Cooking, Organization and the Creative Process

The societal treadmill we find ourselves on has no doubt been speeding up, but what happens when the whole world falls flat on its face?

Scrapes and bruises aside, it seems we are about to find out as we deal with this Pandemic in all its horrifying glory. The “Big Reset” as some have coined it will have no shortage of long-term, dire consequences. It has, however, delivered some silver linings with regard to collective consciousness. Not to risk sounding too Pollyanna, but it has forced many of us to reprioritize what’s truly important — life itself. Cooking, laughing, learning, engaging with our families and community, these are the essentials for a nourished soul and are the founding principles that led to AOK’s inception.

Like most of us, I too have found myself honing in on cooking as a way to keep busy and healthy. Educating myself around food has been nothing short of an epic saga over the past few months, but through it all I’ve found so many lessons that apply not only to putting together a tasty meal, but creative thinking as a whole. 

As someone who admittedly tends to get flustered easily when there’s a lot going on, I’ve taken to one culinary concept most wholeheartedly; the French term “mise-en-place” which translates to something along the lines of “everything in its place”. It refers to the all important prep work that goes into professional cooking practices. To have repeat culinary success, the stage must be set — the garlic chopped, the pans in place, the oil and vinegar measured out. Taking this step seriously can strip away all the frenzy and uncertainty involved in recipe creation and allow you to fully pay be absorbed in the task at hand. The colors, aromas and flavors that flood your senses dictate when something is ready not the timer on your stove. This is when the cooking truly begins, once you allow yourself to enter into a flow state and lose yourself in an act of creation for even just a moment. 

So much of the success of creative output is dependent upon the circumstances and environment in which it is created. Setting the stage for repeat success matters not just for cooking, but every creative process. For myself, when translating this to my own design process, it means having my devices charged, my files (somewhat) organized and a good cup of coffee within arm’s reach. It means having notifications on mute and allowing my phone to sit in the other room for a few hours while I actually get some thoughtful work done. 

There is a pervasive myth of productivity and efficiency that we all (particularly in the U.S.) subscribe to that “time is money” and therefore doing things as quickly as possible is the best way to maximize profits and output. It’s so pervasive that it’s practically invisible. We’ve come to associate packed calendars and sad lunch breaks at our desks with actual productivity. Careless emails and endless meetings have become the norm in most office settings when in reality these are nothing but time suckers. If your company needs excessive meetings to keep everybody on track, there’s much larger systemic issues that aren’t allowing for autonomy and ownership. And if you think firing off emails in rapid succession is helping you, take a look at how effectively you’re actually communicating what you need and whether or not it’s going to lead to miscommunication or lack of alignment down the road. We’ve seen people can be productive on their own schedule and work when it suits them. I urge you to be present, thoughtful and considerate — it will pay off in the long run. Work smarter, not harder.

As we all approach this period of adaptation and adjust to new working environments, passions and perspectives, I’ve identified a few guiding principles that I’m incorporating not only in the kitchen, but my personal and professional life as well. I hope they help you as they have helped me and that we can bring them along with us after this all shakes out. 


Guiding Principles

  • It Really is OK to “Fail”

    • Failure is inherently subjective. It presents opportunities to learn from and is fundamental to greatness. Mistakes are often the gateway for new ideas and innovation. Even if you fuck it up, life is still gonna be delicious. How can we worker smarter not harder?

  • Perspective Shapes Reality

    • As in life, perspective really does define the way in which we engage the world around us. Focusing on what you can control today is about as much as most of us can deal with right now. Find concrete steps to take each day instead of perseverating on the big, scary things over which we have little control.

  • Adaptation is at the Heart of it All

    • Good creative process is all about keeping your cool and adapting as things shift (as we all know they do). It’s about making the most of what you have at your disposal and fighting the urge to become flustered. Nothing dampens creativity more than fear and anger. Necessity is the mother of invention after all. 

  • Following Your Intuition 

    • Humans are naturally curious and playful creatures, but we have so many voices that we’ve internalized telling us how we should feel about our work and ourselves. Developing a barometer (or palette in this case) to distinguish the mediocre from the amazing is paramount. With repeat success, you learn to trust your intuition and cook from the hip. 

  • Be Present

    • Good things rarely happen when you can’t take the time to concentrate and mentally be in the moment. Free yourself from distraction and have fun!

  • Start From Scratch

    • Everything tastes better when you start from scratch. Realizing that most things are pretty simple to do/make on your own has been nothing short of a revelation. Joy is in the act of creation — the journey, not the destination. I aspire to create more, consume less (but better).