Updated on 01.30.10

Getting Good

Trent Hamm

Samuel writes in:

Much like you with your piano resolution, I decided to finally bite the bullet and begin a career path towards becoming a professional chef this year. I have a substantial amount of money saved up, so the costs of this choice aren’t a problem.

My problem is this: it’s a lot more of a slog than I ever dreamed it would be. I am attending culinary school in the fall, but for now I went to a few of the best restaurants in my city and asked if I could apprentice for free in their kitchen. I found a position that blew my mind at first, but for the last three weeks all I have done is chop vegetables. It’s incredibly boring and it’s actually making me enjoy this less and less. I’m afraid that by the time I actually get to culinary school, I’m going to hate this entire idea.

Do you have any advice or thoughts?

Two words: deliberate practice.

The advantage of spending hours and hours chopping vegetables now is that later on, when you’re preparing complex dishes, the act of chopping the vegetables is so efficient and effortless for you that you can chop the vegetables perfectly while focusing mentally on other tasks that need to be done.

I actually think this is a brilliant way to train for an aspiring chef. This training is grinding a particular skill into you to the point that it becomes truly second nature. That particular skill is one that you will use virtually every day as a chef, either in the home or in a restaurant.

It’s the concept of deliberate practice at work. Deliberate practice is practice that is specific and technique-oriented, is highly repetitive, and is paired with immediate feeback – in other words, the exact kind of practice you’re getting in that kitchen right now.

Why is deliberate practice so good? For one, it forces you to master a very specific skill in an intimate way. Often, that specific skill is an element of the larger skill you want to learn. For two, the mastery of that very specific skill often prepares you well to learn other specific skills – slicing meat, for instance. For three, that highly trained skill will make the broader tasks that much easier, meaning that excelling at one narrow thing can often improve your overall skill level, much like a tent pole with a tent.

Think of The Karate Kid, where Daniel is washing and waxing cars and painting walls. It was boring and it seemed completely un-fun to Daniel, but when he actually attempted basic karate, those skills he had deliberately practiced came to the surface, making him much, much better than he would have ever been without them.

I’m actually using deliberate practice in my own piano learning. Rather than continually pushing myself to play harder and harder material, I’m instead playing some simple songs with a few key techniques over and over and over again. I’ll play the same line in repetition for an hour. Yes, at times it can be boring, but when I do try something more complex, I see that specific learned skill shining through when I do things like switch chords or jump an octave.

If you want to learn to do something well, deliberate practice should absolutely be a part of your practicing repertoire. Sure, it might be really boring at times, but when you attempt the broader task and feel the training of deliberate practice come through for you, it’s an exciting and empowering thing.

Samuel, go home tonight and throw yourself together a vegetable stir fry, just like you might have done before the start of the year. Notice how it just all comes together that much easier than before. That’s what you’re learning – instead of focusing on the mechanics of vegetable chopping, instead you’re focusing on the meal itself. That focus is at a higher level because you have a lot of practice at the lower level skill – and the end result is a much better meal that seems to come together easier.

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  1. Jane says:

    I see Trent’s point, but I also think you might want to re-evaluate things before you spend your money and savings on culinary school. I had a friend who went into debt to go to culinary school, and after it, she realized that the job was more boring and physically taxing than nursing (the career she was already in). She went back to nursing pretty quickly. She’s a good sport about it, but I think that she regrets spending the money to go to school. She also told me that she didn’t realize until later that many of the professional chefs she encountered never even went to school. They did exactly what you are currently doing – worked their way up in kitchens. She felt a little bamboozled once she realized it is a skill you really learn on the job and not in the classroom (with high tuition).

    It is a tough life to work in a kitchen, and I think you quickly realized that. I think when we have a dream, it is easy to glorify the work and make it more glamorous than it actually is. If you are having seconds thoughts, take them seriously now! There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind. In fact, I think it’s a sign of maturity if you realize it wasn’t for you.

  2. Johanna says:

    Could it be that the reason Samuel’s been put to work chopping vegetables is so the experienced chefs don’t have to?

  3. Gretchen says:

    It’s only been 3 weeks. Of course you are going to get the grunt work.

    What does the piano teacher say about an hour of the same song over and over?

