What the Heck is “Chef’s Block”?

Ever hear the phrase “You are your own worst critic”? No? Well you just did.

I left my full-time job several months ago to dedicate myself to keeping a nice home, providing support to the consulting firm that my husband and I own, and importantly to work on my writing- which is the greatest passion I have ever had. Cooking is a close second, because every dish has a story.

Writer’s Block is an easy phenomenon to understand. A writer has a rhythm and burst of creativity, artfully arranges letters into words and finds themselves suddenly at a standstill. I’ve experienced it many times. Once, I wrote about 15,000 words about my brief stint as a drag queen in New York City, and stopped because well, I am my own worst critic. That, along with two plays, a television pilot, two novels and a cookbook are all stuck in a mental and creative traffic jam. Not moving anywhere, because they are all rubbernecking each other.

I have experienced Chef’s Block lately too. Not necessarily a lack desire or vision on cooking, because I don’t stop cooking, but the desire to write about it- because I don’t know if my take has any value, is outstanding from the crowd, and because I am my own worst critic. But the standstill traffic jam that is my writing process leached into my cooking game, and I’ve basically been repeating the same dishes and same seamless orders over and over and over again.

Cooking from memory is always safe, but it is things that have been done before.  And since we’re living in a climate that judges us to “stand out from the crowd”- it feeds into feelings of self-doubt and anxiety, eventually creating a rut where all one wants to do is order greasy bodega sandwiches and leave the house only to walk the dog.

Or maybe that’s just my narrative.

My heart hurts a little when I see “new takes on classics” as if classics weren’t classics for a reason. I loathe the appropriation of foodways- it’s essentially the erasure and revision of what sustained a community, and a nation. And the excess and laziness of popular food memes and videos… I understand that some folks have no desire nor talent for cooking, but why do many outlets dumb down food with processed crap mashed up with more processed crap? And why do people love it? It makes me discouraged from cooking.

The motivation to try different things in the kitchen and then transcribe it- is easily sent into a sunken place… it’s still there- barely, but the feelings of inadequacy and incompetence take over.

I’ve been quiet for a few months, because I’ve been constantly doubting myself as a cook and as a writer. And recently, it came to my attention that someone who I was friendly with was speaking ill of me- along the lines that I am basically a nobody with nothing to offer. Someone told me to turn that hateration into motivation and prove that person wrong.

I learned a long time ago, being gay before it was fashionable, being mixed ancestry, and in the shadow of “success” that I have not a single thing to prove to anyone except myself. I know I have a talent for writing, and an aptitude for cooking, it’s just removing that block that stands in the way.

I haven’t figured out how to remove that block just yet. My writer’s block creates a Chef’s Block and I’m well into my 30s so I don’t have time to play with childish toys. Instead of removing it, the only way out is through. So I guess I’ll push through. Which means challenging myself to create, in a way that speaks to me.

May is Asian / Pacific Islander American Heritage Month. Maybe I’ll find my culinary and writing muse in plain sight.


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