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THE MARTIAL ARTS OF COOKING


This week I want to talk about how I look at progressing with your cooking abilities as a whole. To properly explain this idea, I need to give you a little background on where it comes from first.


Way Back When...


My philosophy on trying to master any cooking technique has been influenced by the time I spent studying Aikido (a defense based martial art) back in 2008-9. Studying Aikido is similar to learning how to cook because it has overall philosophies and is made up of lots of individual moves. Like cooking, the more you refine each move, the more fluidly and accurately you are able to execute them no matter the situation (or ingredient you are working with). In Aikido this was taught to me as a "Beads on a String" philosophy and it certainly applies to learning and improving your own cooking!


The Wisdom in a Bead


Imagine any move or technique in cooking (or Aikido) as a string where you start at one end and finish at the other. There are plenty of tiny moves (beads) that make up the whole process (the string). When you first begin you may only be able to focus on the large moves (Cut, Sear, Plate) but as you learn more and more, you begin to focus on and refine all the little moves in between (Peel efficiently, properly slice/dice, heat the pan to the right temp, use the proper amount of oil, season appropriately and accurately, use good sautéing motion, cook to exact temp, plate beautifully and quickly, etc). So when you begin, you have a few beads on your string and as you learn more and more, you slowly fill out the space between each initial bead (cut, sear, plate) with more beads (see list above) as you refine every tiny move along the process thus making the entire process smoother, more efficient, and more accurate.


Parts Make Up the Whole


I've said many times that cooking is just a ton of little tiny skills rolled into one overall activity called cooking. When you focus on each of these tiny little skills, they combine to form the overall idea of "being good at cooking". That's why I can be good at so many things in cooking and respected as a "Chef" (whatever that means;)) and still be a novice at things I haven't seen or worked on perfecting. It's all about keeping a learning mindset because you will never be "done" learning how to cook because there will always be more to learn and refine. But focusing on each little skill will add to your abilities in the kitchen and thus make your food better as a whole.


Kai-Zen


This may also be why so many of the best cooks I know keep a self-deprecating mindset, so no matter what they do well, they stay humble and keep improving constantly. There is a Japanese philosophy, Kai-Zen, that describes this idea of Consistent Incremental Improvement in every aspect of what you do. When you apply this idea to cooking, it will help keep you working on becoming better and better at every aspect of cooking (and maybe beyond). This goes back to one of my original posts about never being able to cook perfectly because "perfect" food doesn't exist, only the attempt to improve.


Old Kitchen Wisdom


This idea of learning every little aspect of any technique in the kitchen is expressed in one of the old axioms I heard somewhere in culinary school, "You don't know how to do anything until you do it 1000 times." To me, this just means that you have filled out your string to a pretty great extent and you really and truly understand every little part of what you are doing. It's not about the amount of times you do something, but the amount of attention you place on every little aspect of it and the skill you have for each aspect.

Little by little we all get better! And now you can have this idea running in the background as you work to improve at all the little skills throughout cooking!


Happy Cooking Y'all!!

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