually super cheap:
-Pasta Sauce (Marinara or Alfredo)
-Seasoning Salt
-Whatever your favorite condiment is


The last one is a bit up in the air. A lot of what is in my fridge is condiments so I can add things to meals or kick them up a notch (BAM!!… just wanted to say it). With the right condiments, you can make any leftover into a totally different meal. For example, I went to a steak place a little while back that wasn’t great, but had some leftover steak and potatoes and made two meals with it:


1) Thinly slice the steak. Cook it with onions and rice and add a can of beans. Season with cumin and some hot sauce and wrap it in a tortilla. Then grill the outside of the tortilla. What you have here, friends, is a BADASS BURRITO.

2) Take a bit of the steak, hash up the left over potatoes and cook for a few minutes in some oil. Cook some eggs the way you like them and toss it all together with some onion and a little seasoning salt. And this equals a damn good breakfast bowl!


JUST LIKE THAT got two good meals out of a mediocre former meal. Could have also done some steak teriyaki over rice or a pasta dish with some steak on top. They may not be the most complex meals, but are great for cooking on a budget. If you keep doing this, you’ll find more and more how to cook and what combinations are best. Don’t get me wrong, at first I made some meals that were down right inedible! But you fine tune, find what items are best for you to keep around your place, and soon you will be a “Leftover Chef” too.


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