"You absolutely need to go to this demo."
"Why is it so important?" After cooking for the last 5 hours, sticking around after class to watch another 2 hours of it wasn't high on my list.
"Jacques Pépin is like... the Yoda of cooking. Watch the way he flows between tasks. It's just as impressive as his actual cooking."
My Chef instructor couldn't have been more right that day. At the time, I didn't know the first thing about Jacques Pépin. I came to find out later he's a legend. Some of his accolades include:
- Personal chef to three French heads of state including Charles De Gaulle
- Host and co-host of some of the first major cooking shows
- Author of 'La Technique,' one of the most respected culinary books of all time, along with several other best-sellers
- Graduate of Columbia University (B.A., M.A.)
- Dean of the International Culinary Center
The demo was special. Jacques broke down vegetables and proteins absolutely effortlessly. He filleted a fish perfectly with one quick move of the knife, so quick that I almost didn't catch it. My fellow students and I had been working on that technique earlier that day, and several people let out a laugh when they saw how easy he made it look.
After each stage of his demo, he quickly moved the finished product into a small container, discarded the scraps, and wiped his cutting board. The three movements felt connected because he had done them all so fluidly. And before the audience had time to lose focus, he had already moved on to the next thing.
There's a natural human tendency to slow down "in transition." Whether it's moving from chopping onions to filleting a fish or moving from answering emails to working on a presentation, there's often a lull in focus that invites in distraction and jeopardizes the next task on the list. It takes mental energy to switch from one thing to the next, which can act as just enough friction for us to avoid the transition completely.
I was particularly bad at transitions this week. There were several times in which I'd finish something, start thinking about what I wanted to do next, and then "wake up" 20 minutes later on Instagram or down an internet wormhole. One day, it somehow took me an hour and a half to go from waking up to getting out the door in the morning. I have no idea how I used that time.
I've realized I'm most successful in my transitions when I merely take the time to realize I'm in the midst of one. This sort of awareness is my first defense against wasting time or losing focus because I'm more determined to not get off course. This is similar to how a relay runner heightens their focus for the baton hand-off. They can't afford to not nail the transition.
Practice Waking Up
Active time to complete: 1 min
The transition that is going from waking up to getting out of the house in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. Time your "normal routine" one day this week, and see if for the rest of the week, you can improve upon it. Time isn't the only focus here, it's also about keeping stress low.
- Could you put your clothes out the night before?
- How might you make your breakfast or coffee easier for yourself?
- Could 10 minutes of meditation help smooth the transition from sleeping to waking state?