What is more fleeting than a plate of food? The idea of cooking is to feed others over and over again. To prepare ingredients in a way that brings joy and sometimes entertainment to the guest. But that creation is so fleeting. The impermanence is maddening when you think about it. The amount of time and effort spent getting to that one plate of food, only for it to disappear in a dozen or two bites.
That is the world we have decided we fit in. A world where you spend hour after hour, day after day providing that experience. Your training, your dedication and the countless hours spent at work are all at the end of the day to be good at feeding people.
Good. To become good at cooking takes time. Just to become "good" at cooking takes years of practice. And not only of practicing knife cuts and searing proteins, but tasting and creating a codex of flavors in the mind and the palette in order to make quick-time decisions for each particular recipe you are working on.
It is tremendous to be good at anything. I envy those good at guitar, the ones who are able to sit and with the instrument in hand and just play from memory, skill and musical intuition. I envy those good at an oil change, being able to do this basic function of a car's health with ease while I pay $90 and sit in the Valvoline drive-thru. Being good at something is valuable and it matters.
So what about Perfection? The big P. The overused word in this industry we all love. Perfection is the goal for so many. But it is almost as cliche to say perfection does not exist as it does to say we need to strive for it. Yet I see and hear from so many who feel they are not "perfect". They are not where they need to be with their skills and their cooking.
In running LCT for almost four years I have found that many in the industry know perfection does not exist yet still in some way strive for it. I find perfection an unattainable goal and honestly a way to procrastination against tangible progress in the worst scenarios. I feel this way because we know perfection is the final destination and that takes time and therefore it is a far away place that we will get to one day.
It allows us to sit back and relish in the fact that it will not be here for a while. It allows us to overthink and assume we will never reach it. And when we put effort in and improve drastically we do not notice because improving on a scale compared to perfection is not improving at all. It is unrealistic. You are multiplying the 60% improvement you gained this year by 0.
So I write this blog to reset your thinking, much like I had to. I struggle with this all the time. Wondering why I am not at a certain stage, or when certain events will happen. The truth of my anxiety is that I am forward thinking and hoping for something else. Wanting what I do not have. I am not present in my moment. And by not being present I am not aware of progress made or achievements earned.
Even today I spent around an hour or so beating myself over not getting a recipe perfect. Why is it that we run into these patterns of negative self doubt, without focusing on the positive momentum forward? I would picture your career as a working recipe. One that is getting there but still needs some revision.
When we go into creating a recipe we start with the idea. We might not know what exactly the finished product is but there is usually an ingredient or technique we highlight. We then go about figuring out the best path to execute on this idea. Upon finding our path we focus in the actual way through. We create recipes and we taste, tweak, taste and tweak until we get that desired finished product.
The beauty of progress is that we pick up skills along the way. What may have been a recipe with many small but solid cooking techniques can now transform into a display of technical brilliance and yet have the simplicity it needs for the flavors to shine through.
What I have found is that my view of what "perfect" was 5 years ago has been obliterated. What I see "perfect" as now almost goes completely against my thought on it before. We evolve, we change and when we chase perfection, we chase a stagnant and unrealistic version of a goal that may even be outdated the farther along we go in our careers.
Perfection is the imperfectness of life. The ups and the downs and the journey to where we are heading. We cannot define perfect because life is not perfect. Our journey's do not lead in a straight line. So when a chef, a colleague or even yourself demands perfection then you should really question why. And question why an unattainable goal would ever be the goal to achieve.
In my opinion, chasing perfection leaves you stagnant. It may inspire at first but we both know it is not real. Setting real, tangible milestones in your life and career are what gets you out of that negative loop we too often find ourselves in in the food world.
When we let perfection go we are able to monitor and advance on real progress. And when we achieve these goals, this progress, we can look at our growth and our actual worth and be happy with where stand. Chase being better. Chase beating yesterday. But do not chase perfection, because it can never be attained and therefore will never give you the victory you deserve.