Virgin to veteran – this book will make you cook

If you love cooking, have you ever tried to find a cookbook that will instil even just a little bit of your passion in someone else? Not an easy task.

Virgin to Veteran - Sam Stern

Virgin to Veteran – Sam Stern

I’ve tried and have had limited success, but now I’ve found one Virgin to Veteran: How to Get Cooking with Confidence by Sam Stern.

I asked an inexperienced cook, Helen, if she would try the recipes out for me. From the moment I gave her the book, she started dipping in and out of the pages and later sent me a message that she was finding it hard to put down. A good start then!

It’s a very attractive book, from the brown paper cover over a collage of food photos and featuring the author to thoughtful typography and photography inside. It starts with a great section covering all the things that you might need to know when you start cooking.

Helen’s verdict “Good for people scared of cooking”

Although it is a traditionally printed book, it has many of the features that make a good website great. The information is in concise chunks, there are clear illustrations and text that signpost the information and it even includes a tag cloud or two.

From the Virgin Kitchen Section

Example from the Virgin Kitchen Section

The recipes that follow are split into chapters focusing on a main ingredient including different meats, fish, eggs and dairy and puddings. Sam’s written a couple of pages introducing the ingredient before the launching into the recipes.

So back to Helen. She confesses to being a novice cook and has never followed a recipe from a cookery book. However, this book gripped her so much that she tried 3 different recipes in a week, gaining in confidence each time. So much so, that she now admits that after a stressful day, cooking might just help and she’s ready to try more of the 100 or so recipes.

The recipes are split into sections Prep, Cook and Plate. On each recipe you also have additional information: Time saver, bonus bites or charge it up.

Sam Stern's Pea Soup Recipe

Sam Stern’s Pea Soup Recipe

Helen tackled the chilli first. On reading the entire recipe through, she dipped into the front section for a description of one of the tools mentioned was. She went prepared to the supermarket to buy the ingredients. On this particular recipe, the bonus bites suggested turning the recipe into buritos. Averting near disaster when grilling the chilis, she found the recipe really easy to follow and the result very impressive (which her husband can confirm).

She used sea bass for the recipe for white fish with champ and mentions that she hadn’t quite read the recipe properly and cooked the potatoes without peeling them first. Despite the rather strange look to the mash, she assures me it was delicious.

Sam Stern's Bruschetta

Helen couldn’t wait to taste the Bruschetta

Her third recipe was a bruschetta. Now this is impressive. When I caught up with her to discuss her review, she explained the whole recipe to me almost verbatim – she’s no longer a scared cook. You can see from the results, that it was very more-ish.

Helen’s verdict:

Plus points

  • Good for people scared of cooking of any age
  • Layout makes you want to read on and try things out
  • The range of recipes is really broad, encouraging you to try something new
  • Loved the how to plate it and charge it up and bonus bites tips

Some very minor minus points

  • The table of contents should emphasise the virgin cook section more
  • The virgin cook section cook put off more experienced cooks. (I disagree with this point, there are many things I’d cook for sure and just ignore this section).

So, who is the author?

I’ve deliberately not mentioned the 21-year-old author, Sam Stern until this point. He is currently studying at Edinburgh University. He is also the author of 5 bestselling cookbooks, and has been cooking for as long as he can remember. His first book Cooking up a Storm has been translated into 14 languages, with worldwide sales nudging 700,000 copies.

Any why not mention him? Well, it appears that his books are being marketed to teenagers – perhaps because of his age. A mistake, I think. Take Helen for example, who is in her 20s, now inspired to cook great things. It’s for anyone who loves to eat, but needs a nudge in the right direction.

You can follow Sam on Twitter and subscribe to his blog.

The Cookbook

From mastering the basics to insider tips and techniques, Virgin to Veteran will teach you everything you need to become a confident cook. From fast food to slow, food to go or eat in, healthy to greedy, there’s something in the over 100 Masterclass recipes featured to match every mood, budget and lifestyle. Core dishes are accompanied with advice on saving cash, time, and delicious and wide-ranging variations that will expand your cooking repertoire in the blink of an eye. Virgin to Veteran: How to Get Cooking with Confidence is currently on offer at £10 from Amazon.

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About Bread Baker Danielle

Danielle founded Edinburgh Foody in 2010. Having qualified as a professional bread baker in France in 2014, she is now on a new adventure in Gloucestershire. Check out Look out for occasional posts for Edinburgh Foody


  1. Pingback: Favourite Foods, Restaurants and Food Travel 2012 | Edinburgh Foody

  2. Good to know, will keep this one in mind if anyone asks me for recos for novice cooks wanting help to get started.

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