How to cook like a chef when you don't own an apron

My brother-in-law is a professional chef with four restaurants in New York City. When he cooks, he tastes purposefully, chops precisely and salts and peppers as intensely as I took a college final. It’s equal parts impressive and completely terrifying.

As a working mom of two toddlers, I may never cook the perfect bouillabaisse, but I canfollow these three chef-approved rules for meals that impress - no matter what kind of prep time I have.

1. Buy the freshest produce you can find

No amount of lime or red onion is going to save guacamole made from a 5-day old avocado. Be particular about your fruits and vegetables. Look closely, inhale deeply and squeeze firmly to make sure what you’re getting is grade A.

2. Use the sharpest knife in the drawer

Herbs more easily release their oils, tomatoes retain their juiciness and meat maintains its flavor when prepared with a freshly sharpened knife. It’s also safer as a dull knife is more likely to slip off a haricot vert and into the fleshy part of your hand.

3. Keep it simple

A meticulously prepared chicken Caesar salad can be more impressive than an overcooked coq au vin. If you’re entertaining, prepare dishes that you’ve already mastered. It’s just one less thing you have to worry about.

Follow these three tips and you may just convince your next dinner party guests you went to Le Cordon Bleu instead of Lake Tahoe over Spring Break.