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Wrote this as a fun read for the weekdays. I’ve definitely learned a lot by exploring fields outside of my own…
1. It lets you be creative.
Just like in entrepreneurship, we all start out with similar tools and mediums (vegetables, meat, olive oil, oven, stove, grill etc). However, it’s what you do with these materials that will make you stand out. Having a special secret sauce also comes in handy.
2. It forces you to parse out what’s important.
When you have a good ingredients, or a great team, you don’t really need to do much. You nurture what’s there and let it shine.
3. It requires executive-level decision-making.
As the chef, you balance what your consumers wants and needs are (peanut allergy, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free) with your own creative license for making a great dish. This happens in entrepreneurship as well, you balance customer feedback with creating something they didn’t know they wanted but now love and crave.
4. It forces you to focus.
There are some tasks (i.e. cutting things with a big knife, decorating a cake with a delicate hand) that require your undivided attention. In entrepreneurship being able to focus helps with execution.
5. Sometimes it requires multi-tasking.
Thanksgiving or any other type of big dinner party comes to mind. It requires planning, timing, organization and being ambidextrous can be very advantageous. In the early stages of a startup, writing a business plan helps you gather your thoughts. It also is a time when you are the CEO, sales team, marketing, maintenance person etc.
6. It allows for pivoting, A/B testing and customer feedback.
Sometimes mishaps happen in the kitchen. You accidentally put salt into your dish instead of sugar, so what do you do? You go with the flow and make savory sea salt brownies instead of the traditional kind. You also A/B test your food by putting out several kinds of dips or chicken wing flavors. At the end of the night, you figure out what your best sellers are, why they sold well, and use that information when you plan your next meal/party. Instead of voting with their dollars, people vote by the ratio of food on plate/to empty plate.
7. Sometimes it requires a little bit of marketing.
Maybe you’re not known for being a great cook. Maybe people don’t know you can cook. How do you get people to come to your dinner party? (warm introduction, maybe a sample of your goods, social media etc). Maybe you made a beef bourguignon (beef stew) with beer, potatoes and onions, and it kinda sorta looks like a bowl of all brown. Several eyebrow raises are seen. Will people try it? You emphasize that the color is due to the beer you added, the roast on the beef, and the yummy brown bits that are often part of gravies that you know they already like.
8. Depending on your budget, it requires lean ($ vs. $$$$) methodology.
Sometimes you have to make a mountain out of a molehill. Sometimes you have a limited pantry and are running low on fresh basics because a winter storm prevented you from making this week’s grocery run. So you McGyver up a meal by learning from others and looking up recipes. Or you sit down and let your creative juices roll. Puff pastry replaces homemade biscuit dough. Granny Smith Apples are gussied up with brown sugar, cinnamon, clove. The same puff pastry is filled with leftover ham, cheese, and some caramelized onions. All of your kitchen scraps go into your compost heap.
9. Team work can make the dream work.
You have a friend who is a sauce maestro. You are great at soups. Another friend has Jacques Pepin level knife skills. You are really good at business development. Your friend has great design skills. Another friend is a code ninja warrior master. Everyone has something that they are really good at and working as a team makes the ultimate product/service that much stronger. As an added bonus, the food community, just like the startup community, has a really supportive learning culture.
10. There is a learning curve and it requires studying, motivation, diligence, keeping an open mind, learning from others, and learning from experience.
Cooking is a craft, and arguably, so is entrepreneurship. It changes with the development of new materials, new tools, and new ways of looking at and doing things. It’s about being brave enough to take a risk, be vulnerable and share your work with the world. Failure can lead to lessons learned as well as new products.
BONUS: My recipe for Startup Chicken
Startup Chicken is about taking something almost everyone has access to and transforming it in a cost-effective (aka don’t waste anything, stretch what you have) yet universally appealing (unless you don’t eat chicken) way. It’s about taking the time to make something, taking pride in your work, and sharing it with others.
Sunday- Buy your chicken. Whatever you can afford. Ideally, you will be able to buy a whole chicken (it roasts better that way) or you can buy pre-cut or have your friendly butcher cut it up. Rub your chicken under and over the skin and in the cavity with oil/butter, and herbs (smoked paprika or lemon pepper or cajun seasoning-basically whatever you have and like). Put vegetables like carrots, celery, onion, around it. Roast in the oven pre-heated at 450 degrees (adjust for your oven) for 1-1.5hrs until juices run clear in the thigh. You can make a pan sauce with the vegetables and the drippings by adding flour and a little stock. Cut the leftover chicken into bite-sized pieces and save the bones. Make a stock with the bones.
The rest of the week is about coming up with delicious ways to use what you have. These are just suggestions.
Monday- Chicken pot pie, chicken stew or chicken casserole. Carrots, celery, thyme, onion in roux with some cream. Pop the mixture into puff pastry or crust (ok if pre-made) and bake. If you don’t have cream or pastry, throw it vegetables and chicken into a slow cooker with a little stock and you’ll have lovely stew by the time you come home. Add pasta to either to turn the dish into a hearty casserole.
Tuesday-Chicken salad. Add your favorite greens. Asian chicken salad, chicken caesar salad, goat cheese-apples-beets-arugula-chicken salad -endless possibilities
Wednesday-Chicken noodle or rice soup. Stock + starch + vegetables.
Thursday- Chicken nachos or quesadillas. Lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cheese, beans, pickled jalapeno, roasted corn, guacamole, squeeze of lime, chipotle, tomatilla salsa, tomato salsa or pico de gallo. Put under the broiler until the cheese melts (about 10 minutes). Use whatever you have, whatever you like.
Friday- Probably chickened out by now (ba-dum-bum). Feel free to switch proteins or order/eat out :)
Note: These recipes work with almost any protein and with vegetables only. Startup beef works too. I picked chicken because it’s more affordable and “startup beef” can be interpreted as “startup discord” lol
I’m a foodie and a maker heart. Follow me @doctorcharlene on Twitter.