In terms of human intellect, we evolved much faster than one might expect. The information storage and potential of the human brain is almost limitless – in fact, we use a very small portion of its capacity. How could we go from digging with our hands, grunting to communicate, stacking branches for cover, and eating raw meat from a fresh kill, to building skyscrapers, traveling at the speed of sound, prolific writing on computers whose capacity and speed increase exponentially every six-months, and presenting Michelin three-star meals in restaurants from one corner of the world to another?
There is science that points to our consumption of protein and the skill to apply heat through cooking that may have had the greatest impact on our intellectual growth.
According to an article in Live Science Magazine – cooking of proteins starts the digestive process, which then requires fewer calories in the body, dedicated to breaking down our food – reserving more of those calories for brain development. This is where cooks come into the picture.
We, of course, know that our job is to prepare delicious food as nourishment and a source of enjoyment, but may not realize that we contribute to making our guests smarter. Now, of course, with intelligence comes free will to use it properly, protect it, and input information that benefits all involved. Some choose to ignore the opportunity.
What about those who prepare food? What about that dedicated, competent, high energy, and a sometimes-crusty individual known as the line cook? What separates this person from the pack – what about his or her inherent level of intelligence?
Let’s take a moment to analyze a cook’s intellectual “fit” with this description.
 CAPACITY FOR LOGIC
Do we not, as cooks, exercise the ability to process information and complete tasks in an order and manner that exemplifies reason? Cooks understand that the process of cooking makes sense and the ability to comprehend and practice this is the difference between an average and an accomplished culinarian.
 CAPACITY FOR UNDERSTANDING
Great cooks reflect on that moment when the light bulb came on and the process of cooking made sense. This then becomes second nature to a cook, the process can be applied to any cuisine, any menu, and any dish.
 CAPACITY FOR SELF-AWARENESS
Although some may struggle with the concept of “knowing who they are”, when a cook arrives at that point, then he or she has bridged that gap that exists between being a cook and becoming a chef.
 CAPACITY FOR LEARNING
What differentiates a good from a great cook is oftentimes the capacity and willingness to set aside what he or she thinks they know, opens his or her eyes and mind to other possibilities, and embraces a different set of rules or opportunities. This desire and capacity to learn – a thirst for knowledge, can take a cook to new heights and fresh opportunities.
 CAPACITY FOR EMOTIONAL KNOWLEDGE
This may be the weak link in a cook’s intelligence quotient. Like any other artist or artisan, a cook is a cluster of feelings. On any given day a cook will likely experience: fear, shame, love, hate, remorse, and anger. All cooks have the capacity to feel these emotions (have the knowledge), but due to their passion they do not always have the capacity to keep them in check.
 CAPACITY FOR PLANNING
There are few individuals or careers that demand more in the area of planning than cooks and cooking. Cooks are extremely organized individuals – they have no choice. If a cook fails in this area then he or she will never be successful in the kitchen. Necessity is the mother of invention – all successful cooks have the capacity for planning.
 CAPACITY FOR CREATIVITY
Remember – cooks are technicians, but great cooks are also highly creative artisans. Theirs is a craft that allows for the expression of every human sense through their work. Each day a cook will exercise his or her ability to appeal to sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste – we are a creative lot.
 CAPACITY FOR PROBLEM SOLVING
As I have said many times before – Murphy’s Law rules in every kitchen – “If something can go wrong – it will”. Cooks learn early on, through experience (good and bad) that this challenge lies before them every day. Through trial and error – cooks’ will eventually become consummate problem solvers, simply because they have seen it before, have experienced the pain, and have now learned how to act or react.
“We live in worlds that we have forged and composed. It’s much more true than any of the species that you see. I mean, it seems to me that one of the most distinctive features of human intelligence is the capacity to imagine, to project out of our own immediate circumstances and to bring to mind things that aren’t present here and now.”
Isn’t this a clear definition of a chef – a position that many intelligent young cook’s aspire to? The position of cook is one with a multitude of dimensions, a position that demands a great deal, and a position that demonstrates a clear intelligence connection. Yes, we are tactile learners who represent the best of what “working with your hands” means, however, professional cooks also have very demanding positions that require the ability to sort, store, access, and utilize their very sophisticated intellect each and every day.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
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