Personal Chronicle

Becoming a Culinary Master


Becoming a Culinary Master

“Thud thud… Thud thud thud.” The cleaver knocked rhythmically on the chopping board.

Thunderous applause sounded throughout the room.

Martin Yan had demonstrated his trademark mastery of the Chinese cleaver and the ladies were going gaga over it.

“Yan Can Cook” was my favourite cooking programme when I was a boy. He inspired me, and I always wanted to be like him when I grow up; with such a remarkable mastery of the cleaver.

Ever wondered what it takes to become a culinary master?


Becoming a Culinary Master – Are You Ready?

Are celebrity chefs any different from us?

Hmmm… maybe they worked harder when they were young, and made all the right choices. But who is to say that you will not make it, if you work just as hard, or even harder, pick up skills quicker, and learn even faster than them?

What differentiate us, are the sets of beliefs, attitudes, and actions that define the path we take. Everyone is capable of achieving bigger things. It is our beliefs and the behaviour we exhibit that hold the key to success.

Beliefs are very powerful stuffs. It can make or break you. If you have very strong beliefs, nothing can stop you. Most people give up simply because they don’t think they can make it. That’s right, if you don’t believe you can, you will not even bother to try.

Becoming a Culinary Master – Make a Decision

To become a culinary master, a decision must be made. Yes, you must make this decision…

I must be a culinary master.”

If you just wish or want to be a culinary master, you probably will not make it. Everyone wants to be thin, but how many of us are able to achieve it. It involves certain sacrifices. You must want it very much; want it so badly that you make it your number one priority and goal. All other priorities will take lesser precedence.

When you made the goal to become a culinary master, your focus is laser-aimed. You’re committed to your goal and will do whatever it takes to learn everything about food and cooking. In low times when you feel disheartened, it is that goal which will keep you on track and not to give up so easily.

It is only human nature to choose the easier choice. With a goal in mind, making decisions becomes easier. It takes conscious effort to make the more difficult but better choice. When faced with the choice of hanging out with friends for a drink or staying back in the kitchen to try a new dish, you will ask yourself: which choice will bring me towards my goal?

And you will make the better choice.



Becoming a Culinary Master – Practise and Persistence

It is said that to become an expert on something, you need to practise for 10,000 hours. If you’d clocked 5,000 hours in cooking fish, you’re only good; somewhere there but still not yet a master. You need to practise till it becomes deeply ingrained in your subconscious mind.



In Star Wars, it takes Yoda years and years of practise to become the most powerful Jedi Master in the Universe.

It’s just like driving. In the beginning, you need to consciously look at the road and signs to drive back home. As days and years gone by, it slowly becomes second nature to you. Your subconscious mind is taking over. Now, when you drive back, before you even realised it, you’d reached home.

Let’s take cooking fish for example. You need to reach the level where just by looking and hearing the sizzle of the fish in the pan, you can judge the heat and know exactly when it is done. There’s no need to probe or check. You just know it. That’s the level of expertise we’re looking for.

Or when you slice onions, you can chit-chat and slice furiously without looking at the cutting board just like “Yan Can Cook.” That’s what I call a true master at work.

What I’m trying to say is there is no short-cut to success. Hard work and practise is a must for success. You think Michael Jordan became the most successful basketball player in history due to talent alone? No. It’s his practice shooting hops after hops even after training had ended that contributed to his success. It is those extra effort that made the difference.

As the saying goes, “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” What you can do is to practise more. Do more than others; do it faster than them, and better than them. What usually take others ten years to master becomes five years for you if you worked doubly hard. And the more you do, the better you become.



Becoming a Culinary Master – Failure is Good

You need to know that on your road to becoming a culinary master, you will definitely meet with failures and setbacks. Life is created in such a way. Failures and setbacks allow us to grow.

Nobody knows how to cook when they first started. Everyone need to start somewhere, and it is by doing that we learn. That’s why it’s important that we constantly experiment and try new things to keep improving our skills. Be like a child, be curious and always ask yourself if things can be improved further. And the more you do, surely the more you will learn.

You can have five years of experience in cooking. But if you’d repeatedly been doing the same thing over and over again without any improvements, I would say you’d only one year experience in cooking multiply by five years.Simply put, if you don’t try, you don’t learn. It’s when we try to do new things that we meet with failures and learn (just like we learn to walk by falling down). It’s always better to fail and look stupid than to be stupid.

You will notice that the lives of the world’s greatest achievers are filled full of mistakes and failures. It’s how you respond to failures that determines your success. You can choose to just give up, or you can learn from your failures and come out stronger than ever.  If Thomas Edison had given up midway during his 9,999 tries in creating the lightbulb, we might still be using candles now. Bill Gates was a school dropout, and now, I don’t even need to tell you about him.

It makes sense that the more times you try, the more times you will also fail. Think of them as learning experiences. If you want to be safe, you can choose  not to do anything, but you won’t learn anything. In fact, it is better to go all out and fail more and sooner, so you’d learn and grow faster. So long as you don’t commit the same mistake again.



Becoming a Culinary Master – The Secret Formula

The secret to becoming a culinary master is deceptively simple. Here’s the formula for success: All it takes is immense passion, hard work, persistence, constant learning and improvements, and of course, lots of practise.

I’m on my own little journey towards there. How many of you are truly willing to do whatever it takes to become a culinary master?


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  • Gailyn

    great info on becoming a culinary master.. the pointers applies to life as well..