Friday at last, and we’ll do our usual Foodie thing this week with a focus on doh. That’s not a typo – it’s doh in the Homer Simpson manner: I want to review a few of the most common mistakes we make in the kitchen. The inspiration was a recent piece in Cooking Light. They cited 25 common errors – I’m going to lay out a few this week and maybe we’ll get to some others next week. Of course, the lessons they teach won’t be restricted to the kitchen either…
The first one is something that I’ll cop to myself : you don’t taste as you go. Old seasonings, a particularly pungent batch of herbs, how much natural sugar is in the food can all affect the taste of the dish and no recipe can account for all of these things. You have to taste as you go and adjust. Of course managers often make that same mistake in their offices – they don’t taste. What I mean is that to get where they are, managers have followed some sort of recipe and generally have written (in their own minds, if not on paper) other recipes for how they want things to run. That’s great, but one has to taste too. I’ve known bosses who lock themselves away in their offices and don’t wander about among their staff speaking, listening – tasting!
Another mistake: you don’t read the entire recipe before you start cooking. This is how you get 6 steps into a dish and realize you’re missing an ingredient or haven’t heated the oven or don’t have the right size pan. Figuring out a dish takes an hour longer than you have won’t make whomever you’re feeding very happy. In business, we make that mistake as well. We agree to deals without getting into the fine points of a contract or we begin projects without really thinking through every step. That sometimes results in work grinding to a halt as we hit issues that arise but were very predictable had we thought things through in-depth – had we read the whole recipe.
Finally today, we don’t know our oven’s quirks and idiosyncrasies. Every oven has hot and cool spots. Baking or roasting without taking those zones into account can result in uneven cooking or over/under done results. The same is true of your staff. If we treat each team member’s work habits as the same we get projects done piecemeal or qualitatively unevenly. Some folks need careful instruction; others need only to be told the basics. We need to make sure we know how often to check on the progress and adjust based on how things are moving along.
Funny how a kitchen is like an office, even when you’re not a cook! Better that we stick to making dough and not making DOH!