Are You A Baker or Are You A Chef?

This is my very own patented 3-second personality quiz: are you a Baker, or are you a Chef?

If I know you in “real life” you have heard me expound upon (likely at some length) my long-held theory that every human personality is essentially either one or the other.  I also very likely forced you to choose an answer. Responding with “I’m both, I guess?” is NOT OK.

The delicate dance and chemistry between the Bakers and the Chefs of the world are what keep global (and local!) progress churning. It is the Ying and the Yang of creativity.

AND –  this question has absolutely nothing to do with food.

Before you respond – let’s start with some definitions, shall we?

A Baker is one who creates in a structured, controlled, and instruction-driven environment. Before a Baker begins, he or she has gathered and measured all necessary ingredients. The Baker knows where all required bowls, spatulas and baking equipment are, (arranged on the tidy work space by height and order of use, naturally). The oven is precisely calibrated and preheated. If the baker is getting “wild and crazy” by mixing a new ingredient into their typical recipe that day, said wildcard ingredient has been carefully researched for compatibility with the existing recipe and all possible successes and failures have been graphed, charted and weighed.  If recipe adjustments must be made on the fly, they are accomplished with much handwringing and more research. The Baker shines through precision, reliability, and predictably-high-caliber, results-driven masterpieces.

A Chef is one who creates in a fury of instinct-driven, in-the-moment chaos. If there was a recipe, it has likely been pureed in the blender with a healthy dash of sherry and is currently reducing over a low heat with a generous hunk of butter. A chef starts out with a set of ingredients anticipating making, say, soup, and winds up three hours later instead creating an elaborate, kitchen leveling, wine-sauce soaked something, which is artfully displayed over a bed of risotto and seasonal local vegetables. By the time the meal is served, the Chef has lost and then found (with much colorful language freely tossed about) several critical ingredients, a chunk of skin or hair, and possibly his or her sanity. The chef shines through bold, disruptive and untested new ideas.

Can you all guess which one I am?

swedish chef giphy
Chef Creative Bedlam, at your service!

I always ask this question when I interview people who may work with me because – dear lord do I need Bakers in my life. Too many chefs in the kitchen and too many bakers spoil the cake are TRUE. STORIES.

Chefs are the conceptual geniuses behind bright and shiny innovations. But their ideas would literally never even leave the drafting table if not for the steady, organized, driven work of the Baker. Bakers’ calculated, clinically-trial-tested and painstakingly documented discoveries literally save lives. But when the discoveries hit an impasse, it takes the Chef to dream up new solutions.

And while it is important to know which one you are, it is also important not to allow this to stand in the way of your creative evolution.

I keep telling myself this as I stare at the completely confounding diagrams in the instruction manual of my new and much desired fancy-dancy sewing machine:

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I could conquer the world with this thing IF I COULD ONLY THREAD THE EVER-LOVING NEEDLE!

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Seriously?!? What the hell does “D” refer to and how will this help me thread the needle again?!?

Here is a list of things I plan to make once I conquer my fear of the instruction manual:

  • Porch curtains
  • Box cushions for all the wayward pieces of furniture I am hoarding for future reupholstery*
  • Throw pillows
  • Duvet cover
  • Seat cushions for kitchen and front porch dining chairs

*While I have only actually reupholstered simple dining chair seats and a bench seat, how hard could a French chair or a sofa truly be?!?

Here is a list of things I have actually made with my new sewing machine:

  • ½ of a small outdoor throw pillow because every damn time I get one seam sewn, the machine comes un-threaded, I stare dumbfounded at above mentioned diagram, storm off in frustration and retreat to my glue gun and chalk paint.

Yes, I am a Chef. Chefs like me HATE instruction-following, finding it trite and creatively limiting.

But if I want to make the pretty things, I am going to have to embrace that manual, and the measured precision of the Baker.

Stay tuned as I square off against the ever-elusive Lever D and my very own instruction-hating personal demons!

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