A Bucket List for Cooks : 50 Accomplishments For a Lifetime of Kitchen Joy

Gorgeous stove photo courtesy of La Cornue.

Do you know about the bucket list, also called life list? The idea is to list all the things you would like to accomplish in life*.

It’s an amazing exercise to do — on your own, as a couple, or with friends — because it says a lot about your deep desires and ambitions. It’s important to banish all the “yes, but’s” and allow yourself to dream big, without limiting yourself to what you think is realistic or acceptable. You can keep the list somewhere on a notebook and computer, and add to it as you think of new ideas.

My personal life list includes, among other items, getting a tattoo (I have a pretty good idea of the design) (Oh, hi Mom!), speaking Japanese, going on a meditation retreat, and sleeping in an igloo. An ideal scenario would be getting a tattoo on a meditation retreat held in an igloo in Japan; I have to see if the format exists.

I love the idea so much I’ve imagines a bucket list for cooks with 50 kitchen accomplishments to aspire to. I’ve included things from easy to difficult, in terms of technique, opportunity, and organization.

You’ll find the list below. Tell us in the comments how many you’ve already accomplished, and which you would add for yourself.

To help you do this, you can download your free printable bucket list; such a fun thing to do during an evening with like-minded friends! (If you want to slip it into your bujo, print it to 65% of the original format.)

  1. Make bread from scratch.
  2. Make bread with a sourdough starter.
  3. Make something fermented.
  4. Cook dinner for as many people as there are chairs in your house.
  5. Cook dinner for more people than you have chairs in your house.
  6. Cook with ingredients you’ve grown yourself.
  7. Cook with ingredients you’ve foraged yourself.
  8. Take a cooking class.
  9. Take a cooking class in a foreign country.
  10. Have someone adopt a recipe of yours and name it after you (e.g. le gâteau de Mamy or Muriel’s chicken).
  11. Reverse-engineer a favorite dish from a restaurant.
  12. Reverse-engineer a favorite dish from a restaurant and have it turn out better than the original.
  13. Host a holiday meal.
  14. Host a holiday meal without crying at any point.
  15. Cook with a child.
  16. Cook with more than one child.
  17. Cook on a boat.
  18. Cook over an open fire.
  19. Prepare a meal entirely from pantry ingredients.
  20. Cook your way through a cookbook.
  21. Commit a cookie or cake recipe to memory so you can bake it anytime, anywhere.
  22. Attempt to recreate a dish without a key ingredient (to make it vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc.).
  23. Shop at a supply store for professionals.
  24. Shop at a cookware store for professionals.
  25. Cook with your significant other without anyone snapping at anyone.
  26. Cook with your significant other, and do something silly and romantic like in the movies (e.g. feed each other spaghetti).
  27. Cook with someone old enough to be your grandmother (or grandfather).
  28. Have a complete cooking disaster.
  29. Have a complete cooking disaster and laugh about it (immediately or ten years after).
  30. Find and invest in a knife you would happily cook with for the rest of your life.
  31. Learn to make pancake or crêpe batter by feel.
  32. Make caramel.
  33. Make your own crust for a tart, a quiche, or a pie.
  34. Make a laminated dough (e.g. puff pastry).
  35. Cook something you don’t like because you love someone who does.
  36. Cook something you don’t like to see if you can learn to like it.
  37. Buy an ingredient you have absolutely no idea what to do with and actually use it.
  38. Get curious about a foreign cuisine, and learn to make a few dishes from it.
  39. Make your own ice cream (sorbet, gelato, etc.).
  40. Make by hand something most people would use a machine for (e.g. whipping egg whites, making pesto with a pestle).
  41. Make an elaborately decorated cake.
  42. Make a pastry that normal people would buy from a pastry shop (e.g. chocolate éclairs or macarons).
  43. Improvize a soup or stew from what you have on hand, and have it turn out well.
  44. Host a themed dinner party.
  45. Deep-fry something.
  46. Prepare a dish or dessert that involves a tool normally found in a hardware store (e.g. a blowtorch).
  47. Poach eggs.
  48. Make something that requires whipping egg whites to a specific consistency (a meringue, a soufflé, a mousse…).
  49. Join a club — a tasting club, a cooking club, a cookbook club — or start your own.
  50. Invite friends to dinner two hours before it’s actually dinner.

* It comes from the expression kicking the bucket, which means dying. The origin is uncertain, but it probably comes from the idea of someone hanging him/herself, and whose last accomplishment is to kick the upturned bucket on which he/she was standing. (Macabre enough for you?)

