“Although I don’t take myself very seriously, I do take my work extraordinarily seriously.”  – Denise Ereka Peterson quoting Alton Brown

 

Alton Brown has infamously targeted unitaskers – tools that could only do one thing – as a bad thing to keep in your kitchen. He pushed flexibility and exploring tools to get the most out of them. This quote, though, shows the genius of his mind. “The only tools that are unitaskers are the ones you haven’t figured out a new use for yet.” The brilliance of this is to push the cook to use the tools they have on hand as creatively as possible.

 

This philosophy shines through in his hit show, Cutthroat Kitchen. On Monday night, I got to listen to Alton’s response to a question about what he loved most about Cutthroat Kitchen. Some challenges, like having to cook on an upside-down wok, generate a ton of bidding to ensure that the chef does not get that challenge. Sometimes, though, they stop bidding and apparently stop worrying about being faced with that particular cooking challenge. For some chefs, he explained, there could come a moment where they knew, absolutely knew, how to utilize this impossible object and still succeed. Creating the opportunity for this process of exploration and realization was obviously a driving force in Alton’s cooking.

 

This struck such a chord with me about mediation – there is no perfect case, and often unusual challenges that can only be met by my clients’ limited resources to help resolve their legal issues. Creatively thinking about how to apply those resources and skills can open up new potential solutions than the standard ones – taking them from unitaskers to stars of the mediation kitchen.