Pride: A Perfect Path to Preventing Progress

It’s somewhat sad that I have to bring this up, but I just have to.

I was recently going on a binge-watching spree of Culinary Genius. The show is essentially a one-episode cooking competition. Contestants have to complete a number of challenges, which eliminations in the middle. The first challenge requires knife skills, and the second, butchery skills. Every episode, a guest chef appears and not only judges the contestants on their performance in the challenges, but also demonstrates to them how to complete the challenges, offering tips, experience and personal advice.

So, why do I bring this topic up? In Season 1 Episode 6 of the show, a guest chef named Rosemary Shrager was responsible for demonstrating the chopping of a tomato. I’m no expert on chopping, but let me tell you that her performance on that was terrible. Not only did she manage to cut herself while chopping (which was edited out), her explanations were unclear. She was also very condescending. Most of all, she was slow. It took her a significant amount of time to slice the tomatoes according to a size that she wanted. Not only that, she claimed that she wanted a uniform size, when the size of her cuts were all over the place too (a common theme, constantly repeated by her appearances in future episodes). And I won’t even start on how much food went to waste during her little chopping demonstration. If you watch a chef like Gordon Ramsay cook, you’ll realize how little waste can be generated. It is something he always points out. You’re paying top dollar for ingredients. Why throw them away?

But that’s not what got me. There was a contestant on the show that blasted through the challenge. He demonstrated fantastic knife skills. He was fast, precise and perfect with his handling, blasting every other contestant out of the water. He even got a comment from Rosemary herself, as she was impressed with his skills. Now, the part that really ticked me off…

During the judging phase, she scrutinized his bowl of chopped tomatos extensively, trying to find any flaw that she could with his work. She couldn’t. He had completed the challenge perfectly. She then asked how he was able to complete the challenge so efficiently, to which he explained to her his technique. Rather than say “Oh! That’s very clever!”, she said “Oh! You cheated!”. Now, I might not be sure if this was intended as humour. I don’t get British humour, but even if it was, I think it was extremely uncalled for. Calling someone a cheater, especially in a competition is a serious accusation. That single moment made me lose all respect for her. Let’s face it. He was better than her, who calls herself a┬áprofessional chef. He was faster, more precise, and had better technique and execution than she did. Rather than take back something from him and improving herself, she chose to completely disregard that.

I started seeing her a pompous underachiever that’s basically trying to pretend that she knew what she was doing. And I was not wrong. She’s a terrible chef. During the following episodes, her technique was terrible, and you can tell because the camera zooms in close to the knife. The lack of confidence shows. I did a little digging around and found out that she owns a culinary school. I guess the saying is true: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach”.

Usually, when I watch shows like Masterchef, I watch in awe at the demonstrations carried out by the professional chefs. The passion that Gordon Ramsay has towards cooking, the works of art that Graham Elliot puts on a plate. I watch those chefs and think to myself “That is why these guys get paid the big bucks”. The experience, confidence, talent and passion shows. They demonstrate complete mastery of their craft. But it really annoys me when they dilute talent like that with the likes of Rosemary Shrager, or Christina Tosi (who is basically a glorified baker that doesn’t even produce good-looking cakes). Now, one might ask why I’m so harsh on these people, and it’s simple: they’re very cocky, and have nothing to show for it. While cockiness can be annoying, one can’t really retort if the person being cocky is good. But these so-called “chefs” aren’t talented. They might be successful, but success does not imply talent.

But I digress. The one thing I’ve noticed that a lot of (especially) successful people do is that they disregard younger, less-experienced talent. They do this because they equate lack of experience with lack of good ideas. Now, right off I will say that not all people do this. Some are particularly interested in learning. But a lot of people have that sense of pride about them. They feel that it is extremely beneath them to learn from someone with significantly less experience. They’ve worked their entire lives to gain that experience, so learning from someone that is significantly less experienced looks bad. But here’s the thing: natural talent exists and you see it every day. By disregarding someone due to lack of experience, you may be disregarding someone that may become the next legend in that craft.

If you want to better yourself as person and improve upon the skills you have, you need to keep an open mind and be willing to learn from others. Humility is key. Pride will be your downfall. Everyone is different and everyone has a different way of looking at things. Sometimes, alternate perspectives can give you a cool insight into how some people look at things. But sometimes, it can give you a way of understanding things you might not have understood in the past.

It is why I enjoy teaching so much (I know this might be ironic, especially considering I just smack-talked people that teach!). I particularly enjoy teaching math. I’d like to think that I have a full understanding of the basics of calculus. But every now and then, I’ll get a question or comment that makes me go “Hmm… I never really thought of it like that”. Those moments are the most rewarding moments for me and why I enjoy teaching so much. Those moments make me see math in a different way. A way that I had never seen before. Perhaps it is better, perhaps not. But there’s nothing wrong with having more than one way of viewing something.

Learn from others, regardless of their experience. Everyone has something to bring to the table. You just have to find what it is.

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