I love to cook. I am pretty good at it. I learned some of my recipes from my mother, some from television, but mostly, I learned to cook by working in restaurants.

I always started as a waiter, not someone who worked in the kitchen, but I often moved up to head waiter, and occasionally manager.

As a restaurant manager, I had to be able to step in for anyone from bartender to busboy, from dishwasher to chef. Before starting any manager position, I arranged to work each position at least one shift to demonstrate to myself and my employees competency.

Having come from the front of the house, I always spent at least a week in the kitchen, learning to prepare all of the dishes. I came to enjoy cooking.

I can make soups, and am a saute demon, but I never mastered baking.

I love cheesecake, and long ago mastered frugal gourmet Jeff Smith’s recipe. A graham cracker crust is simple to make, and the quality of the ingredients used makes the biggest impact on taste – specialty Italian cream cheeses from Traverso’s market will always make a better cheesecake than Philly spread.

Last week, for the first time ever, I made a fruit pie. I had a gallon of fresh picked blackberries find their way into my kitchen, so the time seemed right to learn.

I found a simple pie crust recipe on the ‘net, and found a recipe for blackberry pie filling. Although, I know next to nothing about baking, and I know that baking is the most measured ingredient specific cooking discipline, I tweaked both recipes and was blown away with the result.

I made three blackberry pies, served with french vanilla ice cream, they were gone in less than 24 hours.

I am my most harsh critic when it comes to cooking, so when something I cook tastes great to me – well, it’s damn good.

Inspired by my success, yesterday, I made four strawberry pies. My pie crust is as good as any I’ve ever tasted – just sayin’ – and you can’t go wrong with strawberry anything for dessert. Served with fresh whipped cream and a touch of mint…why didn’t I start baking sooner?