My wife and I have been watching Netflix’s beautiful series Chef’s Table. Each episode chronicles the life of a famous, innovative, and successful chef. The show features chefs from all over the world. It’s filmed with incredible care and precision.
I kept seeing three patterns in each of the chef’s lives:
1) As kids, most weren’t interested in being chefs. Some random series of events (spanning decades in some cases) ultimately brought them into their careers. And, in many cases, their careers didn’t really take off until their 30s or 40s.
2) An element of tragedy was formative to their success. Terrible childhoods, divorces, deaths, illnesses. These events we desperately want to avoid were a part of the brew that resulted in their success.
3) They see their careers as just getting started. Each chef keeps evolving. Their interests keep changing. They continue to shut down one idea to start up another. In many cases, they just get bored with what’s working and want to try something new. Nancy Silverton, in her 60s, keeps coming up with new twists on ideas.
These patterns brought me back to my earlier piece: Success Is Not A Straight Line. We have to be careful when we imply that life follows a clear plan. Beware emphasizing the “good grades, good college, good job” myth. Real life is way more interesting than that.
PS: My favorite Chef’s Table ep so far is Ivan Orkin’s story about how a New Yorker ended up opening a successful ramen shop in Tokyo (which I once ate at!). It’s tear-jerking, heart-warming, and hilarious.