Waffle Irons vs. Pancake Griddles

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Photo courtesy of Daniela Kara R.

On the increasingly rare occasion that you have enough time in the morning to treat yourself and your family to a breakfast that takes more than 5 seconds to prepare (re: tearing out of packaging), breakfast batters in one form or another always seem to make everyone happy. But what’s your go-to syrup delivery system? Do you break out the waffle iron, thus avoiding the chaos of suggesting bacon and eggs to your teenager who has declared she’s feeling vegetarian today, or do you heat up the pancake griddle, which, with its ability to mass produce, can provide a stack of fluffy goodness big enough for that teenager to make eye contact with you and even stay at the table for more than 10 seconds?

While you may have already decided which meal you would make, you’ve probably never thought about what that says about your personality. There are advantages and challenges with each of these appliances, and your personality may steer you towards one or the other. So, are you a Waffle Ironer or Pancake Griddler? Let’s find out.

The Waffle Ironer

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Photo courtesy of Jennifer Wu

The Waffle Ironer is a planner. You know exactly what you want the end product to look like. There is a set structure that will lead you directly to the same end result time after time. Just like a waffle iron, you push out any excess material that doesn’t fit into your pre-planned mold of what you want. Your focus is on doing one thing at a time with precision. You attempt to frontload your work, planning every step before you start so that the performance itself is automatic, complete with reminders to go to the next step and signals to let you know the job is done. Your leadership style is to make sure everything is laid out precisely, and then you let the job get done, knowing that the plan you are using has worked many times before. It’s challenging for you to embrace The KitchenAid Philosophy in terms of your willingness to change things up. Sure, you’re all for going with the flow and trying new things in the kitchen and in life at times, but let’s be honest, nothing makes your grumpy teen tweet #FML quicker than waking up before 11 on a weekend to a goat cheese and kale omelet.  Thus, you’re a Waffle Ironer: you may lack some imagination (“I can cook anything!… As long as it’s in the form of a waffle.”), but you know what the end result will be and you’re as consistent a performer as anyone.

The Pancake Griddler

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Photo courtesy of Robert Donovan

The Pancake Griddler is all about getting things done. Once you’re in “go” mode, you can handle six things at once and complete tasks quickly. Structure isn’t exactly your thing, and you don’t really concern yourself with the shape of the final product. Part of the fun for you is the uniqueness of every individual thing that you do. You rely a lot on your gut instinct, such as when those pancakes are ready to be flipped and when they are done completely; you make decisions based on look, feel, and the general sense you have at any given moment. You read my blog because the concept of Mise en Place is foreign to you on multiple levels. You do some planning before getting started, but you focus on the performance itself and adjust this and that on the fly. You like to get your hands dirty with any project and carefully oversee it from beginning to end. You can cook a bunch of pancakes at once (similar tasks), but you must become absorbed in one process once you start since you need to closely monitor your work. Your leadership style is adaptive and you can think on the fly, making sure the end result is great, even if it’s not exactly how you thought it would come out at the beginning. Planning and consistency are important to you, but getting something started and figuring out the details later are what drive you.

Making a Waff-Cake

Ok, so that name needs a little work, but it makes my point well. At the end of the day, Waffle Ironers and Pancake Griddlers both have great qualities, and it’s important to study your habits enough to know which category you tend to lean towards. However, the Mise en Place Leader works on developing the qualities of both these appliances.

Which situations in your life call for a structured, well-planned Waffle Iron mentality? Which need a non-conforming, go with your feelings Pancake Griddle mindset? Before you can answer these questions, try to think about your tendencies. What’s your default? Are you naturally a Waffle Ironer or a Pancake Griddler? Share your thoughts.

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The Problem with Smoke Detectors

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

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Photo courtesy of Jenn Durfey

If you’ve spent any time in the kitchen, I’m sure you have experienced the piercing sound of a smoke detector before. Or maybe the smoke detector went off because you never spend any time in the kitchen and were taking on the stress-inducing task of baking some chocolate chip cookies, all the while wondering why you didn’t just eat the raw dough. The point is, hearing a smoke detector usually means that something has gone wrong. When the smoke detector goes off, you better act quickly if you’re going to salvage whatever it was that was supposed to satiate, if not impress, your house-guests.

Unfortunately, more often than not, the smoke detector is the “save your life” tool, not the “save your baked good” tool. Most of the time, its only function is to tell you when something has gone wrong. Ok, so most of the time (especially when cooking), the smoke detector doesn’t mean that your house is going to burn down in 10 seconds, and at worst your cookies will be a bit dark and crunchy; there are few lasting consequences assuming you act quickly to fix the problem. But that’s just it! The smoke detector alerts you to a problem that now must be fixed. How stressful a life many people must create for themselves, moving from problem to problem, trying to fix each new issue that arises.

I think most people behave like a smoke detector. Think about it, one of the most well-known adages is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Doesn’t that in essence translate to “If it ain’t burnin’, don’t pull it out of the oven?”  Today’s post is about changing your perception of personal development and what it takes to become a Mise en Place Leader, because the Mise en Place Leader doesn’t just get by, working out each new problems as it arises-the Mise en Place Leader knows that with the proper preparation, the smoke detector will never go off!

