Imagine knowing how to create something like this amazing plate here.  Imagine if you could not only create that, but could put yourself in a cooking competition where you had to create that under the pressure of time, a panel of judges watching every move you made, photographers’ cameras flashing in your face, an audience of hundreds watching you on giant screens, world-renowned chefs all there to taste what you’ve got, and everything NOT going perfectly in your kitchen.  If you were in this sweat-inducing position, you would likely be one of four finalists competing at the Bocuse d’Or National Competition being held at MY SCHOOL this coming weekend(and you know I emailed the volunteer coordinator four times until she let me in.  I’m going to be there watching!!  And checking peoples’ coats!!)!!

From the outside looking in, it seems like one of those anxiety dreams where you’re thrown into some new situation, like center stage in front of thousands of people, with a mouth harp, and you have no idea whatsoever how to play a mouth harp.  And you’re naked.

A very accomplished competition chef from back in the day came to visit our class last week.  He was a jovial, lighthearted Englishman who has been in some hot and heavy cooking situations in his day.  He said there are three elements to successfully competing:

Preparation, Execution, and Recovery.  He stressed the last element the most, saying that we are humans who are not perfect, and also that cooking can sometimes be unpredictable.  He said in earnest that what is most important is how we bring it all around and present an awesome plate without anyone able to tell what chaos ensued behind the scenes.

Moment to moment, under pressure, expectations will change, fires will need to be doused, extra energy will be exuded, schedules will change, readjustments will be inevitable.  And the food will come out perfect regardless.

Do you see what I’m getting at here?  Do you know what it takes, once you’re in that situation that you have willingly put yourself into, for better or for worse, to pull it together, think on your toes, and make it happen-even in the face of seemingly random pitfalls, obstacles, and sabotage?

Good luck with that.

And I could use some too.





  1. Though I’ve never entered a cooking competition, you did describe some of the elements I encountered in Project Managing a weekend long meeting at work. When water pitchers and glasses were missing from the tables and had to be brought in during a presentation, or when we were minus a chair for the morning session, it was breathing through the anxiety about not having everything perfect that I was able to recover and be present for my next challenge. Like making extra copies of something at the last minute that they had emailed to me only moments before. All through the morning I silently moaned that everything hadn’t been to spec, but really, it was fine and everything was handled. But if I had continued to lament my imperfections, I would never have been present to help when I was really needed. I agree, recovery is key!

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