  4. Matt says:

    Trent’s absolutely right. Any real kitchen will put the uninitiated into task work…why would they put an inexperienced cook onto the front line? Prepping food is a step well before the customer’s plate, that can be corrected early on without losing many resources. Training you for actual cooking is also right — you don’t jump into calculu. when starting your math degree, you do basic algebra and build up. Too many times have I seen students think they could blow off the basics to get to the “fun” stuff, only to realize they couldn’t do the harder material until they mastered the basics.
    If you want to cook, and cooking is your passion, go for it! Just be willing to learn from the talented cooks around you. I’d be willing to PAY an upscale restaurant to let me into their kitchen to prep for them!

  5. Brad says:

    Every job has ‘dues’. In the cooking world, you *always* start with the crappy prep work. As Trent said, it ingrains knife skills that you absolutely need in the industry. Makes them automatic. Even the author of ‘Heat’, the excellent book about Mario Batali and the cooking industry, had to spend a long time doing prep work before he was allowed to do anything more interesting, and he was on a very accelerated path.

    If you do end up hating it based on some time in the industry, think of all the culinary school money/time you’ll save!

  6. Johanna says:

    Related to my earlier comment: Samuel isn’t being asked to chop vegetables because somebody thinks he needs to work on his knife skills. He’s being asked to chopped vegetables because there are a whole lot of vegetables that need to be chopped. That’s a big difference between his situation and the examples of learning piano or karate. Even if Samuel were to become the world’s best vegetable chopper, they won’t say to him, “You’ve mastered vegetable chopping now, so here’s something more interesting to do” – they’ll say, “You’ve mastered vegetable chopping now, so here are even more vegetables to chop.” And I can’t imagine that three weeks of straight vegetable chopping would be any less boring for the world’s best vegetable chopper than for someone just starting out.

  7. guinness416 says:

    Sounds like either he’s being thrown into the tasks they’d give their 16 year old apprentices to start OR he’s a bother to staff who are upset the manager let an unpaid, uninsured and older guy into their kitchen. Either way, no professional kitchen (and I’ve worked in a few) is likely to care how good a cook he is in his own home or consider years of office work transferrable. If it really is one of the best restaurants in his city, I think he should stick around, watch and learn, and see how things are in a few weeks time but Trent’s attitude is definitely better in the meantime than getting despondent.

  8. FruGreen says:

    It’s great that you have this opportunity where the cost is only your time. In my area, the Sur La Table store offers a class on “Knife Skills,” which I have been wanting to take but have been debating on whether or not to spend the money. If I were in your position, I’d ask the chefs in the restaurant for advice on how to be more efficient in your vegetable chopping (making it an unofficial “class”) and practice, practice, practice.
    Also, I’d imagine the daily slog of working in a restaurant is something that would help you rethink going to culinary school. Just think of being in that kitchen as your day job.

  9. Aaron says:

    You’re building muscle memory — like Trent noted, the same thing is done in many different disciplines that require tactile manipulation (martial arts, piano, etc.) Muscle memory shortens the circuitry necessary for reaction / response time, so that the sensory signal doesn’t travel all the way to your brain and back.

    Re: Culinary school, though — something you may want to ask your co-workers is whether or not it’s really necessary for the work you’re wanting to do. Can you learn everything you need to learn on the job? Culinary school would essentially be trading a substantial amount of time for guided practice — but if you can get that at your current job…

    I don’t know the culinary field, but I know that in other fields (information technology, for example) hands-on practice is often a better teacher than a classroom.

  10. getagrip says:

    I’ve worked in a restaurant on weekends and summers and I’ll say the dull, long, prepwork was 70% of what I saw the chef/owner doing with his kitchen staff anyday I showed up before lunch or before dinner service got hopping. I can’t see how anyone who’s worked in a successful restaurant couldn’t see that and realize that’s more than half of making yourself successful. If you’re not well prepped before the orders come in, how are you going to turn them around quickly when things get busy? The chef and his staff were there before I’d come in, and there often after I left. Easily ten to twelve hours spent mostly on their feet.

    Also, what did he expect when he showed up at a kitchen and presented himself as free labor? To be taken under wing by the head chef and taught how to work the line in a week? Lucky you’re chopping vegetables. I’d have you taking out the trash, hauling in the supplies, scrubbing ovens, chipping ice build-up in the freezer, all before I’d let you get near the food that my success and livelihood rests on.

    If you really want to learn, make chopping reasonably skilled and automatic so you can *look around you* and see how things are really getting done. Really see the way the kitchen works, who’s prepping what, which orders are being done, which dishes are “long poles in the tent” that have to go down first, how they time things, what system they use to communicate with front of house, etc. If this is really a successful place you’ve got a model right in front of you of one way things work right. If you’re serious about learning don’t waste the opportunity complaining about what you’re doing.