A perfect example of the “smoke detector” mentality is highlighted on every episode of Kitchen Nightmares, with celebrity chef host Gordon Ramsey. If you’ve never seen the show, a failing restaurant asks for Ramsey’s help in saving their business.

Gordon Ramsey "mentoring" in the kitchen.

Gordon Ramsey “mentoring” in the kitchen. 

Usually the restaurant needs a complete overhaul to create a new customer experience that people will enjoy much more than the current setup allows for. This transformation, along with the profanity-laced tirades of Ramsey, makes for great television because there is already a problem in place, and with problems come stress and distrust of leadership, which inevitably leads to some heated arguments. Probably fun to watch from an outsider’s perspective, but usually hard to endure for the restaurant owners. The owners usually realize how poorly they planned the layout, menu, and overall management of their business, and they quickly realize that Ramsey came to the rescue just in time. Most issues in these episodes stem from a “smoke detector” mentality; the owners refuse to hone their cooking skills, business sense, and advertising abilities because everything is going well at the time. They lose focus and don’t realize their restaurant is in a death-spiral until is almost too late. But what if Gordon Ramsey worked with a restaurant from the beginning, helping the entrepreneurs gain skills that would make it so there were no kitchen nightmares? Somehow I think the lack of drama in my TV pitch would make for a tougher sell to a network, but in the real world, aren’t we all aiming for less stress and fewer issues to constantly have to deal with?

 

The bad news in all of this is that most people are “smoke detector” types. They wait until they recognize that something is wrong, and then they do their best to try to fix the problem. Our society has come to almost idolize those leaders who can handle problems that arise. Great leaders are otherwise known as problem solvers and can fix the flaws in a system. This is, of course, a great trait to have, and I am not in any way saying that leaders will never need to deal with another problem as long as they properly prepare. That’d be naïve and unhelpful in your own personal development. However, I am asking for you to shift your understanding of problem-solving.

Remember, smoke detectors only function when there is an imminent threat; they are worthless when everything is going right. But what if instead of waiting until something was wrong, you constantly worked on developing your abilities in specific areas of your life? What if instead of trying to be a great problem solver, you, an up-and-coming Mise en Place Leader, were in fact, a problem preventer? Gradually, with this shift in focus, you could move away from the “smoke detector” mentality and into what I call the “smoke defender” mentality. Your focus can then shift towards strengthening your baking skills so that the cookies don’t start to burn in the first place.

Going forward today, if you haven’t yet read my post on the KitchenAid Philosophy, it may be a good kickstarter for today’s development tips;.

Today’s questions stem from your Values statements and challenge you to continue to work toward getting even better at things you’re already skilled at:

What aspect of your lifestyle do you fall into the “smoke detector” mentality? Where do you know you could improve, but nothing has gotten bad enough to force you to act?

What about something you place a high value on? What could you do better in that area of your life?

Share some of your personal examples below.

Recipe For Success

Professional chefs, even the best ones, still open a cookbook for special occasions. True, they have mastered the interplay of ingredients and cooked enough meals to be able to improvise in the kitchen when needed. And yes, they are usually the ones writing the cookbooks so that we “novices” don’t end up with a meal that looks like a two year old got into the refrigerator and threw something together with as much thought as a two year old can give to food preparation. But when they are called upon to cook something truly special, a reliable cookbook is crucial.

Professional chef or not, if you’re going to create something worthy of your time and hard work, there are two foundational pieces that you must have at the start of the endeavor: an image of the desired outcome and a step-by-step process of getting there.

Welcome to the world of cookbooks.

Why are there so many cookbooks on the market? How do they all seem to sell so well? The answer to both of these questions is simple: Cookbooks bring about an emotional reaction through the simplest, most universal method of communication-pictures! And not just any pictures, they show images of the most mouth-watering meals imaginable. These images provide an instant emotional response when you happen upon the recipe you just have to make. You could be looking at ingredients that you have never tasted in your life, and yet the presentation of each element in one image fits perfectly into the dish. Cookbooks give you not only something to aim for (as challenging as it may seem), but instant inspiration. Your brain and stomach knows just what you want, but they have to see it first. This is true in the kitchen, and it’s true in almost every aspect of life. You have to see yourself crossing the finish line, acing the test, or buying your dream home, because it’s that image of the end result that lets you visualize being successful and focuses your mind on your ultimate goal.

Interestingly, as important as pictures are for motivation, without the necessary step-by-step process to create what you see in that beautiful image, it’s nearly impossible to make something that looks even remotely like what you see in your cookbook.

After the initial inspiration, the recipe takes center stage.

People talk about setting goals all the time. Goals are dreams, desires, really anything you want to attain or accomplish. The problem is, what most people are really referring to is the picture in the cookbook, not the recipe. “That’s my dream car,” “That’s my dream job,” or “That’s my dream vacation.” This is where the majority of people begin to struggle; they can’t “flip the page” to find the recipe in the cookbook because they are too caught up with the challenge of recreating the picture.

