From the ages of 18 to 65 we experience 47 years of life. This is 410,592 hours of breathing. These are typically the years when the average American works to earn a paycheck. If you work a typical 40-hour week (not typical in hospitality careers) that equates to 94,000 hours over 47 years and if you are able to sleep an average of six-hours per night, that’s another 98,700 hours leaving 217,892 hours to do what we choose. How are you going to spend that time?
You could sleep more, spend time in a trance in front of your TV or computer screen, text, read, hike, ride, climb, swim, travel, eat, or simply do nothing, but how much sense does that make? When you look at “time well spent” it might make sense to combine what you do, with the time you have and find a way to make a difference in your life or others. When we punch into life there is always an opportunity to do something that floats your boat and as Steve Jobs once said: “make a dent in the universe.” Once you punch in – how will you spend your precious time?
Now, some may align “making a difference” with professions like doctor, nurse, teacher, statesman, writer, clergy, or motivational speaker, but I want to focus on cooking as a definitive “put a dent in the universe” career. Yes, you heard correctly – cooks and chefs can make a difference.
Put aside the pursuit of profit and the self-gratification derived from expressing yourself and think about the numerous ways that cooks connect the dots, move people in a positive direction, equalize the playing field, or even change other people’s lives.
 NOURISH THE BODY
Cooks should be aware that how people feel, how active they are, how strong and how resilient they are, as well as how able they are to ward off disease is incredibly dependent on the quality of their diet. Cooks hold the key to all of this whether they are professionals who have chosen the kitchen for their career, or a conscientious home cook dedicated to proper nutrition.
 NOURISH THE MIND
Our mind’s ability to grow cells and accommodate the enormous amount of information that comes its way in a lifetime has a direct connection to the foods that we eat and how they are prepared. Cooks hold the key to our brain’s capacity.
 NOURISH THE SOUL
How we connect with others, the warmth of our hearts, our feeling of completeness, the traditions that we cherish, and connections with our history are all aligned directly or indirectly to not just what we eat, but how we share it with others. Cooks have the ability to draw others together in recognition of all that celebrates our collective soul.
 BRING PEOPLE PHYSICALLY TOGETHER
The neighborhood restaurant and the food it serves represent more than a process of nourishing, it is a destination that brings family, friends, associates, strangers, and business connections together. It is a place where people can put aside their challenges and their differences forming a common bond around food and drink. It is a place where these people can break bread and raise a glass knowing that they have more in common than the surface differences that seem to cloud their existence. Restaurants are a neutral ground where people connect.
 HELP PEOPLE TO CELEBRATE
There may not be a more important place than a restaurant for celebrating success, lifetime accomplishment, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, new beginnings, or the end of an era. Whenever these significant events take place – food is almost always the catalyst for cheers and smiles. Cooks are able to play a key role in these life moments.
 HELP TO TEMPER GRIEF AND DISAPPOINTMENT
How many of us have taken the time to recognize in celebration – a loved one or friend who has come to the end of his or her life. It is food and the work of the cook who helps to temper sadness and open the door to the joy that that person brought to others. Never the centerpiece, but always there in support – food and the cook make a difference.
 SUPPORT ARTISTIC EXPRESSION
As I have pointed out too many times to count – the cook is both a technician and an artist. As a technician, he or she is charged with understanding process leading to consistency in flavor, texture, and appearance. As an artist the cook is focused on connections with all of the human senses. Where a musician appeals to the sense of sound, the painter the sense of sight, the sculptor the sense of touch, and the parfumier the sense of smell – the cook appeals to them all and adds the sense of taste. There is no more diverse, impactful artist than the cook.
 RAISE SPIRITS WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS
Finally, the cook and the chef allow us to put aside challenges and seemingly insurmountable problems, to temporarily forget those things that gnaw on our psyche and make us wonder about the fate of the world and for a moment enjoy a bite of food, the good memories associated with a particular dish, the traditions of home and family, and the promise of better days to come.
Yes, making a difference is a goal that we all share. We want our time on this planet to mean something, to put a dent in the universe, and to fulfill us and those around us with a sense of accomplishment. We need to find our place, to know that we have done something with our time. For many of us, this is possible whether we choose to practice medicine, teach, train, protect, communicate, or lead; but as I look at those friends and associates whom I have cooked with, I know that they too have found their place and are making a true difference in people’s lives. To many others, today is all about survival. We are privileged – how will we spend our time? As I watch what chefs like Jose Andres, Ann Cooper, John Folse, and thousands of others worldwide who give through cooking, do, I am able to smile and stand tall knowing that we have found our place in a world that needs as many cooks as it can find.
Be proud to cook! You have found your place.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
CAFÉ Talks Podcast
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