We’ll end the week with our usual food-centric piece. Today, I want to direct you to a piece by Food Network Magazine – the 100 Greatest Cooking Tips Of All Time. While the list is far from exhaustive, it’s pretty good. Many of them revolve around a few themes and many of those themes have application in business.
The first one comes from Marcus Samuelsson:
If you’re cooking for someone important — whether it’s your boss or a date — never try a new recipe and a new ingredient at the same time.
Well, I haven’t cooked for a date in a very long time, but I have presented to new clients, and I definitely see the application of this principle. When it’s important to put your best foot forward, it’s not the time to experiment. Stick to what you know works – there will be curve-balls aplenty even under the best conditions. Your job is to reduce them to a manageable number.
Next is something I was taught to do many years ago by an Italian grandmother and comes from Chef Issac Becker:
When making meatballs or meatloaf, you need to know how the mixture tastes before you cook it. Make a little patty and fry it in a pan like a mini hamburger. Then you can taste it and adjust the seasoning.
At the risk of singing one of my familiar refrains, this is all about feedback. Analytics. Measurement. Tasting as you go (to paraphrase Chef Anne Burrell‘s tip) is how you keep a business on track. If something is off, you need to adjust the seasoning (or the plan) and you can’t know that unless you taste. Otherwise, the dish (and the deal) can turn out inedible.
Finally, the value of planning from Chef John Besh:
Take the time to actually read recipes through before you begin.
and Chef Gabrielle Hamilton
Organize yourself. Write a prep list and break that list down into what may seem like ridiculously small parcels, like “grate cheese” and “grind pepper” and “pull out plates.” You will see that a “simple meal” actually has more than 40 steps. If even 10 of those steps require 10 minutes each and another 10 of those steps take 5 minutes each, you’re going to need two and a half hours of prep time. (And that doesn’t include phone calls, bathroom breaks and changing the radio station!) Write down the steps and then cross them off.
One of my great culinary joys is getting a four course meal on the table for 20 people at exactly the time the Mrs. informs me dinner is to be served to the guests. That can’t happen without thoughtful and careful planning. Then again, that project is much simpler than many of the business tasks we all face. I’m surprised at how little planning goes into many of the most complex tasks. Failure to think a project through to completion, to break it down into the component steps and to plan accordingly, is one of the great causes of failure. It leads to cost overruns and shortages of time.
What’s your favorite cooking tip? How does it apply to work outside of the kitchen?