For most of my career I've chosen to subject myself to a great deal of professional criticism. Going through the Greenbrier Apprentice Program, competing on the US Culinary Olympic team and various other competitions, I chose this path because it worked for me and it contributed greatly to my growth as a Chef. I've always thrived on criticism because I always came out better on the other side. I would hunt down judges after a competition and they would look at me like I was crazy when I asked them to only tell me what they didn't like about my food. I wasn't there to hear what they liked. I just wanted to be better. I am now a certified competitions judge and am the one who is offering critique and trying to contribute to the growth of others. I have no regrets about the path that I took and I believe that surrounding yourself with people who are better than you and seeking feedback is an essential tool for an aspiring Chef. There is, however, a part of the journey that I don't think anyone speaks about and most people haven't even thought about. Most people have endured a number of years, early in their career, where they had to consume the philosophies of their mentors and those they respect. The combination of these philosophies hard wires us to be like minded and carry them forward. "Risotto should be this way." "The vegetables should be cut this way." You know what I mean. So here's the question. How often are your decisions driven by what others may think about them?
Cutting the Cord
Our beliefs and philosophies are built from our experiences. They're the product of the ideas of others, mistakes we've made, and successes we've had. We spend so many years aspiring to the standards of our teachers and popular opinion. We become programmed by these standards and use them to build a box around ourselves. The walls of this box keep us the same. It causes us to judge the creative decisions of others that may work outside that box. If you don't understand what I mean, think about the last time you watched a prime time competitive cooking show and spent most of the hour criticizing the decisions of the contestants because they aren't doing what you would do. The truth is, those people have found a way to break through the wall. They are putting themselves out there and don't care what the world thinks about it. You are sitting on your couch with all of your knowledge and when the show's season ends, more people will likely know their names before they know yours.
The Voices in Your Head
Social media has become a huge outlet for the creativity of chefs. Food photos are all over the place and inspiration is a click away. Even I used to find myself over thinking my next post on Instagram because one of the plate components wasn't perfectly placed or there was a slight drip of sauce in the wrong spot. That's just how I was programmed. The truth is that I would likely be the only one that noticed these "flaws" but I'm thinking too much about all the Chefs that came from the same path I did and "what will they might think of me if I post this?" I just recently decided to start Be Better Culinary Perspectives because I know that I have a unique way of looking at things and I really love helping others reach their potential. I've thought a lot about starting a business for a very long time and one thing always got in my way. Myself. I have been so overdosed with criticism for so long that I would talk myself out of following my heart. I made myself believe that my idea wasn't good enough until one day, I realized that it was the voices in my head that were making me believe that. The voices of the past. I turned the voices that helped me succeed into voices that held me back. I'm well aware that my thoughts, observations, and perspectives will be criticized by many and that not everyone is going to like what I have to offer. The thing that will allow me to succeed is the fact that I am ok with that.
Don't allow yourself to be judged into submission. Be your own critic. Be confident in your philosophies. Welcome failure, learn from it, and let your heart guide you through it. Mute the voices and live up to your own expectations and not the expectations of others. Always find a way to be better.
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