I admit it. I’m a foodie—big time! Today I received the latest issue of Gourmet magazine and it was like Christmas morning—sans the wrapping paper and nagging relatives. I gnawed through the cellophane, reflected on the cover photography for just a moment, then I dove right in. I read it cover to cover, then I dog-eared the recipes that I believe have a glimmer of hope of emerging from my kitchen.
I’m not totally sure why I get so darned excited about a magazine, but I have a hunch it has to do with the challenge. The challenge of creating something new. The magazine inspires me to create. What else can you immediately take action on no matter what time of day it is?
With food, the possibilities are endless. You can mix this with that, add a little more this…give it a little taste, add a bit more that. It’s chemistry without a Ph.D or fear of burns on 80% of your body (unless we are talking deep-fried turkey, but that is another topic).
Unlike graphic design, where you have to constantly be thinking about outcomes, cooking allows you to set your mind on auto-pilot and be 100% creative without fear of failure. Sure, if you don’t pay attention you may have a fallen soufflé on your hands, but that is it. You can start over and learn about what you did wrong (“Ah, it called for 3 egg yolks”!).
I’m writing this not because you need to know that I love to cook (and I really do!). I’m writing this because some of the lessons of cooking can be applied to everyday life and business:
Especially with baking, patience is critical. If the cake takes an hour to bake, it takes an hour to bake. You can’t turn up the heat to 500° and bake it in 15 minutes. To get it fluffy and moist, carbon dioxide has to be released. If you rush it, this reaction will not occur and you’ll have a nice stepping stone for your garden. The lesson here is wait for things to naturally occur to get the expected outcome. Don’t rush things into failure.
Recipes are meant to be rewritten
A recipe is a guideline, not a rule. Recipes are foundations which you can build upon. If you want your mousse to be more chocolate-y, add more chocolate. Better yet, add some cayenne pepper and go Aztec. In business, don’t feel like you have to conform to the status quo, in fact, you should stray away from it as much as possible if you want to stand out (and who doesn’t want to stand out?). Use basic principals and build out from there.
Use the best quality ingredients
It’s a fact, you will spend more on great quality ingredients. But why would you not buy the best? Why would you rub baby back ribs with poor quality or worse, old paprika? Why would you use imitation vanilla in your crème brûlée just to save a buck or two? Poor ingredients (or even one poor ingredient) is the kiss of death to food. Same is true for business. I’ve seen it. One bad “ingredient” can ruin and entire office. Hire people based on the quality of their “ingredients”—what’s inside, not their cost or even their experience (which can be misleading). Build teams on complimentary and even contrasting flavors and textures not homogenous view points.
Control thy temperature
One of the most important aspects of cooking is temperature control! Ribs are smoked “low-n-slow” to allow for the smoke flavor to permeate the meat and to prevent the proteins from binding too quickly (ie: stringy and tough!). We all know that when we lose control, or worry, or make decisions based on stress that we usually make poor decisions despite having the best intentions. The lesson here is to turn down the temp and slow down. Make important decisions after you’ve cooled down and relaxed. Let the positive thoughts permeate your important decisions.
Time to get back in the kitchen for me—I have more analogies to cook up.