There’s a saying, “abs are made in the kitchen.” If that’s true, I’d better get cooking!

Lucky for me, this episode’s guest is Joel Chapman, professional chef, crossfitter, and all-around good guy. These days, Joel makes food for several thousand people a day as part of a catering team for the University of California at Santa Barbara. When a guy cooks for that many people, he knows how to prep his meals.

As you’ve heard me discuss on previous episodes, meal prep and diet have been some of my biggest challenges. From the emails I get, other police officers and law enforcement share the same problems.

It’s not that I don’t want to eat healthy, or understand the obvious benefits. For me, it’s usually the meal prep. When I work 12-hour shifts 4 days a week, I’m looking at up to 8 meals I need to prep for the week. By my Friday, I’m pretty sick of whatever dish I’d prepared for lunch, regardless of how healthy, nutritious or ingenious it is.

But here’s the thing: I LOVE TO COOK!

I really do, and I cook the majority of the meals in my home. But it wasn’t like I always knew how to cook, or how to cook for my own tastes. It took a lot of time, experimentation and more error than trial. But, that’s part of the fun of learning.

But if you don’t have much time, learning to cook is intimidating. So today we’re going to help you get started.

Joel Chapman’s training and experience as a chef makes him a perfect guest to talk about how to start cooking for yourself. Joel spent 3 years at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris perfecting his cooking skills. If you’re not familiar with cooking schools, it’s like Harvard for chefs.

Here’s a smidgen of what we cover in this episode:

  • What kind of utensils and tools do you need to have on hand.
  • How to prep your food, and plan your meals.
  • What spices you should start with.
  • How long can you keep various dead, cooked animals in the fridge before they’re dangerous.
  • Why it’s important to let your meats “rest” after cooking them, and how long should you do it.

There’s a lot more too…

We also talk specifics about what materials you should have on hand. Here are some links to the products we discuss (**disclosure: Amazon links are an affiliate link and we receive a commission on any sale. However, that is not why they are featured here. Joel brought his recommendations regardless of our affiliate association.)

“How to Cook Everything” was the cookbook that got me started on cooking. It’ll teach you everything you need. 2000 recipes!

Joel’s favorite intro cookbook is The Joy of Cooking.

J.A. Henckel’s 18-piece knife set: This was on our wedding registry and they’ve held up well for 10 years. They need sharpening like any good knife set. Another set is the Wusthof Knife Set

Cutting Boards – Here’s a good tip, and one my wife has been preaching for years (yes, Honey you were right). To minimize the risk of bacterial infections, separate the preparation of your meats and vegetables onto different boards. In my house, colored boards are for fruit and vegetables. Black and white boards are for meats. If you only have one board, make sure you prep vegetables first, then meat.

A Cast Iron Skillet is great, and Joel agrees.

Pans: This is a hot topic we actually didn’t get in to. However, this ceramic pan has been a favorite of mine. I have a decent set of Kirkland (Costco) brand steel pans but frankly they’re just a pain in the ass if you aren’t using gobs of oils or butter.

Containers, container, containers! You’ve gotta have stuff around to put all that meal prep goodness in!

Joel has a few videos on YouTube of some simple recipes to get you started, and if need be, impress the opposite sex with your prowess with the spatula. (**if you’re reading this through iTunes, go to for the links).

Almond Gremolata – A great sauce that can go on anything, including vegetables.

Different Pestos for toppings and various dishes

Tuna and Tapenade recipe

Joel’s top spice recommendations to get started:

  • Cilantro / Coriander (pssst…they’re the same thing! Who knew!)
  • Fresh basil
  • Curry Powder
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary

Why should you avoid cooking with olive oil, and instead use grapeseed oil? Listen to find out.

Here are some other tips to get you started on meal prep.

  • The grill is a great place to do your cooking. You can get a large variety of chicken, fish, beef, pork and vegetables all done at the same time. However, there are some legit concerns that charring your food causes a carcinogenic effect in the food.
  • I like to find a protein, and then change up the sides. So, for example, I’ll brown a pound of beef with some basic seasonings (salt, pepper, oregeno, thyme, onion and garlic powder). Then, I’ll saute some white onions and red peppers together as one side, I’ll roast some butternut squash or cauliflower as another, and maybe prep a spinach salad as another. I can then add the beef to all three to make up a variety of lunches and keep the novelty there.
  • Breakfasts are best made simple when you’re on shift. For me, hard-boiled eggs, a few slices of Canadian Bacon, half an avocado, and some string cheese make for easy meals.
  • Here’s how I finally figured out how to hard-boil eggs: Drop the eggs into the water (carefully), then turn on the water. Once the water is at a boil, turn off the burner and let the eggs sit for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, drop them in a bowl of ice water for about 20 minutes to stop the cooking.

Thanks for listening. I appreciate your support. Please leave us a review on iTunes here

Stay safe and take care of each other.