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20 Life Lessons Everyone Should Learn from Chefs

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20 Life Lessons Everyone Should Learn from Chefs

You can learn a lot about life from people who spend a great deal of time serving others. Chefs are great teachers of meaningful life lessons, as they are masters of planning, processing and navigating change. Their wisdom extends far beyond searing choice meats to sublime perfection and knowing which herbs provide the best garnish. They can actually teach you to live with greater insight and abundance based on lessons they live every day.

As chefs apply their knowledge to our everyday seemingly minimal obstacles, we can look at 20 pieces of wisdom they can impart on us.

1. Begin with the end in mind

Chefs don’t like to waste precious resources like time and effort. They want to get a thing done right the first time. Therefore, they focus on the result they seek to achieve and then chunk backwards, making sure they haven’t missed key details in the process.

2. Perfect practice makes perfect

No one becomes an expert over night, least of all chefs. They know that practice—perfect practice—will garner the best result. They’ll work on plating an entrée 100 times if it means that the presentation will be exquisite.

3. The show must go on

When things go wrong, chefs reach for innovation. They won’t let a missing shallot force their hand. They are masters of improvisation. They look for ways to get the same result without comprising their integrity or the final product.

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4. Reach outside your comfort zone to grow

Sure, a line chef probably isn’t comfortable doing the work of a sous chef. But moving up the food chain will always require mastering advanced skill sets. Thus, they welcome the opportunity to grow, and are not deterred by the possibility of making mistakes or even failing.

5. Always gauge your progress

Even when chefs know that a pot roast should cook for a specific amount of time, guess what you’ll find them doing? That’s right. They’ll be checking in to see how things are going and determining whether any adjustments need to be made along the way. You never know when an opportunity to fine-tune your process may arise.

6. If you don’t know, ask

There’s nothing worse than being a know-it-all and then demonstrating that, well, you don’t in fact know it all. Chefs have plenty of smart, able-bodied colleagues around them. If they are unsure about something like an ingredient or a process, they’ll just ask. They’re more concerned with striving for excellence than managing their egos.

7. Don’t be afraid to fail

Celebrity Chef Jerome Brown says that “every failure also contains a life lesson.” Fired from a prestigious international firm early in his career for poor performance, he shares that, “it revealed a critical performance gap and taught me to recommit to excellence.”

8. Balance is must

If you order a heavy entrée like steak, you likely want the option of choosing less heavy sides. Chefs know this. It’s why they create menus that allow guests to select options that vary in weight, texture, flavor and more. Everything in life requires balance. But learning to create options that make it easier to achieve balance is a real skill.

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9. Communicate with clarity and confidence

Because time is always of the essence, chefs communicate needs with clarity and confidence. Have you ever seen a shy, withdrawn chef kicking out orders on the line? Nope! It would make it impossible to garner respect and compel a high level of performance in his colleagues.

10. Teamwork makes the dream work

No man is an island to himself, not even when he wants to be. Chefs have a cadre of individuals that help execute every detail of every meal. No matter how skilled a chef may be, it would be impossible to deliver results without the support of a competent team.

11. Sometimes it’s not about you

No matter how brilliant or hard-working chefs may be, they know that at the end of the day, it’s not about them. It’s really all about you. Did you enjoy the meal? Were you happy with the quality of the ingredients? Ego can easily cloud your perspective, but chefs definitely know how to keep theirs in check for the good of the task at hand.

12. Appreciate constructive criticism

There’s probably no such thing as a thin-skinned chef. They are constantly receiving feedback and learning to refine their craft from those who know more in the field.

13. Timing is everything

A dish that has been overcooked or undercooked may be considered inedible, depending on the recipient. Because of this, chefs realize that time is a tricky detail that must be prioritized. They know that timing can be the difference between excellence and mediocrity.

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14. Find your purpose in your passion

Chefs actually love what they do – Shopping for garden-fresh produce, choosing high quality cuts of meat, sampling fresh-caught fish, and more. They enjoy feeding others and making them happy with a delicious, well-presented meal. It gets them up early and keeps them up late: Think Chef Daniel. You cannot pay for purpose or passion, but you need them both if you want to love what you do.

15. Aim for progress, not perfection

If you’re focused on making everything “perfect”, you’re going to be disappointed most of the time. Chefs focus on making a dish a little better each time, measuring marked improvement with each execution. They find value in knowing they can expand their reach with every endeavor.

16. Sometimes the vision looks different in reality

Every chef has a story about a dish they thought would look like a masterpiece, but didn’t. It’s true that sometimes the vision doesn’t match the manifestation, but that’s OK. Keep dreaming big. One day it will.

17. Experience is your best teacher

Someone can tell you how to make chocolate chip cookies until you are blue in the face, but until you get in the kitchen and begin to manipulate the ingredients for yourself, you’re never really going to know how make them. Practical application is the best way to master a skill.

18. Follow directions

Success in the kitchen requires that things happen in a specific order, using specific ingredients. If you decide to bake a cake and forget to add the eggs, you’re going to have a problem. Chefs teach that following directions is a critical component of getting a good result.

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19. Make more mistakes

The best way to become better at anything is to make more mistakes, more often. Chefs make them all day every day, from temperature to timing, which is why they’ve mastered the details of their craft so well. When you give yourself permission to make mistakes, your learning curve increases ten-fold.

20. Success is a journey, not a destination

The path to becoming a chef is not an easy one. It’s an undertaking wrought with challenges, competition, disappointment—and for some, even failure. But anyone who has beaten the odds and risen to the coveted ranks of “chef” understands that the value of success lies in the journey, those unique experiences that helped to shape their destiny.

Who knew that chefs could bring so much value by extracting golden nuggets from the lessons they live daily? Sure, they are masters of their craft, but they are also leaders, tacticians and wonderful teachers. Take these life lessons to heart and learn to live with greater insight and abundance.

Featured photo credit: Confident Young Chef Posing/StockImages.net via freedigitalphotos.net

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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