My TEDx Houston Experience: The Importance of Balance

It must have been some sort of mix-up

Or, it was by just some sort of stroke of sheer dumb luck, but last month I had the chance to speak at TEDx Houston. TEDx, as some of you may know, is An event that brings together some of the world’s most apt minds to speak about new ideas, express passionate vignettes, and push forward innovations in their respective fields. The TED talks globally are huge YouTube hits, spreading ideas and bringing light to new thoughts from a variety of disciplines. Bill Gates has done one, David Blaine has done one, Sir Ken Robinson has done one. Hell, Rene Redzepi did one. This one was independent to Houston (hence the “x”), and gathered there to speak that day were CEOs of major companies, notable leaders of Houston’s community, world champions of dance, highly respected doctors and architects, and a gentleman that spoke with such a tone, conviction, and interest that you hung on every drip of every syllable that escaped his mouth.

Aaaand then there was me.

Shit, I was sandwiched between a rocket scientist and a nanotechnologist.

How a-bout that?

Mostly my TEDx experience was filled with sweaty palms, lots of pacing, and extremely sharp pains in my stomach from the searing amount of adrenaline that went through my veins when I walked on stage. I don’t remember much of what I said while on stage, so hopefully it all somewhat made sense to the audience. But to walk onto a platform in front of such a notably involved group of peers is an mind-numbing, humbling experience. When it was done, I walked off stage and wanted to vomit but ended up curling into a ball for a good ten minutes offstage. But you know, that’s just how things go.

Overall, I think I made it out alright. I talked about pretty much everything I’ve said here on this blog. Hoping to urge people in our community to go out and explore the big world around us and to bring back home new ideas, humble thoughts, new points of view, and appreciation of other cultures to take our naturally rich, raw ingredients from our region to create a distinct food culture here in the Gulf Coast. The whole word “stage” is sort of becoming banal with the use of it around here, but that still shouldn’t deny its importance.

But you’ve already heard all that, you can just scroll down our blog to pretty much get the gist of what I said for the entirety of the ten minutes. I’m not writing this post to talk about what I talked about. I’m writing this post because something hit me the next day as I went through all the foggy memories of all the talks I sat through that day at TEDx.

Chefs have always told me that when you’re a cook, you should be well versed in everything. You shouldn’t be able just to work the line, you should be able to be a butcher, to do basic baking and/or pastry, and to know the basics and ideas of charcuterie. You should strive to understand (that doesn’t mean know how to cook) all cuisines, to understand food, its history, and how it got from the ground to the plate. It’s important to be well-rounded, because you’ll never know when you’re going to be called on. Lately, especially here in Houston, I’ve even seen extremes go where cooks are learning more about service, coffee, and tending the bar, everyone is working with and learning from everyone else. It’s in the early stages, but chefs, sommeliers, and bartenders are all starting to become interchangeable as they learn more about other parts of the food industry.

In example of this, Peter Jahnke of Les Sauvages probably is the first to come to mind. That guy can do it all (and we all hate him for it because he’s too good at everything.)

But what I realized that day was that because it’s so easy to get caught up in the food industry and all its facets, we as food industry professionals often get *too* caught up in the business. There’s so much to learn and enjoy about food and beverage that it’s hard not to become obsessive about it, but then we forget that there’s this other world around us and that we’ve lost perspective of that other world.

The amount that I learned that day from TEDx, from the statistics on how volunteering helps, to why disbanding the space program will ultimately hurt us, to getting a basic understanding of what nanotechnology is and how it helps us, and especially what the difference between what an MC and a DJ is, was not only invaluable, but it also showed me how out of balance in knowledge I was.

I, myself, love being involved and engrossing myself with everything related to food, and maybe sometimes that’s a problem (for me at least) because I’m oblivious to everything else.

Maybe I should put down the copy of Lucky Peach and pick up an Economist. Or stop hounding for menus on restaurant websites and read some more relevant literature sometime. Maybe I should lay off constructing dishes in my head for a few hours and really explore other creative outlets every once in a while. Hell, it would probably please the heck out of my mom if she saw me getting interested in my violin again (shut up, I know what you’re thinking.) And who knows, gaining balance in my knowledge of the world might even help with my cooking one day.

Like I’ve been saying. The world’s a big place, it has a lot of ideas, and you should go check it out. With my free time nowadays, I try to pick up random books, go to places in town that I’ve never walked through, and inquire on interests that I never thought I’d be interested in. It really helps with your perspective as a person.

All I know is that by watching all these other passionate people that day at TEDx being so animated about their lines of work hit a chord with me. There needs to be balance in other things rather than the world of salt, yeast, shakers, and tampers.

Because who knows– maybe the world will call on me one day.

And the things I’ll have to do won’t involve me having a knife or a pan in my hand.

About Justin

We cook, and bake at Oxheart Restaurant in Houston, TX.
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5 Responses to My TEDx Houston Experience: The Importance of Balance

  1. ChuckEats says:

    completely agree – nothing more inspiring to me than reading a great work of fiction (Blood Meridian being the last great book I read.) there’s no immediate impact of ‘this will help me right now’ but it sits with you, impacts little ideas, & ultimately makes on more aware & creative. (and that’s the case for a great liberal arts education too!)

  2. Diane says:

    I think it’s meaningful when any person steps out of his comfort zone a tries to better understand the concerns and going on’s of other industries. For example, it’s enlightening for me to meet people working in the food industry because it shows me that what you learn in school can only take you so far. Outside or after formal schooling, people do and learn so muchthat is equally, if not m ore, valuable than what is taught in the classroom. Gives a sense of perspective and causes one to reevaluate what’s important.

  3. Diane says:

    Pardon the typos, it was getting difficult to type on the touch screen and go back and edit it.

  4. Oh yeah, that’s why I spend countless hours of the day wikipedia researching random historical events. It gives me a reference point in pretty much any conversation I am in…plus I actually find that stuff extremely interesting. Where can we see your speech?

  5. Such a good post. One that I will reread when I get wrapped up in the hair-splitting and self-reverence that happens in this lovely food world of ours.

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