  11. Erika says:

    During slow times, ask the professionals on the job a few questions. If you’re honestly interested and appreciative of any advice, the pros are likely to be flattered and take a greater interest in you.

  12. lurker carl says:

    There seems to be a major disconnect between Samuel’s perceptions and expectations of the food service industry.

    Welcome to the kitchen. Someone has to do the grunt work, either a chef or the assistants, if meals are expected to be served. Better to hate it before wasting your hard earned money on culinary school.

  13. Kathy says:

    Actual restaurant work is much different than what is on Food Network. Those chefs you see on TV all had to pay their dues in restaurants, doing “boring” things like chopping and prep work. It was not until became successful in the restaurant business that they became celebrities.

    I think Food Network has skewed the perception of what being a chef is actually like. I also get a sense of “instant gratification”, too. Restaurant work is not glamorous. It’s physical, stressful work. I used to work in one when I was 19-20 years old. It was a small place and I did pretty much everything, but it was not physically easy work, especially during busy times. And when you do graduate and get that degree, the first place they are going to stick you is in the back, chopping vegetables.

  14. almost there says:

    I agree. Grunt work is where the new people go. A friend retired and went to college getting his hotel management degree. He expected to get hired at a high paying job but found out np one wanted to pay what he thought he was worth . Even with the degree one starts at the bottom and proves themselves to their employer. Months ago the NY Times magazine had an article on how the food tv network had turned cooking into a spectator event hiding the drudgery and hard work from viewers giving them unrealistic views of the lives of cooks.

  15. morrison says:

    Please watch the movie ‘Julie & Julia’. The first thing the Cordon Blue French Cooking school demanded of Julia Child was to properly chop onions. Julia was so determined to become a French chef that she chopped mounds and mounds of onions in order to succeed (it’s the comedic show stopper of the movie-onions piled so high her husband couldn’t enter the kitchen without tears forming in his eyes and gagging from the odor).

    Chopping the onions (or vegetables) are the test to see how committed you are to becoming a chef. Everyone thinks being a chef is easy and glamorous. It requires brawn and skill. It is grueling work plus if you become a head chef you must be good in math. Compiling recipes and meals for the masses takes a lot of arithmetic!

    Good luck.

  16. Anastasia says:

    I think we’re missing a critical piece of information: Is the restaurant training Samuel in proper knife work? Or are they just using him as free labor?

    If they are taking the time to train him properly – with demonstrations on holding the knife, holding the vegetables, and other details, then chopping vegetables is good practice. If they simply handed him a knife, bowl of veggies, and pointed him towards a cutting board, they’re getting free labor, and not helping Samuel learn the skills he needs.

  17. gerry says:

    In any trade and apprentice always starts at the bottom to do the mundane. It takes years to move through the right of passage. Coming through the ranks of the electrician apprenticeship and spending many days lugging ladders, fetching material, doing grunt work it finally pays off as you move through your apprenticeship. 15 years later I have been a journeyman electrician teaching new apprentices. The ones who get it decide to be the very best “material lugger” they can be because they know that everything fits into one grand scheme. My advice to the aspiring chef is suck it up, stop whining, and be the best damn vegetable cutter he can be, cause its only temporary.

  18. Sandy says:

    Sounds like someone needs to read some Thich Nhat Hanh…open yourself up to all you are gaining from this experience, not what you are “missing out” from it.
    Did this guy ever eat in a restaurant? Did he notice that his vegetables were chopped? Guess what? That’s what food preparation is all about!

  19. Nicole says:

    We’re also paying quite a bit of money for my husband to increase his knife skills this semester. (It’s paying off!)

    I recommend reading some of the interesting memoirs of chefs out there; there’s a really great book of short stories that gives a lot of different experiences… “Don’t Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World’s Greatest Chefs”. Also, go through the backlog of reallifecomics … Greg Dean did a stint at culinary school, but I’m pretty sure he decided not to be a chef in the end. He’s got some pretty funny comics from his time in culinary school and working as an apprentice after.

    They all do a lot of chopping. There will be a lot of chopping in culinary school, and a lot after culinary school. Maybe life as a chef is not what you’re looking for and it’s good to find that out before starting the education. Maybe it’s worth it to you on your way up the food chain, but maybe it isn’t. Like others said, look around the kitchen and see what people are doing. Think about how long it took them to get to where they are now.

