As a professional cook, my focus when I’m in the kitchen is constantly changing.
In the beginning, my focus was very narrow, almost as if my white jacket and the bandana I used to wear before I cut my hair so short had come with a pair of blinders. Those blinders directed my view to a very specific spot. Let’s call it the Don’t Screw Up and Get Yelled At spot. I suppose a lot of us focus on that spot early on, no matter what career we’re in.
Once cooks get that down, our focus begins to change as we think about creating new flavors and dishes, being different, having our own style.
Then, as we gain more control over that area, our focus broadens more. The focus may evolve into creating a great experience as a whole, understanding now that the bigger picture includes more than food on a plate. The bigger picture involves how a server interacts with guests, the timing of food coming to the table, the ambiance of the dining room, the music, the temperature and so much more.
After that is locked down, the focus broadens even more. Cooks who really get the power of food begin to focus on how food impacts their community, outside the walls of the kitchen, the dining room, the business.
This is where I am at now. I feel I skipped a few steps as a technician of food because cooking here at First Presbyterian Church challenged me very quickly to broaden my viewpoint and mindset beyond just the food on the plate. Today I view food as a catalyst to provide fellowship, to help establish relationships with those in need, to support a community, and (most importantly) bring people together.
The impact I wish to make has more to do with people and their stories than it does items on a menu. My focus as a cook is to use my gift to bring people together, to break bread together, and to impact each other’s lives through our interactions around the table.
I have been passionate about food for many years now. It has taken this long for me to mature enough to realize that what is on the plate isn’t the most important thing about being a cook; what’s most important is how the food acts as a catalyst to have impact on the community.