Mario Batali on Creative Discipline

I love to cook. LOVE to eat. Love to watch and read anything related to cooking and eating. I watched Food Network grow up along with my daughter born in 1995. My love of cooking and my children are so interwoven that I can’t help but think of one without the other.

Conventional wisdom tells us to “do what you are passionate about.” I am certainly passionate about food but I don’t want to do it professionally.

For one simple reason:  I am incapable of consistency.

Skill-wise, I am a culinary child bouncing between passionate experimentation. My cooking doesn’t have the maturity of disciplined and consistent devotion.

I admire those who can run restaurants, catering businesses and the most attractive of all… trucks. But I am content with my “Try the World Boxes,” my “spicebar” experimentations, my Lucky Peach, Southern Living, Saveur, Cooking Light sticky notes.

After all, I have practice being an admirer of the arts as a design historian and as a philosopher focused on aesthetics. I am a trained spectator and cheerleader. An appreciative eater and a curious cook.

I will not be the next Food Network Star. Or, the next celebrity chef. And, that’s absolutely okay.

After reading Mario Batali’s article in Lucky Peach, I feel reassured of my decision NOT to attend culinary school or embark on a culinary career despite my long-standing fascination.

When you go to these three-star Michelin restaurants, repetition is the fundamental driving truth behind it, not that the cooks got whipped. It’s that they had to do it again and again and again. And you go to Michel Guérard or Roger Vergé and you have those zucchini blossoms stuffed with the black truffle and the little porky thing that’s around it. Thirty-five years on that dish is still a revolution; it’s still unbelievable. It’s not just creativity—sometimes it’s productivity and repetition. That’s discipline. It’s hard for people to understand that repetition is the discipline that these guys think they’re missing because no one can anymore.

Wise chef Batali explains the need for repetition and discipline in shaping super chefs – “it’s not just creativity – sometimes it’s productivity and repetition.”

Particularly, in the West where creativity and individuality are highly prized, the crucial role of simple repetition gets lost.  The culinary need for discipline holds true for any arts,  whether visual or performing. Discipline sharpens creativity.

I’m happy to waft in and out of the kitchen, my messy playground. Sometimes I’m lucky to be an appreciative eater of work by disciplined culinary designers.

Wishing you happy weekend eats,



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