  20. John says:

    I thought the best strategy was to push yourself to the bordlerline of you incompetence: ie. do the hardest thing you can successfully do. Or are these two strategies compatible?

  21. Gretchen says:

    I actually wonder what the poster thought he was getting into.

    What do you think you’ll learn in culinary school?
    What were you told the job would be like? Are they just giving you the knife and being told to for it? (that’s a different story, then.)

  22. Everyone who starts off in a kitchen starts off chopping the vegetables (or loading the dishwasher then progressing to vegetables). You offered yourself as a free apprentice, this is what apprentices do. Ask questions in the downtime, show you’re willing (they do this as much to weed out the people who think cooking is glamourous as anything else), and they’ll start giving you other things to do. But the point is that cooking is hard work, not all brilliance and what you see on the food channels. Read a couple of autobiographies and speak to some chefs, and have a think about whether you’ll be able to hack it. There’s no shame staying a talented amateur in your own kitchen if you’ll end up hating it if you go on.

  23. It seems that many people believe that this is part of the process of working your way to the top. While I agree that it makes sense that there is a pyramid in place that you must work your way up, is there a point where enough is enough? At what point could you conclude that you’re headed towards a dead end? 6 months? 1 year?

  24. deRuiter says:

    Devoted 17 years as a waitress to the food service business, I loved it. Waitressing in a good place is fast work, the time flies, you get a meal after the shift, at that time you always had money in your pocket because a lot of people tipped in cash. On the other hand, Samuel may have watched the food network too much. For 99.99% of chefs and cooks, cooking isn’t glamorous. Try reading that book by Anthony Bourdain. Cooking is HARD WORK. It is repetitve, requires long hours, is often accompanied by profanity, you ALWAYS work holidays, and every dish must be put out exactly like every other dish of the same kind, year in, year out. It’s dirty, hard work with mostly low pay, many chefs drink heavily for a reason. Samuel, consider keeping your current line of work, give nice little dinner parties where everyone raves about your food. The restaurant is using Samue instead of paying minimum wage to a kitchen prep man. Food service tends to have ups and downs (most restaurants fold, some quickly), the pay is relatively low, it’s hard to get a good position, long hours, dirty work, there are more graduates of culinary schools floating around unemployed than there are jobs for them. Samuel, try the school, you’ll learn new cooking techniques, and the school will get your tuition. Just don’t think you’re going to be cruising the dining room, in spotless whites, receiving accolades from diners. You’ll be on the line, sweating bullets, while the rest of the world has the night off, getting low pay, no benefits, hands covered with burns and cuts, working with mainly illegal aliens who speak minimal English, MAKING EACH PLATE GO OUT EXACTLY LIKE EVERY OTHER OF THE SAME PLATE, or else you will get fired. The attrition rate of cooks and chefs is pretty high because of the oversupply, and the pay isn’t great for the same reason, there’s always another one ready to work.

  25. tarits says:

    i’m assisting my mentor with a major project, and it has really been an eye opener. i’m struggling now with the unglamorous side of my dream job (training): the endless pile of paperwork.
    i enjoy being in front of people and developing modules, but the reports and monitoring part is pretty boring. and i still have to get over my fear of math as i handle statistical analysis of trainee evaluation. still, i know this is very good practice for when i do training on my own.
    this post reminded me what the slog work is for. =)

  26. Jules says:

    I always joke that my job is transferring minute quantities of clear liquids from one tube to another (I’m a lab tech). That I enjoy my job as much as I do in spite of the many boring and aggravating aspects of it (such as troubleshooting) probably means there’s something wrong with me, but the point is that the big picture–the one that makes it into publication–comes from the close attention to the little details. Did I put the right amount of reagent X into this? Was my pipetting technique accurate? Etc. You need to get to the point where these things become automatic, in order to be good.

  27. Geoff Hart says:

    Anybody considering a career as a chef should read Anthony Bourdain’s tell-all biography, “Kitchen Confidential”. It’s an eye-opener.

    Now admittedly, most chefs won’t have anything like Bourdain’s career or encounter the same challenges–think of Bourdain as playing lead guitar in the first heavy metal band, while the other cooks are playing rhythm guitar–but it’s still a must-read for anyone contemplating being a chef. There are some home truths there.

