Productivity secrets that I learned from a sexy chef.
Falling in love with a sexy chef is a really good idea.
I recommend that you try it at least once in your lifetime.
Since meeting my sweetheart, Brandon, I’ve been exposed to the fascinating, hidden world of chefs, specialty food producers, and restauranteurs.
You know. All those people who make your favorite meals, drinks and treats, and who you rarely get to meet — or see in action.
By Brandon’s side, I’ve had the privilege of taking a private tour of the kitchen at The French Laundry, one of the top restaurants in the world. (I was on crutches and slightly champagne-tipsified at the time… and I was terrified of knocking over a $1,000 pile of black truffles and then being personally beheaded by Thomas Keller.)
I’ve also gotten to hang back and observe the happenings inside top restaurants here in the Portland area. I’ve gotten to see what talented chefs do — and don’t do — both inside and outside of the kitchen.
To summarize my observations?
Chefs tend to be deeply passionate, but also meticulously organized, efficient, deadline-driven and productive — by necessity.
No matter what kind of work you do — writing, painting, website coding, parenting, project management, or personal styling — there’s a LOT that we can learn from culinary virtuosos.
Today, I present to you: 5 productivity secrets that I learned from a sexy chef.
None of these suggestions are particularly “revolutionary” or “innovative.” Just classic, tried-and-true recommendations that really work. In the kitchen — and in the “kitchen of life” — it’s often the simplest approaches that yield the greatest results.
— Make a production list.
Brandon doesn’t rock into the restaurant at 7am every morning and then say, “Hmmm… I wonder what I should be doing today? Guess I’ll just wing it!”
He’s got a clear-cut production list that’s already been outlined, usually the night before: a certain number of loaves of bread he needs to bake, desserts he needs to prep, sauces he needs to whip up and store for the evening crew, and so on.
There’s no ambiguity. These things must get done by a particular time, or the restaurant customers won’t get to eat.
What’s on your “production list” for the week?
A certain number of pages you need to write… blog posts you need to post… podcasts you to record… or proposals you need to send out to clients?
Write everything down. Make a neat list. Assign a completion time for each item. Then, crank up some music (Brandon especially loves Whitney Houston, Lil Wayne, and this chill dance mix) and make it happen.
— Mise it out.
In the culinary world, there’s a French term — mise en place — which means “putting in place.”
If you’re a cool guy, like Brandon, you say: “Mise it out!” [say it with me: Meez it out!]
Meaning: “Set everything up in an orderly fashion — ingredients, knives, herbs, oils, cutting boards — so that I can get down to business.”
If you want to exercise daily, mise it out: lay out your running shoes and gym outfit the night before, at the foot of your bed.
If you want to start each morning by writing a letter to someone you love, mise it out: put your paper, pen and stamps right next to your coffee maker.
If you want to finish your novel, mise it out: charge up your computer, queue up your favorite music, get your headphones, block out the time on your calendar and treat it with the same level of seriousness as your best friend’s wedding or an urgent doctor’s appointment. Crucial. Vital. Un-cancellable.
— Treat your materials with respect.
“No! Not like that,” the lead chef exclaimed in horror, watching one of his assistants carelessly pile leftover cake into a freezer tray, making a big, sloppy mound. “Would you treat a nice piece of Jamón ibérico like that? No way, dude. Slice it neatly. Tight rows. C’mon. Respect the food.”
I observed this interaction, watching, afterwards, as the chef demonstrated how to lovingly wipe down the twelve-foot long prep table in the back kitchen, glossing the wood to a fine sheen with a lemon-scented olive oil. “We need to do that at least once a week,” he explained. “Let’s treat this table right.”
When you treat your materials and your workspace with respect, you tend to work more thoughtfully and intentionally — which means that whatever you are producing winds up being better, too.
— Take your rest & recovery time seriously.
When Brandon comes home after a long, hectic day in the kitchen, he’s been on his feet for twelve hours straight, or more, hauling 40-pound bags of flour, cranking out an enormous volume of products, in non-stop production mode since the crack of dawn.
When he walks through the door after his workday, he doesn’t want kisses, conversation, and lots of attention (not for the first hour or so, anyway). He wants to flop face down on the bed and take a few moments of absolute silence. Then he wants a chilled beer. Then he wants a few moments to peruse the latest Ultimate Fighting Championship blog updates. And THEN he’s ready for dinner, snuggles, conversation, and couple-time.
He treats his “rest & recovery time” seriously, because he knows that if he doesn’t take some time to chill and decompress — and get a full night’s sleep — he will be a cranky grump-face the next day, or worse, make a potentially costly or dangerous mistake in the kitchen. (Open flames + razor-sharp knives + sleep deprivation = certain disaster.)
I admire the way that he doesn’t “apologize” or feel “guilty” for needing to rest. It’s simply a non-negotiable part of his day.
You can’t be massively productive if you are massively exhausted. It’s that simple.
— Never stop refining.
One of Brandon’s most mind-blowing dessert concepts — an orgasmic ball of homemade ice cream encased in cake crumbs, then dipped in donut batter and deep fried — required dozens and dozens of “tries” to get it just right.
Sometimes the center was rock-hard. Other times it was molten goo. Other times the batter was too salty. Or too sweet. He didn’t give up after the first or second try. He knew that — without enough tweaking — he’d eventually nail it.
So many people — myself included — feel defeated after just one or two small “failures.” We give up on our dreams too quickly, mostly because we’re scared of wasting time, energy, or costly materials, or simply because our egos are bruised.
I know talented authors who have basically “retired” and stopped trying to write because their first book launch wasn’t the “international success” they’d been hoping for. I know business owners who panic and close up shop after their first product launch fizzles, rather than pausing to regroup and ask, “What can I learn from this?”
If you give up, then it’s game-over. Production grinds to a halt. Sometimes, permanently.
Avoid that fate. Fight to keep hope alive.
Keep battering. Keep frying. Keep trying.
One day, not too far away from now, you might have a concept that makes people groan audibly in ecstasy, begging for “just… one… more… bite.”
PS. If you are currently wondering, “Um, how can I meet a sexy, creative, amazing person like Brandon???!” I highly recommend that you dip your toes into the online dating waters. That’s how he & I met. Yep.
Here’s a template I created to help you write a simple, enticing dating profile.
You might also dig… this.
Oh, and have you read my debut novel, Milk & Honey…? You can find it in my Shop and if you love food, romance, smutty sex scenes and general deliciousness, it could be quite a delight. Enjoy to the max!