How important is skill in a values-based culinary career?

So often when we bring our hearts to our careers we also bring the notion that because our hearts are in the right place everything will work out. You know,  the law of attraction, positive thinking, all of these kinds of things that we think support people like us whose hearts are in the right place. People who want to serve the community. Folks want to do good.  We think that all we have to do is get started and the universe will take it from there.

At one level, all of that ‘positive thinking’ stuff is true.   However, its also true that the marketplace is a very big place. And  people who want to express their values in their careers find themselves competing every day in the marketplace with ALOT of other folks….sometimes with people who share our values but most times not. Most of the time we’re competing with people whose primary focus is success, in the uni-dimensional realm of financial reward

And when you are competing in this way, skill counts!  Lets explore why, and what you can do about it.

When you are building a culinary career that is values-based you really have more than one goal. If you need to make a choice between values and profit you will be guided most often by your values. For example if you were offered a position that violates your values even though the salary is higher you will likely choose not to take that position. This is a way you would express our values in the real world of your career. And you may well face these sorts of decisions daily, or many times each day.

So let’s come back to skill. Since we live in a western society, we must work to provide for ourselves and for our families. Hence, our choice to build a values based career as a culinary professional, a chef, or a culinary health coach.  And we likely want to design a career which gives us the largest possible platform on which to achieve our career goals consistent with the our values.

What I found over the years is that the distinguishing factor is often skill. How good are we at a creating a recipe?  How good are we marketing?  How skillful with a knife?  How skillful are we when we meet with people?  Are we skillful when we design a menu?  All of these skills (and many others) combine to create the demand for us as individuals in the market in which we compete.

Our unique combination of skills, knowledge and experience is what our employers or ultimately the marketplace buys.  So if your intention is to live your life consistently with your values I suggest you pay attention to your skills!  The stronger your skills the more opportunity you will have to live consistently your values. The more freedom and choice you will have.

Do you remember the first time you found yourself making a significant choice while you were at work? I remember mine.  I made a deal with the manager was that if I could get all my hair under the chefs hat he’d let me cook.  So two ponytails later  I was a very young, not very skilled ‘grill’ guy.  I cooked steak 5 nights a week. It was one of those gigs where you cooked out in the restaurant so I had a chefs hat on and the deal   And this was the time I learned my first ethical lesson about food.

I learned that when you are not very good managing your inventory you wind up with steak that starts to get old. And it’s kind of tough to sell old steak. So what the manager told me to do was to cook the steak before it got too old and then reheat it and finish cooking it when an order finally came in. The meat was close to bad, but what did I know? I did what he taught me.

So what does this have to do with skill?  Well looking back it seems pretty questionable to take a steak that was going bad, heat it up and then serve it to somebody at a restaurant. I can make the excuse that I was young so somebody else should’ve known better but not me. But let’s consider the manager and his skill.  You could say he was skillful in that he  figured out how to sell his bad inventory, but from the point of view of a values-based career its obvious that if he were more skillful at ordering inventory and planning meals he could have avoided the unethical choice of pre-cooking meat that was going bad.

This was one of my earliest examples of why skill is so important if you want to live with the values you want to live with.

Skill counts. It especially counts if you want your values to be present at all times in your choices. So for those of you who want  values-based culinary careers I encourage you to get skillful.  Skill will emerge as a key ingredient in your career, and your life as a plant-based chef, or any other field you might choose where you want to bring your more into the mainstream, regardless if those values are a love of ayurveda, or a passionate commitment to veganism, or a simple determination to bring food into healthcare.  Skill is a key ingredient in achieving your career goals. Be skillful.  Become skillful. Practice skillfulness.


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