What the Cooking Show “Chopped” Can Teach Entrepreneurs

“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

— Margaret Thatcher

“The older I get the less I listen to what people say and the more I look at what they do.”

— — Andrew Carnegie

(Thanks Alan Starost for posting these two quotes on Twitter today!)

Since I was a child, I have enjoyed cooking and been a voracious reader. My grandmother taught me to cook early on, when she found me leafing through her cookbooks and magazines containing recipes, riveted by the photos. I reportedly asked for my own library card at age 3, when I discovered that it was free and the gateway to the magical land of Storytelling! My love affair with both activities has continued into adulthood. I have made it a point to indulge both hobbies; to nurture both my mind and my soul.

I have an ongoing fascination with science fiction stories and cookbooks in particular. I have been enamored by the visual imagery, the smart, creative plots and satire, the simple step by step directions, and the glossy photographs. I have been awed by the ability both genres have, to be used as portals to a whole new world, wherein one’s five senses could indulge. This is especially true since The Food Network starting airing one of my favorite reality shows, with my favorite host Ted Allen – Chopped 🙂

As an Autism and ed-tech consultant turned entrepreneur, my fondness for the succinct brevity and creativity of cookbooks of all natures has steadily grown. I have increasingly used cookbook type formats in my misc. writings such as my various blogposts and in my book, The NICE Reboot. Thanks to the blogosphere and the Internet, we are increasingly provided a steady stream of sound bytes on all manner of things at all hours of the day. Short and sweet is the new order of the day, especially for people in content marketing and business; 2 arenas which dovetail with entrepreneurship in the Digital Age. That’s why I’m making an effort to understand what makes content go viral, and to streamline my own blogposts.

That’s why a show like Chopped works and makes Ted Allen, the guest judges, and the guest chefs shine. This intelligent, unique, and riveting program showcases the brevity, the time management, and the communication skills that any cook needs to hone, and hits home the psychological reality that everyone knows; from sous chef to head chef and everyone in between…..

We are all in sales, no matter which industry we’re in, or what our job description is! (I posted this quote recently on Twitter; you can find it here.)

To that end, I want to share 4 entrepreneurial takeaways I’ve gleaned from watching this groundbreaking, educational and entertaining show. One which highlights the maturity and immaturity, the grandeur and the hubris, and the tangible and intangible gifts all part of the human condition.

 What the Cooking Show “Chopped” Can Teach Entrepreneurs

1. Mind over Matter really counts, especially when you are pressed for time. 

Getting to the last round of the competition takes visualizing your end-product with your mind’s eye, and remaining focused despite distractions. Remember the chef who had hot milk accidentally spilled on him while he was plating? He shrugged it off and concentrated on doing his thing. Many entrepreneurs feel the need to multitask, much to their detriment. It actually decreases productivity and promotes perfectionism; two achilles heels to watch out for!

The best entrepreneurship advice I’ve gotten was, “Don’t concentrate on what others are doing, especially those things that seems similar or even better than you. Keep doing your thing.”

2. Visual Presentation i.e. execution matters, especially when your idea is not a “Eureka” one like the Tesla car or the iPad. 

The chefs who compete on Chopped know that they are all given a level playing field; the same basket of mystery ingredients. They also know in advance their time allotment; 20 minutes for the appetizer round, and 30 minutes apiece for the main dish and dessert round. Remember the chef who repurposed all the food in unexpected ways, but didn’t plate it nicely and was written off? Human beings are visual creatures, and honing one’s visual presentation; in everything one does, is not just a necessary byproduct of the Digital Age. It’s part of crafting one’s legacy.

The best entrepreneurship advice I’ve given was, “Creating a digital avatar with heart and visual appeal is part of your overall execution of your mission, no matter what it is!”

3. Being a team player means retaining a sense of self while still actively being part of the collective, and strategizing and empathizing with them. 

As a trained speech-language pathologist specializing in social communication, I’m always interested to see the dynamic between the chefs and judges; before/during/after the competition. Behavioral economics and social entrepreneurship aside, it is very interesting to see the seismic shift all the best chefs, and frequently the winning ones make, from Me to We, especially as the show goes on. By the end of the dessert round, the real winner is the one who has great interpersonal skills, not just great cooking skills. Remember the chef who “high-fived” everyone in the competition, repeatedly, and hugged everyone despite getting the cut? She was also one of the only ones to publicly compliment her cohorts, instead of dissing them or making faces at them like others have done.

The best entrepreneurial quote I’ve seen was “TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More.”

4. Being happy means finding satisfaction, joy, and a sense of purpose and accomplishment by celebrating the process, not just the outcome. 

The rules of engagement re: startup entrepreneurship have changed drastically in the past 3 years, since I officially joined the ranks of “founders”. Advances in mobile technology and social technology are blurring the lines between service based and product based entrepreneurs, and between geographical locations and even politics. But they are also blurring the lines between success and failure, and between satisfaction and dissatisfaction about one’s work/life balance. It’s so important to relish the small steps, the routines and those moments when one gets derailed; intentionally or unintentionally. It’s so crucial to deliberately be happy and celebrate the workflow and sequence of one’s journey. Remember the chef who escaped a war-torn country, came to Manhattan and learned to be a personal chef to high profile people, and was ecstatic to even be on Chopped? When’s the last time you really relished the moment,  took a detour in your entrepreneurial journey, or took time to learn something new or gain a new perspective?

The best entrepreneurial homework assignment I’ve been taking, especially this summer, is to regularly engage in a “digital detox” so that I can replenish my “happiness quotient” and learn new things. 

I think there are great lessons about artistry and architecture, and about mindset and attitude, to be learned from the TV show Chopped. I’ve learned lessons about life, about creativity, and about the importance of celebrating each success; big or small. Many of those chefs lead by example; intending to use the prize money to give back to the community, truly loving what they do, and deeply understanding that the David vs. Goliath paradigm can shift in a heartbeat, in a swish of a spatula. Most importantly, the versatile chefs, and the ingenious program for that matter, provide much food for thought on the nature of intelligence vs. knowledge. It’s something for all entrepreneurs to ponder in this day and age, especially with the ease of Google searches and content curation, using “smart Apps” like Zite (my favorite!).



K vs. I Age





About penina4niceinitiative

Penina Rybak MA/CCC-SLP, TSHH, CEO of Socially Speaking LLC, is the author of "The NICE Reboot: A Guide to Becoming a Better Female Entrepreneur". She is an Autism specialist and educational technology consultant turned social entrepreneur. She is also a pediatric speech therapist and the creator of the Socially Speaking™ Program & iPad App. Her second book, "Autism Intervention in the iEra" was published in 2015. Since 2010, Penina has been a national/international speaker about social communication development, balancing humanity and technology, and best practices re: mobile and social technology. Connect with her on LinkedIn to learn more. You can also find her on Twitter: @PopGoesPenina, Facebook: Socially Speaking LLC, Google+ at The NICE Initiative for Female Entrepreneurship, and Pinterest and YouTube as well.
This entry was posted in American Living, Architecture vs. Artistry, Entrepreneurial Strategy, Musings on Humanity, Social Entrepreneurship, Thought Leadership and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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