Recipes are your guide! They give you not only every ingredient you need to create that culinary masterpiece, but tell you exactly how to prepare it! How would your professional or personal life be changed if you had a recipe to follow that helped you every step of the way? Think about how much more you could accomplish if every “ingredient” and step for success was written out in detail! The challenge lies in following that recipe for success while adding something that gives you ownership of it. Only then will you combine the motivation of the picture with the preparation of the recipe.  If you can break down your goals into their basic elements (list of ingredients) and a preparation guide, you start to live the Mise en Place lifestyle.

Goal-setting is simply the creation of a great, easy-to-follow recipe.

Notice how recipes don’t try to trick you. A recipe follows a strict order of events and preparation. Of course it is important to understand each step in order to put everything in its place, but step 1 comes first for a reason. If there wasn’t an order to follow, the meal may contain the same ingredients, but it’d look much different than the original plan, and it most certainly wouldn’t taste as good.

What I’m trying to do with Mise en Place Leader is help you create your own “cookbook” for life. You create the image of the end-state, and you get to create the process– but I’m here to be your coach and teacher along the way. I’ll provide some tips on making great “recipes” for making you a stronger leader, more successful professional, and better person.

Today’s tip has three parts, and yes, like any recipe, you should do them in order:

1)      If you haven’t done so already, go back and read my post, Something Worth Cooking. That’s how begin to practice visualizing success. Get the picture of the result before trying to create the recipe.

2)      Make a list of at least 3 ingredients for this amazing “meal.” What is necessary to have in order to put together this visual you have come up with? Are you trying to land that dream job? Awesome! What do you need for application materials? Will you need to move? Have you discussed this with your family?

3)      Those 3 (or more) ingredients are extremely important, but after you have the ingredients, remember to consider each step in the process. What’s the first priority? Should you apply to this new job and then talk to your wife? Do you need recommendations before or after the interview? Just as the best chefs don’t use microwaves to create their culinary masterpieces, there are no shortcuts to getting what you’ve always wanted. Procedure is critical, and understanding how to follow it will set you up for greater success.

The Mise en Place Leader prepares before the main event so that the performance takes care of itself. 

Something Worth Cooking

What did you have for dinner a week ago?

If that took you longer than 10 seconds to remember, or if you still have no idea, that’s fine, and you’re not alone. But let me ask you another question: Can you remember what you ate for your last “special” meal? Think about the last time you made breakfast in bed for your significant other, cooked your family a special holiday dinner, or just invited friends over so you could enjoy that nice bottle of wine you’ve been saving since, well, Thursday.

Was this question any easier? I can remember the braised beef my girlfriend and I had several weeks ago because it was something special we wanted to cook together and it was a planned meal. That is, we didn’t get home from work and say, “Ohh, I guess we should eat dinner, but I don’t want to think about it, so let’s order out.” The meal meant a lot to both of us, and it was the act of making the meal together that made it so memorable. How is that possible when, after a long week of work, we were surely exhausted and starving hours before actually sitting down to eat? It is because in this instance the food, the end result, the sustenance that all humans need, was not the focus.

 It was a passion and focus on the process. The planning, the preparation, and being together are what made this meal memorable, not the braised beef.

Human motivation is interesting; the more readily accepted and popular thinking is that hunger is the #1 motivator. If someone is hungry for something, they’ll do anything they can to get it. This theory generally holds up in most situations, especially when there are limited resources. So, if I’m trying to motivate you to do something, I should just make you really “hungry” for it, right? This is true if we want something done quickly without any thought put into it. Hunger puts a focus on the here and now, and on personal needs: “Screw the rest of you, I’m hungry, and I need food, now!” I’m sure the Donner Party would agree with this theory of motivation.

Why do you think McDonald’s restaurants can be found at every rest stop on every interstate in America? You don’t find Emeril setting up shop in these places, do you? This is because hunger is a motivator in this situation; people don’t want to plan, think, or wait for food when they are trying to finish the 6 hour drive to Grandma and Grandpa’s house with 4 kids in the back.

Hunger calls for a quick fix and involves little self-control and thinking. Hunger is an amazing motivator for getting things done…with shoddy results.  

This is why the kitchen is such a great metaphor for developing yourself in anything and everything that you do. Leadership and personal development is about passion, not hunger.

Hunger is fast food that will take years off your life. Passion is the memorable meal. Your passion is a meal worth cooking.

Here’s my question:

  • What is something worth cooking for you? That is, something you want so bad right now, but have to plan, put together, and won’t get to enjoy for a while. Don’t worry about the planning part right now, just focus on the passion.
  • What are you “starving” for but couldn’t run down the street to have made for you in 30 seconds?
  • What’s something you would be willing to work towards because the end result inspires you so much?

Once you have an idea of your passion, hunger can be tamed while working towards this worthwhile end product. What you do with that clear picture of the end result we will get to later.