For most of my life I haven't thought of myself as a creative. I'm not really sure why. I think I've always thought I was too straitlaced. I like rules and concrete plans and tailored clothing. I value logic based decision making. I hate being late. I don't hate math. I am not bohemian. I don't think you can be a great chef, especially pastry chef, without some understanding and appreciation of food science.
But here's the other thing, I think cooking is just like any other form of art, you have to know the rules so that you know when the most effective thing to do is break them.
Yes, I just said cooking is an art. It's a thing I'm coming to terms with. For a lot of people, cooking is paint by numbers, they can follow a recipe perfectly well and make something pretty delicious but they can't tell you what would make it better. Even fewer can go one step further and turn the idea in their head into a delicious dish in the real world.
That's what I'm good at, recipe development. I have an uncanny ability to recreate things I've eaten, to know what flavor combinations will taste like without having ever tried them or to even take somebody else's vague description of what they want and make something to satisfy their very specific craving.
I don't mean that in a bragging sense. It's just a thing I can do. The way other people can compose heartbreaking music or write beautifully or paint something that seems to speak specifically to you. It's a thing I love to do. It's a thing I don't know how not to do.
The tricky thing about doing something you love, about doing something you're really good at, is that it's easy for both you, and everyone around you, to forget that that doesn't mean what you do isn't hard.
Guys, sometimes being a chef is really really hard. And I don't mean that it's physically hard or hard to efficiently organize production or hard to manage people, even though all those things can be true. I mean sometimes creating constantly, five days a week, 52 weeks a year, on a schedule, is motherfucking hard. Sometimes it's not limited to those five days a week, sometimes I leave work on Friday not knowing what I want on the menu for the next week and spend my entire weekend with flavors and pastries rearranging and flying around my head and never actually powering down. Sometimes I'm not inspired. Sometimes something is really really good but I know there's that one thing I can't pin down that will make it perfect. Sadly, there is no thesaurus equivalent for flavors. Sometimes, it's hard to know when to stop. When your creative brain is burned out and using it is exhausting you.
I can't tell you how many new recipes I've written this year. A lot. Like I probably averaged 8 a month. Very very few of them make it onto my food blog just because of the afore mentioned creative energy already being used up. I can tell you I need to eat somebody's food that isn't mine. Preferably a lot of people's food that isn't mine. I imagine sometimes writers just really really need to read a book. To get out of their own rut. To be able to inspire themselves. To take a break. I think this is the downside of not working with other chefs. This is also the part about being a creative I don't understand. How do I deal with this? How do I deal with having a creative job when I don't feel like creating? I mean, yes, on one hand, I get it, I reuse old recipes, I bring back tried and true options, I just make sure there are solidly delicious things out for people to buy each day, I JUST KEEP CREATING. But how do I move past the creative burn out? How do I get back to the place where I feel like I'm really creating something fantastic? Other people with creative jobs, how do you create constantly on demand without totally exhausting yourself? Is the really simple, obvious answer just that I need a vacation? When you're facing creative burn out do you go immerse yourself in your discipline or do you take the opposite route and do anything but?