Making Mistakes & Learning In The Kitchen: A Recipe For Being Free

One of the things that I love about culinary work is that it provides meaningful and purposeful opportunities to engage in assessment. Reviewing what the results were, why you arrived at them, and what you might do differently next time is an integral part of the design process and of making the best possible food treats. What I love about introducing this concept to younger folks, is that it immediately creates freedom from all the emotional baggage that comes from the negative experiences of having been judged and tested. We can have the opportunity to experience how “testing” when employed for the purpose of skill building can give us meaningful feedback from which to learn from. 

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In July, I completed the first trial run of cooking workshops with my perfectly eclectic group of young people. I was delighted with the enthusiasm and joy that surrounded their explorations and experiments in the kitchen. At the end of it all, I shared with the group my gratefulness because I had experienced a positive and safe place to try out ideas, make mistakes and learn, so that I could improve my work and meet my goals. The thing about learning is that we have to make mistakes, and in the culinary realm when we make mistakes we refine our techniques, understand on a deeper level the why’s that explain success and failure, and we build our problem solving and flexible thinking. Moving together through the challenges that are encountered in the kitchen provides opportunities for modelling how staying encouraged, staying flexible, and looking for learning can lead to unexpected and awesome results. Kitchen work provides opportunities to reflect on how a positive relationship with making mistakes can help us to also meet learning goals in other areas. Using assessment and mistakes to learn in the kitchen is an effective strategy for building capacity in people to employ the design method in other areas of learning and life. 

The key ingredient for me to engage with my mistakes as an opportunity to learn, is my ability to laugh at myself. For example, if I am able to see my performance not as a commentary of who I am as a person -equating my value to my production- but rather to relate to my performance as an indicator of my current level of skills and therefore ability to reach my goals, I can learn. The kitchen, where I reframed for myself the value of making mistakes is the foundation that gave me this freedom.    

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