By Nikolas Baron
The other day, I contrived to cook this Michelin starred 5-course meal for my family to show off some of my unmatchable caliber in the kitchen. I’m not sure what I was trying to prove, but that’s beside the point because it ended in a doozy of mismatched flavors and forced nods to my questions on palatability. After that extraordinary (trust me, it was extraordinary) show down, I resigned to my rightful place behind the screen instead of breaking countless porcelain plates in the kitchen where I don’t belong.
Upon reflection, I realized where I went wrong. The whole approach to cooking was erroneous; I was looking at it all wrong. From a writer’s point of view, writing with the intention of impressing can only end up in an unsalvageable mess. It has to come from deep within, from the core of your being. I sound so cliché here, but hear me out — I think I’ve came up with some groundbreaking parallels between culinary and writing.
1. Embrace the Flavors
A dash of this here, a dollop of that there, some sprinkles, a pinch of seasoning and voila! True chefs follow their gut instinct. I’ll be damned to see the head chef of Noma reign the helms armed with a measuring spoon and a weighing scale. Just like any piece of writing, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all for any dish. You just have to go with the flow and let your intuitions lead the way. The important point to note here is to embrace the flavors, get good ingredients, and let them do the talking. Put down that phony artisanal jam displayed in the window; it’s just frozen fruits, sugar and an oddly shaped glass jar. Likewise, employ the use of impactful words and solid ideas, leaving out the pretentious verbiage. We want people to understand you in the most effective and concise manner as possible; we don’t need the universe heaped onto your plate.
2. Try New Things
Great chefs are never afraid to experiment with new ingredients, which is precisely how food trends are born. If Gordon Ramsay stuck to his classic British/ Irish snobbery, we’d still be fascinated with mushy casseroles and fish & chips. The same approach applies to writing. Don’t be that sad one-dish wonder people used to talk about, experiment with different styles and genres to expose yourself to the varied skills needed in each category. If it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world! Take J.K. Rowling for example, Harry Potter was undoubtedly one of the best series of all time. Fast forward a few years and her tease into adult fiction Casual Vacancy was probably not such a great idea. However, she didn’t venture into the unknown, how would she ever know that she should stick to the magical world and just satisfy her raging fans with an 8th book (just saying)?
3. Taste Test Everything
Undoubtedly, the most important role in the kitchen is the Expeditor. The Expeditor is the last professional chef in contact with the gorgeously plated food before it heads out of the kitchen and fed to the sharks. Each plate is inspected for thumb prints, imbalanced garnishes and missing ingredients. The Expeditor takes a sniff here, puts the shebang through a taste test there, and everything must be checked to impeccable standards. In writing, we call this proofreading and editing. Never let any word scurry pass your scrutiny; pick out any word that doesn’t compliment the rest of the text and change it. Just like any award winning kitchen that recruits only the best staff, having the right tools at this stage in your writing will also make a world of a difference. I always rely on the help of a trusty program such as Grammarly to grammar check my work to the T, and to give me the peace of mind that all my ducks are in order (pun intended).
With these new insights, it’s time to try my hand at cooking again. Maybe this time, I wouldn’t be half as bad.
Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.