This is the debut of a totally new feature. Have you ever wanted to be a savvy gourmet cook? Well, this column is for you. It will take you from a culinary klutz to a food aficionado. I will help you maneuver around the kitchen with the ease of whirling dervishes. Always interested in bringing you cutting edge reading, this added feature might be all you need to break into the big times of mixing with the masters or baking with the best of them.

This added feature isn't purely altruistic. For sometime, I have tried to get my column syndicated nationally-without much success. I have endeavored to write humorous articles like Dave Berry. I have also attempted self-help articles like Ann Landers. I have even done interviews like Studs Terkel. However, the all-illusive syndication and potential Pulitzer Prize has eluded me. Determined to make it to the big times, I have decided that gourmet cooking might just be my entrée into a smorgasbord of literary stardom. Think of it; you are reading my maiden voyage into this endeavor.

What do you need to begin to become a gourmet chef? For the time being, your present kitchen will do. As time goes by, you might want to consider building onto your home to acquire more floor space for your cooking creations. In addition, future purchases of costly equipment might be necessary, but for the present, let's work with what we have. However, there are a couple of small things that you should acquire.

First, your given name really won't do. I know, your parents thought that it was nice, but for becoming a gourmet chef, it probably isn't adequate. If your name is Mary, Bill, Jim, Andrea, or a similar name, pick a more gourmet-like moniker. My name, Al, needed to be changed, and I have chosen Guido. It has an Old World ring to it.

Next, you will need an apron-not those fancy frilly ones that your mother used back in the 50s, but a serious working apron-like mine. I even had my moniker monogrammed on it. In that way, others will recognize who you are while in the kitchen, since they may not have seen you there much before this. In addition, one must dress for success. You will recall the articles that I wrote about the importance of dressing for RAGBRAI a couple of years ago. If you want to get to the top, you will have to dress as if you belong there.

Now, for your first lesson. You will need a drop-dead recipe, and I have just the one for you. It happens to be my favorite, Bananas Flambeau.

6 T. of butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 t. of cinnamon
4 firm bananas cut lengthwise then halved
1 T of lemon juice
2 T banana liqueur
1/2 cup of rum

Melt the butter in a large skillet then blend in the sugar and cinnamon. After the mixture starts to boil, add the lemon juice and bananas. Quickly cook the bananas for a minute on each side. Add the liqueur and rum and continue to heat for 10 seconds. Then with great caution and with your phone ready to dial 911, light the bubbling mixture. Stand back when you do; it will flare up to 18 inches high. After the flames are extinguished by the natural process or by the local fire department, spoon the bananas and mixture onto vanilla ice cream. Try this recipe out with your friends or family. It is tasty but also very impressive.

Now, if you would like to become a part of this new feature, send me your favorite recipe. I will test yours in my kitchen lab and announce in a future column the winning recipes in the following categories: appetizers, main dishes, and desserts. If you win, you will receive Guido's Cordon Bleu Award. Perhaps, this column will catapult both us to fame and fortune.

For private cooking lessons, just e-mail me at

While mixing ingredients, I discussed with Bill his name change.

He's thinking about his new moniker.

Bill decided on "Guillermo."

Final instructions before lighting up....