How Cooking Enhances My Creativity at Work

Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore or simply a way to sustain yourself and your bank account.

I live in New York, a city where it’s all too easy to rely on seemingly boundless food delivery services. Cooking often feels like an option, not a necessity. Why cook at all when you can get a gourmet meal on demand?

Cooking isn’t just healthier and cheaper than dining out – it’s also one of the most valuable activities for sourcing creativity. In fact, it is one of the few daily activities that engages all five senses at once:

  • You smell the aromas of your ingredients individually and as they mix together
  • You touch different textures and temperatures
  • You hear the sounds of cracking, boiling and maybe even the beeping of your smoke detector  
  • You see the colors of your food and how the meal progresses
  • And finally, you taste the results – good, bad or somewhere in between

Cooking remains a hobby for me, though I haven’t given up on my dream of one day becoming a Tasty chef. The core lessons I’ve learned about creativity have found a purpose in other parts of my life, including work. Here’s how:

Trying new things

Cooking has allowed me to feel comfortable thinking on my feet, if and when I need to change course. It’s a low-stakes way to explore what works and what doesn’t and to get instant feedback. When you mix things together, you can immediately tell if it worked.

I’d recommend taking risks in the kitchen to build confidence and start experimenting in other places. I’m not hesitant to suggest a “wonky” idea at work anymore because I know that at the very least, it can spur a great conversation. It’s easy to get stuck in your routine or to apply the typical tactics for problem-solving. Don’t let the standard “recipe for success” stop you from investigating new ways to get from A to B.

Learning from failure

Cooking is a forgiving process – you can almost always rectify a nearly disastrous situation (if you can’t, see aforementioned food delivery services). I’ve made plenty of dishes that turned out great and also plenty that shouldn’t have seen the light of day. The beauty of a failed dish is that you learn something new.

Mistakes are inevitable; they’re also opportunities to learn about yourself and what not to do in the future. I’ve learned that I’m a lot happier when I accept my fumbles rather than dwelling on them. It’s liberating to learn from failure with humility and an understanding that the occasional typo or missed deadline is truly not the end of the world. It also ensures you don’t stop thinking outside the box just because things didn’t go as planned.

Asking the experts

When I started cooking, I quickly realized how little I knew about the craft. Sure, I could make something that tasted good to me, but I hadn’t perfected my knife skills, for example. Mastering any trade takes time and practice. While I’ll never be an executive chef anywhere besides my own kitchen, it hasn’t stopped me from striving to expand my skillset – I’ve learned a lot from YouTube and indulging in the occasional cooking class.

There’s always room to learn more, in the kitchen and at work. Are you looking to hone your writing skills? Want to learn more about the latest in AR/VR? Wondering what the deal is with digital marketing? Check out the classes offered by General Assembly, Coursera, and LinkedIn Learning Solutions, and look into whether your company will help cover the cost. Bateman Group’s professional development stipend allowed me to spend an afternoon learning about the inner workings of social media to advance my professional skills.

There’s a lot to be gained from cooking, beyond the food itself — and it can be more enjoyable than you expect. No matter how much you love or dread the idea of cooking, think of it as an opportunity to be creative, get comfortable with failure and learn new skills. Hopefully, a few people, especially my fellow New Yorkers and delivery die-hards, feel inspired to cook more and order less.