Decades of an intense career kept me buried in a shallow knowledge trough a mile wide and an inch deep.

I defensively called myself a generalist, but it felt like a painful omission of imperfection.

Several weeks into retirement, with time and the ability to more deeply focus, I dug in to a bucket list of Master Classes to satisfy my passions.

First up, Thomas Keller Teaches Cooking Techniques.

Lessons From A Master

Keller holds 3 Michelin stars each for both Per Se, his New York restaurant, and the perennial favorite for those traveling through California’s Napa Valley region, French Laundry.

His online Master Class is a review of fundamental kitchen techniques. Pot-blanching asparagus. Baking beets. Pureeing parsnips. The proper knife for the proper task.

At first I was disappointed. I’d hoped he’d provide tips on how best to replicate his renowned dishes at home.

My culinary memories reveal a lifetime of cooking high crimes and misdemeanors. Short-cuts taken at the stove. Forgotten ingredients. Knives not sharpened. Over-cooking. Under-cooking. Not placing the top on the blender before pushing the start button. And what remains for me the final frontier: plating.

Perhaps a review of the fundamentals is clearly in order. If I can’t do the basics correctly, there’s no chance of orchestrating a full-on Keller meal.

After all, isn’t living in the details what I now crave?

Which caused me to wonder…

Am I Running My Life In The Same Imperfect Way I Run My Kitchen?

I’ve no expectation my version of lemon-brined fried chicken and smoked salmon crisps will remotely taste like Keller’s dish. Keller isn’t guaranteeing any such outcome. He’s interested in adherence to the steps that lead to good outcomes.

To that end he offers us the six highly recognizable disciplines leading to his success in the kitchen and in business.

  • organization
  • efficiency
  • critical feedback
  • repetition
  • rituals
  • teamwork

It’s about process…not perfection. I can do process.

But what’s the goal here?

I Master, Therefore I Am

Doesn’t master mean to perfect? Doesn’t being a master mean one is a perfectionist?

Oprah says, “A master is someone who has fully stepped in and owned the full progress and trajectory of their life.” (Take a few moments to view her exquisite definition, here).

Her Master Class interviews reveal the fragile dispositions of those we consider to be the greats. If we listen carefully, their quest for perfection bends – out of necessity – away from the need for perfection toward a search for authenticity.

Simon Sinek, motivational speaker and marketing consultant affirms that “Authenticity is about imperfection. And authenticity is a very human quality. To be authentic is to be at peace with your imperfections.”

Whether sales person or superstar, most Masters have reached detente with their imperfections.

In the end, don’t we get the most out of Masters who immerse us in their branded sense of themselves…their authenticity?

That’s where perfection lies.

I can live with that.

Originally published at