Chefs can quickly spot inexperienced cooks in a kitchen—like first few seconds sort of quick. I know this from firsthand experience as the one being spotted. It happens when an instruction like this is called out:
“Get that asparagus blanched!”
Blanch (v.): To scald in boiling water, remove after a brief, timed interval, and place in ice water to stop the cooking. Usually done for texture, but also for color, or to remove undesirable flavors.
Everything in the kitchen is now. As such, a line cook is expected to immediately jump into whatever’s being asked of them. And the very first step they take toward completing the task is usually a good indicator of how successful they will be in accomplishing it—the cook’s "first move."
I’ve worked with chefs who would wait to see a cook’s first move before trusting the assignment was being taken care of. An incorrect first move will expose a cook as a novice to the rest of the kitchen, like a chess player making a painful move early in a game.
“Get that asparagus blanched!” should mean…
- First move: Getting hot water in a pot (hot water boils quicker than cold)
- Placing pot over high heat
- Finding asparagus
- Blanching asparagus once water’s boiling
Common mistake: Looking around for the asparagus first. If it takes a while to find, the water isn’t boiled in time.
I'll share some first moves I’ve made this week that I’m not proud of. And they've all affected the output quality of the work I was doing:
Task: Write this post
Ideal first move: Opening MindNode to start mind mapping
Actual first move: Opening MailChimp to look at subscriber list
Task: Prep for a job interview
Ideal first move: Reviewing job posting
Actual first move: Googling company's competitors, going down internet wormhole
A first move sets the tone for the task at hand, and when done intentionally, can create a lot of forward momentum. Note the difference between making an intentional first move and an ideal first move. In some cases, we don't have the information or resources needed to make an ideal first move. In those situations, making an intentional first move will always beat not making a move at all. In the asparagus example, the ideal first move is to fill a pot with water, but if I don't know where to find a pot, an intentional first move is to look for one in a few likely places—this will get me on my way.
Try using the concept of first moves to your advantage by competing the weekly challenge below!
Find Your Own First Moves
Active time to complete: 3 min
Write down 3 big tasks you have for the week ahead. Visualize what your first move will be for each. Commit to making these first moves a reality.