At some point, most of us have watched Matt Preston, the very popular and beloved judge of the MasterChef Australia, exhibit his mastery over everything gastronomical on TV.
The food journalist, restaurant critic and author is in India and he took a Master Class at J W Marriott in Bengaluru. Matt, for whom curry is soul food, passed on some important pearls of wisdom to cooking enthusiasts, budding chefs, children and home cooks.
1) Appreciate local elements - A pesto recipe calls for pine nuts and basil, rare ingredients in our country. So, while in India, and teaching an Indian audience, Matt turned to local elements. He used elements like coriander, cashew and ginger to create his dish. As entrepreneurs, it is essential you appreciate the geography you exist in and explore and tap into local talent pool of your city and State.
2) Don’t put a stop to learning – Matt travels across the world, sampling food and exploring local food habits and cooking techniques. In all his travels he learns new things. Despite being a celebrated and much revered food connoisseur, Matt says he always finds something new to learn. Regardless of what stage you are at in your entrepreneurial journey, don’t assume you know everything. Continue to seek more and learn more.
3) Question everything – On cooking traditions and techniques, Matt pointed out how essential it was to question practices and not accept processes or techniques just because they have been passed down through generations. Say, a certain pie or a dish was cooked in a certain way or in a specific dish due to the availability of equipment, produce or resources. To learn and innovate you need to question. While it is important to ask the 'whys' you still need to be intuitive and astute, at cooking or entrepreneurship.
4) Don’t forget who you are – Matt, and his fellow star hosts on MasterChef, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan, have time and again encouraged young chefs on the show to stay true to their core. They have encouraged them to bring a part of themselves to the dishes that they are creating. Appreciating a young chef on the sets of his master class, who added a local touch to his cooking, Matt encouraged others to do the same. As an entrepreneur, as you evolve and progress, there will be a lot of new things to imbibe and instil. It is important to not forget that special ingredient that makes you unique, the quintessential you that you should not leave behind on your entrepreneurial journey.
5) Recognise value – Matt showcased how important it is to respect produce and look at all that it offers, including the stem of fresh coriander, which most people cut and throw away. Don’t shy away from the possibilities in people and things around you. When you see talent use it to its fullest. Don’t restrict or constrain people, give them an opportunity to deliver.
6) Skip the drama – Avoid the frills, be the kitchen instruments you choose or the show you put up for an audience. You may grab the eyeballs but as a chef or an entrepreneur your final product will speak for itself. So, focus on your product and get it right. Don’t get caught up in the frills and fancies of marketing and brand positioning. If your product is good it will shine and the rest will follow.
7) Technology and knowledge sharing is essential for growth – Technology has opened up so many avenues for knowledge sharing that there is nothing that can hold you back from achieving your dreams. There is just so much to learn, and through it collaborate and create. Information is no longer a premium; it's accessible easily and entrepreneurs need to assimilate that information, sieve through it and take the best out from it and put it into their product.
8) You can’t hide love and passion – For Matt, who has travelled the world, home cooked meals and street food rank as high as food at sophisticated and fine restaurants. A lot of love goes into some of these dishes and they represent the passion of the people creating the dish. So if you have the passion it will show in your work, your output and your product.
9) Self-belief – Unless you believe in your dish or in your idea, no one else will. It is essential to give your dish your best. So stay committed and focussed but that does not mean you get blindsided. Keep at your idea but keep yourself aware of what’s going around you.
10) Take up new challenges everyday – A kitchen is a place of creativity and innovation. Take up new challenges everyday, and push your boundaries to do something you have not done before. Though an entrepreneur's journey is like a roller-coaster ride, you still have to challenge yourself to do something new everyday.
So do what you love and love what you do. Be open to learning new things and take up new challenges and let your product do the talking.