The Powerful Edge of Uncertainty

Ever heard of a guy called Frances Mallmann?  I hadn't either.  Until I stumbled on what has quickly become my latest Netflix obsession: The Chef's Table. 

I'll admit, I hesitated to watch it because I thought it was going to be another boring reality TV show where angry, stressed-out chefs are cussing out their overworked, oppressed kitchen staff.  Well let me tell you, it's not.  Each episode is a beautiful crafted, compelling journey of a successful chef whose work is in some way, revolutionary.  These chefs are so unique, so remarkable, I find myself asking, "How have I not HEARD of this person before?"

I've only watched three episodes (there's a total of six) and I'm already mourning the end.  I've completely fallen in love with these people and not only what they're doing but how they're doing it:  with unbridled abandon.

There's the wacky, creative and gentle-spirited Italian, Massimo Bottura whose misunderstood Modenese restaurant was considered a flop before it was finally understood and garnered its three Michelin stars.  There's the American, Dan Barber, who has tirelessly made it his life's mission to put the taste and flavor back into our food.  (What a concept!)  His passion isn't limited to the kitchen or the table -- he literally works with scientists and farmers to engineer the food he then serves at his New York restaurant, Blue Hill. 

Then there's Frances Mallmann.  The poetry-spouting, wild-haired, free-spirited South American gypsy genius who cooks with fire.  This guy is the stuff legends are made of.  His life is, in every way, a reflection of the fullness of his spirit.  Constantly on the go, he's on a plane every two days traveling between his restaurants.  He has a whole team working for him in the glorious Patagonian wilderness one-hundred miles down a dirt road that leads to a tiny island in Argentina.  (I know.)

I won't tell you too much because I don't want to spoil the fun of getting to know him, but one of the things that's worth mentioning is his willingness to do what it takes to keep growing creatively.  This goes for him but also for those who work for him.  He talks about how, when he reaches a great moment with his staff, he knows it's time for them to go.  He believes that there's a certain level of discomfort that's necessary for things/people/work to evolve. 

He strikes a major chord when he gives pause to the nature of his life.  "My life has been a path at the edge of uncertainty.  Today, I think we educate kids to be settled in the comfortable chair.  You have your job, you have your little car, you have a place to sleep and the dreams are dead.  You don't grow on a secure path.  All of us should conquer something in life and it needs a lot of work and it needs a lot of risk in order to grow and to improve." 

And there we have it.  The fundamental ingredients needed to create and conquer: risk, hard work and uncertainty.  One of the most fascinating lessons Mallmann exemplifies is the idea that success isn't a stopping point.  The message is that to live as a creative being, to carry on with a truly creative life, you have to be willing to let go of comfort and certainty and exchange it for...yep, the dreaded unknown.  Why?  Because it's within the struggle where all the beauty of growth happens.  Mallmann reminds us that success isn't in the having done it; it's in the continual act of doing, of creating; of constantly stoking the powerful fire of uncertainty.