My kids like to watch cooking shows. MasterChef, Iron Chef, Master Chef Junior, Nailed It, Hell’s Kitchen and more. Gordon Ramsay entertains them with his hijinks and yelling (and swearing).
As a treat, when my son and I were in London we ate at Gordon Ramsay’s Burger restaurant next to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Sadly, he wasn’t serving that night. The food was really tasty.
We got back from London a few days ago. Last night, we watched the finale of “Next Level Chef” with Gordon Ramsay. In this show, contestants compete to win the best dish of the night to move to the next level.
The twist is that there are three levels – the basement, the middle level and the top level.
If you find yourself in the basement, the equipment is poor, you get your ingredients last, and have to plate your food first. Facing typical cooking show challenges with featured ingredients and themes, contestants battle it out for a spot as the Next Level Chef.
Creative Elements of Next Level Chef
Fast paced and energetic, nail biting moments abounded as contestants forgot to get an ingredient, or missed placing their food on the platform.
Next Level Diversity
Say what you will about Gordon Ramsay, he leads with creativity. Creative elements in the show started with a diverse group. Diversity fuels creativity and innovation. Diversity fueled the unique dishes when contestants competed as teams. Social media chefs, professional chefs and home cooks spread across a continuum of what we perceive as competence or expertise. Contestants of all ethnic groups and ages fueled this diversity, and increased the watchability of the show. Professional chefs choked under pressure or rose to the occasion. Home cooks thrived in a supportive environment for creativity, or failed in basic cooking techniques. The show engaged my attention with the cultural, ethnic and professional diversity of the show’s contestants, and their amazing creations.
Next Level Ego and Experience
Ego occasionally trumped experience and direction from the hosts. Gordon Ramsay makes an off the cuff suggestion about an herb or texture that was ignored, to the peril of the contestant. An important lesson emerged. Creativity requires a balance between unique and disruptive creations (divergent) and important basic culinary tenets and rules that should not be broken (convergent). Like, don’t feed raw chicken.
To use this at home, diverge and disrupt, then test. Embrace failure, because true creativity requires failure. Just don’t make someone sick. Acknowledge that rules are meant to be broken. Yet, recognize that experience and expertise have their place at the table.
Constraints of Creativity
Constraints fuel creativity. Dish theme, ingredients, time constraints, and the three tiers of the kitchen fueled contestant creativity in Next Level Chef. As long as they didn’t choke under the pressure. A contestant grabs an ingredient and realizes that it’s not veal but pork. Creative shift in his plans.
Another contestant grabs bitter radicchio without knowing what it was, and is forced to incorporate it into a dish by balancing flavours with flair. Contestants in the basement are forced to use old pans and dodgy ovens to create their masterpiece. To find the benefits of constraints on creativity, try the “ladder” technique at work or at home. Trying to imagine a dish for dinner? Choose only 2 ingredients in your fridge and force yourself to adapt (going down the ladder). To go up the ladder, go to the grocery store and allow yourself free reign to use any ingredient you wish. Another way to go up the ladder is to say you want to make a “healthy meal”. To go down the ladder, specify it should be a healthy meal made with fish as the protein source and only using green vegetables. Flexing up and down the ladder to open and close the limitations sparks creative ideas.
Joys of Creativity – Next Level Achievement
The glowing faces of the contestants as they presented their creations supports the research on creativity increasing happiness. A fist pump and a “YES” on tasting a sweet potato puree with a new spice combination, the pride when Gordon Ramsay proclaims a dish “F@#ing delicious”, and the deep satisfaction of participating in a creative passion. The juxtaposition of disappointment when a dish doesn’t turn out with the elation when it knocks it out of the park is the ambiguity we face when we engage our creativity. Much as with mindfulness practice, to engage in creativity requires us to sit in the discomfort of ambiguity. We need to stop running away from the pain and chasing happiness. Finding your strength despite uncertainty and the courage to face failure and pain is the cost of true joy and meaning. Creativity is the vehicle to get us there.
For more on how creativity makes you happier check out this blog post.
I liked Next Level Chef, and loved to see the creativity among the contestants and the emotions of the contestants and hosts. Check it out!
PS. Pro tip: Don’t feed raw chicken to Gordon Ramsay.
PPS. Want to learn more about how to apply creativity to your life and work? Check out my website www.carolinebrookfield.com