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Slowly Is The Fastest Way

February 11 2022 – Nick Massie

Thomas Keller Kitchen Clock Sense Of Urgency
Thomas Keller Kitchen Clock Sense Of Urgency

I'm impatient. Since starting in a restaurant at age 14, “Sense Of Urgency” has been a way of life.

Once I learned how quickly things could be done, it became difficult to do them at any pace other than my fastest. My first boss was Brian Lewis, a military man who loved to show me how much faster he was than me. I remember one time, I was peeling carrots. He came up to me, grabbed a carrot, grabbed a peeler and went ballistic peeling it over the garbage can.

Right at the last second, just as he was about to finish, he dropped the carrot into the garbage! We both looked at each other and laughed. He had made his point, but was served a slice of humble pie. There are a lot of rules in the kitchen and while a sense of urgency is one of them, don’t work over a garbage can is another!

Vern Wolfram Chef' Secret Sense Of Urgency

A decade later, while in Culinary School at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Chef Vern Wolfram had a list called CHEF'S SECRET on the wall over the three compartment sink in the bakery. At the top of the list: Sense Of Urgency. (look in the picture above and the sign is just over the girl's shoulder) In all of Thomas Keller’s kitchens, he has a plaque under the wall clock that says “Sense Of Urgency”. When asked about it, he says that, “Great cooking is an accumulation of countless tiny tasks.” (that's the clock at the top of this post) If you take your time on each one, things will never get done.

But Nick, the title above says Slowly Is The Fastest Way… What gives?

I am not here today to tell you that I have this lesson figured out. For the most part, I still think that quickly is the fastest way, but I'm learning.

Take weight loss for example. If I tell you that I am going to lose 20 pounds in the next 30 days, how does that sound? Sounds pretty good, right? But, what if I tell you it is only possible to lose one pound of body fat per week? (At the absolute maximum, a human can lose 1.5 pounds of body fat per week.) Now, the 20 pounds in a month sounds extreme. Most of it would be water weight and the remainder would be muscle mass, which I wouldn’t want to lose.

Now, how about if I tell you that I am going to lose 20 pounds over the next ten years? Sounds more feasible, right? The thing is that if I go for the 20 pounds in 30 days, the chances that I will have gained it all back and then some by the end of one are nearly 100%. Not to mention that adults gain as much as 2 pounds per year!

Robert W. Service - Yukon Cabin - Ice Age Meals

In my favorite poem, The Men That Don’t Fit In by Robert W. Service, it says, “And each forgets, as he strips and runs with a brilliant, fitful pace, it’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones who win the lifelong race.”

We’re breaking through in ‘22, but we’re only one month in. Today, I want to encourage you to broaden your horizon and stay the course. We can sprint, but only for a stint. When it makes sense to have a sense of urgency, do it. But, in many of the important areas of life, Slowly truly is the fastest way…

Your Pal,

Paleo Nick

PS: Here is a link to Aesop's The Hare & The Tortoise - He put it like this:

"The race is not always to the swift."

The hare and the tortoise - Ice Age Meals