One of the great illusions of eating in a restaurant is that everything is cooked fresh on the spot. The truth is, it's more or less impossible. "Even in a pro kitchen, if you tried to do everything, like come in and start cutting vegetables for each dish, it would never make it out of the kitchen," Colicchio says. So the question is why most home cooks try it. Colicchio says that half the battle with cooking a big meal is figuring out what you can prep ahead of time – vegetables, sauces, whatever. "Better chefs can work out what parts of a dish to do in advance that would cause the least detriment to it," he says. "Obviously you aren't cooking fish in advance, but any green vegetable you can boil until it's just cooked, shock it [in a cold-water bath], and it won't suffer at all."
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