This is the fourth and final part of my series on How to Team Up in the Kitchen. Be sure to take a look at Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
Part 4: Capitalize on Your Cooking Core Competencies
Today we’ll cover the final step that will help you leap across the threshold from kitchen friction mode into well-oiled machine mode. We can reduce it into one simple concept: Pay attention to who does what well.
There are so many specialties and subspecialties in cooking that anyone can find cooking tasks or recipes they are drawn to. Do you have a natural gift for preparing certain favorite dishes? Does your significant other have a personal interest in learning how to cook certain types of ethnic food? Perhaps you are a Zen-like machine at prep work with a spouse who takes naturally to leading teams?
As you and your cooking team come into contact with new recipes, cooking styles, and food preparation tasks, all you have to do is watch what happens. I know it sounds almost too easy to be true, but this is the first key step toward developing everyone's core competencies in the kitchen. When anybody finds a type of dish they particularly like, or a cooking skill they show aptitude for, it's your job to encourage it. You’ll get the vicarious pleasure of watching your kids or your significant other instinctively develop skills and talents in the kitchen. As they develop their palette of core competencies, they’ll get the pleasures of becoming enthusiastic and skilled cooks!
In our home, Laura's core competencies are grocery shopping, clean-up detail, crockpot recipes, fish dishes, Indian food, and, most unforgettably, pie crusts. My core competencies are micromanaging, delegating, and most importantly, being king.
Whoops! That was the old Dan. Actually, I tend to specialize in high-speed prep work, soups and stews, vegetarian meals, and general menu-preparation and cooking idea generation.
Keep in mind that your core competencies will develop gradually and organically. That's what happened with Laura and me. We didn’t force things; we just gravitated to tasks we were good at and dishes we enjoyed making. It wasn't long before we had a pretty keen sense of each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Don't try and oversteer the process.
Let's face it, there is a simple truism at work here: the more you do something, the better and faster you’ll get at it. Seems kind of obvious, right?
Well, it's less obvious than you might think. In fact, if you take this truism a logical step or two further, you’ll arrive at four significant conclusions:
1) It is a heck of a lot easier to divide and conquer your labors if each person on the team can lean toward the specific tasks they enjoy or do best.
2) Once you figure out who is best at which types of labors, then it becomes easy to determine who should be the king, and who should be a serf for any given recipe.
3) After you've made a recipe a couple of times and have established a routine for who does what, you and your cooking team will see more and more opportunities to play off of each other’s core competencies. You'll be surprised how everybody quickly settles into their respective workspaces and gets right to work.
4) Finally, and best of all, taking advantage of this process will not seem like work. On the contrary, it will be fun as hell, and you’ll eat well, enjoy quality time with your family, and even become a good cook in the process.
If you make a habit of developing your team’s core competencies, it will bring together all of the various tactics and strategies we've been discussing in this four part series. This is the process by which enthusiastic cooks are made, and it will mark the beginning of your family team’s ascent into "well-oiled machine mode." You’ll truly be teaming up in the kitchen.
I hope this series will be useful to readers out there who are trying to make cooking a bigger part of their lives. As always, I appreciate your comments and suggestions. Good luck teaming up to tackle your next meal!