  • Annabel Smyth

    36/50 so far! At least, I think so…. may have omitted one or two.

  • Suzannah Kolbeck

    I have done all of these except for five.

    • Impressive ! Any standout to share?

      • Suzannah Kolbeck

        Maybe some of the things are more impressive than others, but my favorite by far was cooking with my grandmother. <3

        • I wish I had! When I got interested in cooking, mine was too old to cook. We did have lots of great conversations about it though.

  • this is an awesome idea and I am totally going to do this. 50 seems daunting but why not get started?

    one of my favorite books on music (The listening book) recommends writing an essay on what you’d like to be doing musically in 10 years, with no boundaries. It’s a wonderful essay with many success stories. I did this years ago and it helped me a lot (and many of the things I wrote about happened without a lot of conscious effort). Might be time for me to do this again!

    • Yes! The power of visualisation! I use it for lots of things. Amazing.

  • ademarco

    Clotilde, apropos of nothing, I love your site. I just wanted to pass that along to you. Thank you so much for so many great ideas among them the quick feta and herb bread which I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love, the herb baka, the olive oil crust just to name a few of the items.

  • DebW

    I have done 43 of these (but at 61 and a keen cook for 50 years i have had plenty of time!). Lovely list.

  • Claudia Berry

    30 out of 50! I love this list!

    • Thank you Claudia! Any friend you’ll share it with?

      • Claudia Berry

        definitely – shared on FB

  • Katie Lilley

    30 out of 50! I’m still on the lookout for the perfect knife, and I have absolutely no intention of cooking with children any time soon! I do love to challenge myself to learn new techniques, and having been vegetarian for 20+ years I find cooking meat dishes (for my husband or customers in my café) can sometimes be perversely satisfying. I have actually learned to season by smell as I can’t taste meaty things but my husband isn’t always around to check for me!

  • Chris

    This is the perfect list for my one and only new year resolution: eat and cook more of good food (started last year with a lunch at yamtcha and 2 extra kilos)

    I have achieved n10 but turned out the recipe after my name was a total failure. My mother in law changed the recipe, family said it was not that good and she said it was after my recipe. Lessons learned: never share recipes with family, especially when they have sabotage skills …

  • janinchina

    Great ideas!
    I look forward to your posts.

  • Tatiana

    Done 40 of these. And I can say I will probably never do #17, 25 or 50. If I can help it I will never run a deep fryer ever again. Did that every Friday night when I worked for my mother.

    • Tatiana

      My personal bucket list includes becoming fluent in French, Japanese and a few other languages. Visiting Norway, Italy and Austria. Building a kitchen from scratch the way I want it laid out, with appliances and fixtures I select. Having a long, happy, healthy retirement with my husband.

    • What did your mother do?

  • I have a similar list. A lot of it having to do with mastering classic French dishes. I often get the ingredients in order to do then and then get lazy! whoops!

  • Eleanor Hughes

    I have done 40 out of the 50. I especially Loved cooking on a boat but I enjoy cooking so much that all would apply.

    I love your web site and am so happy that you finally married Maxence.

  • Jade DaRu

    You have covered almost everything I want to do on my list. A few I have done.

  • mehdi aghdaee

    36’ish I guess. Not sure I want to do every single one (Have a complete cooking disaster? I need to make an effort! ; Cook with a child? No thank you!; Cook something you don’t like? persian-style stewed sheep omentum is the ONLY thing i dont like, and have no interest in changing that!)

    The ones I would like to add:

    -Make bread with a sourdough starter. (I’ve got to make the starter myself)
    -Make a laminated dough . (I’m new to baking so why not?!)
    -Make an elaborately decorated cake.
    -Make a pastry that normal people would buy from a pastry shop (tarts dont count I assume!)
    -Invite friends to dinner two hours before it’s actually dinner. (though this defeats the purpose as Persians are always fashionably late!)

    I’m thinking of devising my own 50 to do ;)

  • I love the idea ! Just showed that to my husband, and we did around 26… good to have challenges in life :D

  • shannon mcfarland

    Love this list! I’ve done a lot of them! The most recent was making croissants (think laminate the butter!). They weren’t anywhere near as good as the ones I’d buy when we lived in Paris BUT fortunately it looks like we are moving back (if I can find an apartment😱) very soon, so no worries right?

    • Great news! Many opportunities to complete your bucket list I’m sure.

    • Terramom

      Oh, Lucky You!

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