Heart of a Teacher

I’ve spent the last several days taking it easy after surgery (more later), which for me means doing only half of what I normally do and sneaking things in when Jeff isn’t looking! While I love a good nap as much as the next guy or gal, forced stillness is not my thing.

However, in an effort to follow the doctor’s orders, I have been taking some time to sit still and go through back issues of cooking magazines to note (in my new Recipe Tracking Guide) those recipes I’d like to try in the future.  Having uninterrupted time to look at magazines has been luxurious and I’ve found all kinds of things I skimmed over in the past.  While thumbing through the April 2012 issue of bon appetit, I found an interview that I hadn’t read previously.

The interviewer talked with Keith McNally, restauranteur and owner of Balthazar, NYC.  Mr. McNally’s answer to one of the questions made me laugh out loud – probably because he hit the nail squarely on the head in terms of how I view most celebrity chefs.

Q: In a world of celebrity chef-driven restaurants, your places are conspicuously celebrity chef-free.  Why?

A: Because celebrity chefs are usually vain, temperamental, self-regarding, lazy, and arrogant beyond.  As are celebrities in general.  I just wish I were brave enough to bar them from my restaurants.  A velvet rope, perhaps.

I LOVE McNally’s response.  Although I am a frequent watcher of food network programming, I much prefer PBS cooking shows.  The reason: PBS typically doesn’t have the glitz and glamor and arrogance that you see on many food network shows.

One of the things I absolutely admired about Julia Child was her ability and willingness – especially her willingness – to make mistakes and to admit that she didn’t know everything.  She tried new recipes and techniques and encouraged viewers – EVERYDAY PEOPLE – to try new recipes and techniques too.  She showed us that sometimes we’ll try and succeed and sometimes we’ll try and fail – but in the end all the efforts are triumphs because we tried!

What I don’t like or admire about many of today’s celebrity chefs is their air of superiority.  I have great reverence for folks who commit themselves to education, no matter the field.  So to those chefs who have studied long and hard, and who have learned from wonderful teachers and taken chances and devoted themselves to becoming masters, I tip my hat.  BUT, I do not believe the classroom is the only place for that to happen. And I don’t believe that education in and of itself makes someone an expert.

There are those celebrity chefs who do not regularly display their self-admiration (which incidentally I think is quite different from displaying confidence) or their smugness – and to them I say, please disregard this rant and keep doing what you’re doing!

I think what cooking shows often miss is something I learned from Dave Ramsey – financial author, radio host, and someone who learned about money the hard way. The lesson I learned from Dave Ramsey is that people learn better (are more open to lessons) from someone with the heart of a teacher.  And I’ve found through my own life experience that it’s almost impossible to have the heart of a teacher and be a know-it-all at the same time.

I found a list of qualities of a Teacher vs. qualities of a Know-It-All in a March 16, 2012 blog post from Tony Bourke of PacketPushers.net, a community of bloggers and podcasters in the IT industry that I believe is applicable across many industries.

Here’s the list:

Know It All

  • Offers up an (unsolicited) opinion at any opportunity
  • Very little listening, lots of talking
  • Is the final authority on anything
  • Doesn’t admit ignorance (Either dances around it, or outright lies)
  • Open their mouths to show off
  • Unwilling to be wrong
  • Are no fun to be around


  • Listens at least as much as they talk
  • Has opinions, willing to change them as a result of discussion
  • Admits ignorance
  • Open their mouths to learn or to teach
  • Happy to be wrong
  • Are awesome to be around

I think we’ve all had our moments of being a know-it-all.  No one is perfect.  But like our grandmas taught us – “You get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” 

Whatever you do, do it with humility.  Look around and realize that there will always be people who know less than you and there will always be people who know more than you – whether it’s about cooking, medicine, fixing cars, etc.

I have been lucky throughout my life to have found wonderful mentors in many areas – typically those mentors are older than I am – people with more life experience.  But in the last year I have also been lucky to find some wonderful mentors in the area of blogging and technology.  Interestingly enough, the vast majority of these mentors are younger than I am.  I feel very fortunate that God has wired me in such a way that I do not feel threatened learning from people who are younger than me.  I believe everyone has something to teach me if I am willing to learn.

I highly recommend that you find good mentors who have the heart of a teacher and strive to BE a good mentor with the heart of a teacher! Remember, humbly sharing your knowledge with others doesn’t result in less knowledge for you, it results in more knowledge for everyone – including you!

I hope if I ever make it to one of Keith McNally’s restaurants I am on the right side of the velvet rope!

Proverbs 11:2 teaches us that, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”

One thought on “Heart of a Teacher

  1. Don’t make that rope too high….I don’t want to have any problems getting over the rope!!! Always willing to learn something new.

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