Cooking is the only GW2 crafting skill with legitimate discovery rather than following obvious formulas (although Artificing potions can be non-obvious). On many puzzles, people are looking for tips rather than spoilers, so let me give you a few pointers on the skill advancement side.
- You can use the skill advancement spoilers without spoiling the fun. An optimized list of cooking recipes will use the discovery window perhaps a dozen times. At 400 skill, you still have almost all the discovery fun available to you, and all of it is unlocked instead of having red ingredients you cannot use yet. Your Explorer tendencies will help your Achiever reward, but getting the full Achiever reward will not undermine your Explorer discovery. If you want to play an improved version of Doodle God, it is even better at 400 skill.
- You will not have access to everything without leveling. Some ingredients are available only after completing hearts. If your main character is not your cook, however, s/he can buy 10 bags of ingredients from any heart vendor, and now you have a full stack in your storage for your cook.
- In most skills, you advance through discovery instead of grinding. In cooking, you advance quickly and cheaply by discovering a cheap recipe and grinding until it is no longer orange. Bake a dozen cookies, not just one. Consumables stack, so this is also how you avoid filling your inventory. (This also helps for some portion of the weapon-crafting skills, since you can make a stacks of maintenance oils, sharpening stones, and ogre-slaying potions.)
- Dessert is good. Desserts do follow a pattern, so you can learn quickly through pies, tarts, and cookies. Pies are especially rewarding because you make the filling and the pie in separate steps. Sugar, flour, and water are cheap and endlessly available, butter and chocolate are the same at the trading post, and many karma merchants will sell you fruit in bulk.
- There is a farm just north of Lion’s Arch. Finish that heart for cheap, readily available produce.
- Peaches are available in bulk in west Fireheart Rise. Peach recipes give you the difficult points cheaply, and you get the second-best +Magic Find foods in the process.
The discovery aspect of cooking also makes it very different from other crafts in that learning makes it easier and cheaper. The learning curve for the other seven skills is exactly the same curve, so one you know the basic discovery pattern, you know all the recipes for all the skills (+/- 2%). But you still need to farm all those materials, and knowing more does not help that. For cooking, now that you have found hundreds of recipes on your main cook, you can train anyone else 1-400 at a quarter of the cost in 5% of the time. You can get better.