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Keith Dotson | Catching Shadows

THE OFFICIAL BLOG OF FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHER KEITH DOTSON

What Artists Can Learn from the Habits of the World’s Great Chefs

What Artists Can Learn from the Habits of the World’s Great Chefs

Photo of two onions bound together by photographer Keith Dotson
Photo of two onions bound together by photographer Keith Dotson

Lately I’ve become addicted to documentaries about great chefs. I’ve binge-watched everything from PBS “A Chef’s Life” to “Chef’s Table” on Netflix. I’m fascinated by the great chef’s process, their focus on ingredients and excellence, and how they make a name for themselves in the hyper competitive world of haute cuisine.

Over time, I realized I was gaining insights useful to visual artists. Here are some of the things I’ve learned from the World’s great chefs that can apply to any artist.

Lessons for All Artists

So, what lessons can an artist take away from these culinary geniuses? Here are a few common qualities I observed.

  • Complete and total dedication to their art and craft. These great chefs tirelessly dedicate themselves to learn, explore, improve, and perfect their skills and understanding of their medium.
  • Use only the very best materials.
  • Acceptance of nothing less than excellence.
  • Taking time to innovate and explore new ideas. Great chefs don’t become recognized for doing what’s already being done. They know they must push to the edge to find true innovation. For example, Chef Vivian faced the challenge of using local ingredients to prepare Southern dishes in a new way. She understood that a high-end southern chef can’t offer standard fried chicken, sweet potatoes, and grits and expect to succeed, no matter how delicious they may be.
  • Mentoring. Each of the seven culinary stars represented in the two series had the grueling experience of working under, and learning from, other great chefs. They in turn, are teaching others about cooking, but also about leadership and creative excellence. One point of exception I’ll make: it seems that most of the chefs represented are capable of mercurial tempers that are often associated with chefs. My strong belief is that yelling at your staff is neither the way to win loyalty or to teach lessons. But I’ve never worked in food service, so perhaps I’m wrong. Even the genuinely kind and genteel Chef Vivian from North Carolina loses patience with her team on occassion.
  • Storytelling. Every chef in these programs know hows to tell his or her own story in an engaging way. But, even more importantly, they know how to tell the story of their region, and their ingredients, through the magnificent presentations they offer to their guests.
  • Sweat the details. From selecting the best ingredients, to restaurant design and decor, and especially how the food looks on the plate, the great chefs leave no detail unconsidered. They understand that they are responsible for the entire dining experience.

Thanks for reading!

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~Keith

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