Iron Chef vs. Swedish Chef and "cooking" up leaders!

My son Evan and I LOVE to watch cooking shows. Whenever he is sick or just needing a little "daddy time," we gather our snacks and hunker down for a Food Network marathon. To be specific, Chopped Junior is our drug of choice. Heck, how hard can a red-wine reduction sauce be when a 12 year old can make it? These shows make everything in the kitchen seem creative and exciting, and I am NOTHING if not creative and exciting!

To be honest, I am a disaster as a cook. My ignorance goes well beyond that of the average male who spent thirty-five years as a bachelor. Truly, I am a total waste of human space in the kitchen. In my head, I see myself as the Iron Chef, but in reality, I am more like the Swedish Chef.... MORK, MORK, MORK!

My wife (who taught a high school culinary class) has tried to teach me, but I quickly become bored with the mundane stuff (chopping, slicing, and measuring) and want to move on the part when I get to light stuff on fire and use the blender. YES! Power tools for the kitchen! Men love to work with power tools, even if they are wearing an apron at the time.

Recently, my cooking training wheels were removed as I was tasked with making cookies. I scoffed at the simplicity of it all and saw this as beneath me. How hard could this be? Puuuullleeeeaaassseeee, I GOT THIS!

With my seven year old Evan by my side, I dumped all of the ingredients into the blender, which is appearently different than a mixer, adding eggs, milk, and butter. (Note: juggling eggs is NOT recommended, especially when you don't know how to juggle.) I then surveyed the assortment of mixing speeds from which to choose. Man alive, how could there be so many options for mixing? Stir, puree, whip, blend, crush – as far as I’m concerned, they should have just put fast, faster, fasterer, and fastererest! Fast is is good, but fastererest is better and quicker, so Evan and I decided on that!

After cleaning cookie batter off Evan, myself, and the ceiling, we continued on, but now had as my wife puts it, "proper supervision."

Next problem... Ingredients and measurements. I viewed the ingredient list more as a guideline than a requisite list. Baking soda versus baking powder, WHO CARES?! Tomato, tomahto! The details bore me! I want to approach the baking of cookies with the same reckless abandonment I use in cooking.

It turns out that you can’t do this. My patient wife explained to me that baking is a science and unlike my freewheeling approach to cooking, is an exercise in following step by step directions (something that has been proven not to be my strong point) before you can be creative. In the chemical reaction that is baking, failing to meet the necessary conditions or alteration of the size and scope of the ingredients in any way, might yield the undesirable results.

In a cooking, an extra pinch of salt, a touch more flour and five additional minutes can be genius, in baking it can be disasterous.

Me? As a teacher and a leader, I am more of a cooker, than a baker. I understand the need for structure and oversight, but I prefer to solve problems in a unique and personal way. To my way of thinking, no two students are exactly the same; so therefore, no two situations involving people can be the same.

There is a need for "bakers" in our profession and our world – people who understand, appreciate and follow precise and specific directions. I would not want a doctor, fighter pilot, computer coder, or pharmacist to be a "chef." Yes, their jobs require creativity, but only AFTER they have followed the prescribed formula for success. As I said, there is a distinct and ever-growing need for these people – I just know that I need not apply.

As a teacher and a leader, are you a baker or a chef? When choosing your student leaders, do you consider their skill sets and personality types? Is your librarian a baker and your drum major a chef? Do you match their job to their personality or the other way around? There is no right or wrong person; there are just right and wrong people for the jobs.

Either way, be sure to cover everything up before turning on the blender – I should know, I am still cleaning cookie dough off of our kitchen ceiling.