Walking the Cat . . .

Because life's kinda like that . . .

On Becoming . . .anything

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I’ve been a practicing professional cook for 30 years — nearly half my life.  In that time I’ve learned becoming a good cook takes more than memorizing a few recipes.  Becoming a good cook as much about how you do something as it is about what you do.  and it takes as much practice, if not more, to learn how as it does to learn the what.  Like any craft, cooking is a matter of practice, of acquiring a skill and using that sill over and over and over until it becomes second nature, then acquiring another skill and practicing it, in combination with other skills, over and over and over until it, too, becomes second nature.  In this regard, cooking is very much like any number of other skilled occupations.  Just as doctors or lawyers or painters or musicians or writers are said to practice their craft (or profession, is you prefer) so do cooks.

There is another similarity these apparently diverse professions share, aside from the need for continual practice.  They all follow a similar recipe.  The ingredients are perseverance, creativity, audacity, unwavering belief in their own ability, humility and, above all, a love for what they do.  These ingredients, in varying proportion, comprise a “recipe for achieving excellence (or at least competence) common to these and countless other occupations.  There are, of course, other ingredients to be added to the recipe.  What those ingredients are and how they are combined are the little extras that make each version of the recipe unique to its creator.

It has been said, “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration”.  It’s true, perhaps more true for cooks that others. (There’s a reason they say, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”).  It has also been said in order to succeed at anything, you have to “pay your dues” or “put in the hours (or days, weeks, months or years)”.  This is also true.  There are no shortcuts, no easy way to succeed.  There is no such thing as an “overnight success.”

As I said at the outset, I’ve been a professional cook for 30 years; years filled with excitement and apprehension, aggravation and satisfaction, success and failure.  I’ve missed birthdays, holiday celebrations and weekend outings.  I’ve worked ridiculously long hours for insane lengths of time under less than ideal conditions.  I’ve lost weight, patience, my temper; at times I thought I would lose my mind.  But through it all the one thing I never lost, the one indispensable ingredient in my personal recipe was the love for what I was doing.  I don’t cook professionally anymore, but I still “cook”.  After 30 years, it’s time to apply my recipe fo something else, something new.  It’s sor of like creating a sauce you can use with a variety of dishes.  I may have to tweak the recipe a bit,  It’s a process I’m familiar with.  Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t.  Doesn’t matter, really.  I still love the process.

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