    On another note, cooking is like any other profession: there’s a lot of mindless, repetitive slog work required to lead up to the real work you enjoy. (I work as an editor… much the same here.) The trick is to become so good at the sloggery that you can do it in a kind of zen state, without paying much notice. That lets you reserve your mind and your passion for the parts of the work you enjoy.

  28. Heather says:

    I’d be really interested in a follow-up to see what Samuel decides to do. I think the comment from #23, Ace of Wealth is an interesting one. Yes, there may be big rewards in the long-run, but how long is one willing to wait to see those rewards.

    I waited nine years to take a higher position in my work (a unionized environment). By that time, in the lower-position job, I was able to hold my weekends off, work the shifts that I wanted, have access to better expenses while on shifts etc.
    With the new position, I went to the bottom of the new seniority list, had to work weekends again, be on call etc. The money was actually worse during that year. The money had the potential to be better, as did the schedule, but I had to evaluate how long I was willing to stay until that happened.

    In the end, I stayed in the position for one year, before going back to my previous job (still having retained my relative seniority). I didn’t see the potential for a workable schedule with more money coming for at least 5-8 years. I made the decision that was too long.

    Do I regret the loss of money during the year and the crappy schedule? No. What I took away from that experience were the new skills that I had acquired managing people, trying something I had REALLY wanted to do (i.e. I will not have gone through my life saying what if I had taken that position. I took it and tried it). But in the end, I had to look at the quality of life I was currently experiencing and when it would change. The payoff was too great for me. However, it was not until I actually tried it, that I was able to really make an informed decision. Perhaps I am just a slow learner:)

    Good luck with your decision!

  29. matt says:

    as a cliche: if you cant stand the heat get out of the kitchen. Working in a kitchen is lots of boring prep work, with a smattering of high stress profanity during the rushes. There is really no creativity (menu’s dont change that often). Or any of the glamor you see on tv. It sounds like you want to goto culinary school to learn to cook, which is fine. But you dont become an Alton Brown, Gordan Ramsay or Emirel overnight. I’ve done the restaurant thing, worked at 2 during high school, one in the back of the house, and the other in front. That experience basically taught me not to pursue any career that involves manual labor. Too stressful and wears on you too hard. You have to be a special kind of sadist to ‘want’ to work in a kitchen. I learned tons about cooking and how to run, and how not to run a business as well. Keep your eyes peeled and stick with it. It sounds like you haven’t even been doing it long enough to learn anything.

  30. Nicole says:

    I had a friend who wanted to be a bio professor. After college and during his masters program, he worked in a lab poking the noses of tiny flatworms and seeing if they flinched after being treated with some kind of chemical, day in and day out.

    One day he looked around and noticed that the other people doing the same work had PhDs. They’d been post-docs for years and were paying their dues before becoming professors, living on post-doc salaries.

    So he dropped out of biology and decided to get an economics PhD instead. The amount of time doing drudgery was not worth it, no matter what the payoff, and another ~6 years of school in a totally different field was worth the switch, so long as it meant he didn’t have to poke flatworm noses for 9 years.

  31. Lily says:

    Wow Trent. You nailed it!

    I just read a book about writing that addresses this. It says that the way to become a good writer is to write – write about mundane stuff; take a word, rewrite, write backwards – just write. The author good writers to good chefs. The best chefs are the fastest as the mundane tasks of chopping and food prep.

    Your advice is superb! I hope this helps Samuel get an “attitude adjustment” for his own good.

    And I also watch Julie and Julia – VERY INSPIRATIONAL FOR WANNABE CHEFS!!!

  32. dougR says:

    I’m late to this thread, but RUN, do not walk, to your local library & pick up Jacques Pepin’s “The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen,” which is a charming, affectionate and detailed (but not too much so) story of how he worked his way up through classical French restaurant kitchens. I suggest it partly because it’s so much fun to read, partly because of the staggering amount of detail chefs have to know (really, I had no idea, and I know a thing or 2 about cooking), and partly because it might help you context the drudgery of vegetable-chopping in the overall view of a career that has many stages, one of which is just the kind of scutwork you’re facing, and partly because, well, if you love food, so does Jacques, and it shows on every page of his book. (And really, from Pepin’s perspective as a very young would-be chef, “merely” chopping vegetables at a fine restaurant was a substantial step up the ladder, though your mileage may vary, of course.)

    Good luck!

