During the quarantine, I have been watching a number of cooking shows, bingeing on programs like “Crazy Delicious” and “The Great British Baking Show” (both streaming on Netflix); but my latest obsession is “Selena + Chef” on HBO Max. As the title suggests, each episode features Selena Gomez (the 20-something pop music artist) welcoming a different world-renowned chef (such as Ludo Lefebvre or Nancy Silverton) into her kitchen (via digital stream) to teach her to cook. The show is a delightful balance of amusement and instruction. Much of the comic relief comes from Selena’s inability to work her stove and oven – it takes her a few episodes for her to fully utilize the convection feature – or manage exotic ingredients, particularly a whole fish. The instruction, however, is truly captivating.
As I watched these professional chefs, I was impressed by their apparent effortlessness in teaching their craft. There are few measuring cups on the experts’ side of the screen, as they combine ingredients by sight and feel. They were so familiar with culinary science that they were able to move into the arena of artful improvisation, experimenting with the novice cook when things went awry (which they routinely did). These chefs are masters of what Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, calls “The 10,000 Hours Rule”, the ‘magic number’ needed to become an expert in any given field. These chefs have spent so much time in perfecting the disciplines of gastronomic science that now they are able to experience the freedom to create something unique and tutor an amateur toward something delicious.
Moving from science to art, from cookbooks to creativity, is a joy to behold. When it comes to food, nutritious does not always mean delicious and edible does not always equate to indelible. In the kitchen, we can comprehend that we ought to include elements of creaminess and crunchiness; we can agree that flavor comes from a satisfying blend of sweet, salty and sour. In saying all this, I return to a childhood memory, an episode of “Mork and Mindy” which taught on white lies which had these concluding lines of dialogue: “Who could believe it was the first one you’ve ever cooked? I’ve never seen anybody do that with figs before. The secret must be in the cheese.” It takes a scientist/artist to know what works, what does not, and what would be wonderous.
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:16 (NIV84)
As I think about “Selena + Chef” and one’s culinary pursuits, I think also about the local church and one’s spiritual pursuits. I wonder how many of us are willing to commit to “The 10,000 Hours Rule” regarding our expertise in the things of God in order that we might move beyond the rigors of scientific instruction and engage in the realm of artistic expression. How I long, personally, to experience the freedom found in knowing the Lord deeply and to enjoy the full flavors of life in Christ.