How Do Chefs Remember Recipes: Tricks You Must Know


A chef’s job is more than just cooking food. They are also responsible for ensuring that the ingredients, recipes, and instructions are always accurate. If a chef forgets their recipe for chicken soup while they’re making it in front of a large audience at an event or on TV, it could be disastrous!

However, luckily most chefs don’t get into that position when they forget recipes because they are in the kitchen. There are various things that chefs use to remember recipes better.

This blog post is to discuss the different ways chefs and cooks can remember recipes. Some people might think that they have a photographic memory but this is not true.

Chefs remember recipes mainly by studying and preparing. Chefs can also write the recipes down in order to internalize them better or use memory tricks such as making a song about it or associating the recipe with a mental image. The mind palace is a highly popular memory technique in certain areas as well.

If we want to fully understand the memorizing process, we need to see individually what do the above techniques include. There are many similarities in how chefs remember recipes than how waiters remember orders. Let’s take a closer look at the aspects more in-depth.

Study the recipe

Before doing anything, the recipe must be studied. Reading the recipe multiple times, maybe aloud if it helps you to remember better, and reviewing the ingredients individually and trying to print them in your head will have a great impact. You could create flashcards by printing out the food picture and writing down the recipe on the back, then flip them over and look at the pictures and try to remember them before looking at the recipe. Repetition is needed in studying as well. After all, you will need to take your knowledge to action.

Preparing the recipe

Preparing the actual recipe is the most effective way of all. When you really get into action and start preparing it to step by step you will have much more clarity on what goes in when and how much etc. You will also remember the recipe far better when you actually see how it is done. If you see an interesting recipe on the web but don’t have the ingredients at the moment, you can also pretend to make it by actually doing all the steps without tossing the ingredients in. This may seem silly but it actually works if taken seriously!

Look when it is prepared

Some people learn the best by watching other people doing it. If you’re at work and you are new, you can observe the other chefs and see how they do it. I personally learn very well by observing other people but still, it isn’t the same as doing it yourself which will have the best impact on learning.

Make a song about it

Different memory tricks are quite popular when trying to improve memory, in more than recipes as well. Making up a certain melody will help you remember the ingredients when you insert the ingredients in the song. You can use the same melody in many things and it helps if it rhymes as well. You can also use the melody of a song you already know which will be more effective in most cases.

Use mental image association

Associating the ingredients to a mental image helps me personally very well. Without thinking about the names of the ingredients, try to think of the pictures of the ingredients and how they look. This way could help you to remember way better. Also, when there is a specific amount of something I’ll try to picture the amount in my mind before thinking the actual numbers, however, this method works the best if you have already done the recipe at least a couple of times.

Write the recipe down

Writing down isn’t exactly the new way of remembering, nonetheless probably one of the most powerful ones. Placing the cookbook next to you and writing down the recipes on a piece of paper will help you drastically when compared if this step hasn’t been done. This needs to be multiple times in order to work desirably and you can even say the recipe out loud along when writing. After writing it a couple of times, try to test it by removing the cookbook and getting a blank piece of paper.

Use an app

The modern days have made it possible to use an app for nearly any purpose really. And without a doubt, there are many study apps for memorizing. For example, with these apps, you can easily generate flashcards, quizzes, and other remembering methods where you can easily place your information from the recipe. There are also multiple great websites such as StudyBlue where you can easily make your own flashcards and start quickly from there.

Use the mind palace

You might have heard about the mind palace or method of loci. This ancient memory technique is based on that you think about a familiar environment and place the different things you are trying to remember somewhere there. For example, let’s say that my memory palace is in my kitchen. I would place all the ingredients and measurements for the recipe into a specific area there where I could always find them. This helps you visualize the recipe as well.

As we can see there are many different kinds of memory techniques at your disposal. The best and more sure way is to actually go and make the recipe, it’s the most fun method as well. Now, you might have some lingering questions so let’s review some popular ones below.

What is the fastest way to memorize a menu

If you need to memorize a menu right now as the fastest way possible, you should use flashcards with the help of StudyBlue or start writing it down while you say the ingredients out loud as you go. This does vary between people but those two methods are the fastest if you need to remember the menu as fast as possible.

Do chefs use cookbooks

Every chef has their own style and technique, so it is understandable that they would want to experiment with new recipes. However, most chefs still use cookbooks as a reference point for guidance on how to make certain dishes or what flavors work well together in a dish.

Cookbooks are great because they have easy-to-follow instructions for the inexperienced person trying to learn how to cook, but also offer some flexibility for more experienced people who may want to try out something different than the recipe suggests.

How do chefs come up with recipes

Every chef has a different story of how they came up with a recipe. For some, it was an idea that popped into their head one day and for others, it took years of experimenting. The most important thing is to be passionate about your creation. All in all, it really comes down to experience because when you have tried a huge variety of ingredients you know what ingredients play well together, therefore it is easy to come up with new recipes.

How do baristas remember drinks

Baristas can remember a lot of drinks and they kind of need to because they can’t look at a recipe book while serving customers on the counter. Baristas use many same tactics as waiters for remembering orders or chefs remembering recipes. The same essential techniques apply here as well. Baristas remember drinks well through experience, reading, and writing the recipes down. Also, memory tricks such as making a song or face association work well.

Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS and while I love working in a busy restaurant, I also enjoy more peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

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