  33. kathryn says:

    This kind of reminds me of the “chop wood, carry water” story. A novice monk goes to the abbot of his monastery and tells him that he wants to become enlightened and how should he go about that? The abbot tells him to meditate and in between, to chop wood and carry water. The novice does this for a great number of years, finally becoming enlightened. He returns to the abbot and tells him, “I’ve become enlightened, what should I do now?” the abbot replies, “chop wood, carry water.”
    No matter how great you are at anything, you have to know and practice the basics, or you can lose your mastery.

  34. J says:

    Reminds me of “Coming to America”

    “Oh yeah, I started out mopping the floor just like you guys. Then I moved up to washing lettuce. Now, I’m working the fat fryer. Pretty soon I’ll make assistant manager and that’s when the big bucks start rolling in.”

    Look at the chefs and other places you will work up to as you go on. Look at what they do. Find out how long they have been doing it. Are you that willing to stick with it?

    Maybe what you are experiencing is similar to someone who wants to break off an engagement, but doesn’t, thinking their spouse will magically “change” or “get better”. Ultimately, the divorce is messy, since kids are involved, plus a house and a lot of hurt feelings, because the spouse kept on being the same person after marriage and eventually the relationship fails.

    I like the suggestion to host more dinner parties and look for a different way to pay the bills. If you hate the drudgery now, how are you going to feel after you’ve prepared your 1000th chicken cordon bleu at the banquet hall? Celebrity anything (be it chef, athlete, musician or dotcom billionaire) is likely the result of not only hours of drudgery and hard work, but also some amount of innate talent, desire and love for the work.

  35. Kate says:

    Gretchen (Comment #3) asked what the piano teacher said about practicing the same song for an hour. I suspect the teacher is delighted. This sort of awareness of the value of such practice is why I always loved adult students when I taught piano.

    I learned to play the piano 54 years ago. I can no longer do so; it’s a bit too hard on my wrists. (Lighter keys and no need to come down harder for volume.) However, I took up the organ about seven years ago, and I’ve taught myself the pedals.

    After all these years when I tackle a new piece, I do it the same way I used from grade school through college: play each part (right hand, left hand, and these days feet) separately first, then together. For harder pieces on the organ, I also play different combinations (left hand and feet, for example).

    A tricky phrase, sometimes even a tricky measure, gets repeated, over and over and over, twenty, fifty, howevermany times, until the muscle memory is there, waiting to be triggered at the sight of those notes on the page.

    Deliberate practice. It’s more ATTITUDE than anything else, and nothing else can replace it.

  36. Kate says:

    I shouldn’t post when tired; I said I can no longer do so; it’s a bit too hard on my wrists. (Lighter keys and no need to come down harder for volume.) Of course I meant that the organ has lighter keys and so forth.

  37. Evita says:

    Trent, I hope that I am not off-topic here, but I hope that you do not just practice the same song over and over (although this is good in itself, songs are fun). You absolutely need scales and finger exercises to train your fingers. Has your teacher given you some?

  38. Sandy L says:

    I worked in food service for years when in school.

    Let’s not forget that when your buddies are celebrating new year’s you’re working. Or on Friday and Saturday night when everyone else is off..you’re working.

    I didn’t mind the hard work and drudgery as much as I minded the schedule. I always seemed to be on when everyone else was off and vice versa.

  39. bg says:

    And doing the prep work of chopping vegetables is actually pretty high up on the food chain in the kitchen.

    Many apprentices start washing dishes so they realize how hard it is to clean a scorched pan and are don’t scorch them when they get on the saute line.

    I worked with a chef would often chop mushrooms while talking to someone, he didn’t need look at his hands, which is hard for something small like mushrooms.

  40. How about this: Try reading that book by Anthony Bourdain. Cooking is hard work. It is repetitve, requires long hours, is often accompanied by profanity, you alwayswork holidays, and every dish must be put out exactly like every other dish of the same kind, year in, year out. It’s dirty, hard work with mostly low pay, many chefs drink heavily for a reason.

  41. Deliberate practice is definitely one way to look at it. We need to do the tedious things if we want to perfect them. However, it sounds like the biggest problem for Samuel is that he simply finds it terribly boring. I would suggest to incorporate an element of mindfulness into the practice…be extra aware of the sensations of picking up the knife and cutting through vegetables. Pay particular attention to the differences in “hardness” of each vegetable. Make it into a kind of meditation practice…that will make it much more interesting. This actually relates to one of my articles, “Rituals vs. Routines: From Dull-Living to Empowerment.”

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