Gordon Ramsay, Mac & Cheese, and Knowing if You are Brave or Insane

The Podcasting Store
3 min readApr 14, 2021

by Drew Holmes

Jamie and I were making dinner using a recipe from one of my culinary heroes, Gordon Ramsay. I really enjoy cooking and am fascinated with Chef Ramsay and his high standards, so after seeing the TV show of his Ultimate Cookery Course I had to have the cookbook it was based on. The recipe we made is his Pork Chop with Sweet and Sour Peppers. As with any new recipe, it will take a few tries to perfect it, but this one is going to find a permanent place in our meal plan. It is quick, easy, and delicious. Rarely does a recipe check all the boxes, but we are skilled enough in the kitchen and have been cooking long enough that we know a winner when we see one.

It was not always this way.

I remember back to a time when I was not as great of a cook, though I was fearless (not a good trait in this case). I was fresh out of college with a diploma but little else, living outside of Trenton and working part time for both The Brooklyn Philharmonic and The Philadelphia Orchestra. Not reasonable commutes, but when you are just starting out you work for whomever will pay you, start to build up a resume, and try to ignore the fact that a significant portion of that small paycheck is being spent on gas and train tickets.

When I was at home and awake enough to cook for myself, most meals featured the cheapest box of mac and cheese I could find, which I would dress up with whatever extras I could scrounge. Steak-umms were and are a personal favorite. On this particular day not only did I have no Steak-umms, I also had no milk. Not having the funds or the time to make a grocery run, I searched the refrigerator and the pantry for a suitable substitute. When that yielded no answers, my gaze happened upon the liquor cabinet.

Now, pausing here a moment let us consider the difference between bravery and insanity. Bravery is doing what must be done despite feeling the very real emotion of fear. Insanity is never stopping to consider that being afraid might be the body’s way of trying to live to see another train ride. Unfortunately, I was now solidly into the latter.

Back to the liquor cabinet. I had all the usual things you would expect from a recent college graduate, including of all things Bailey’s Irish Cream. Irish Cream. Cream. Cream is dairy… like milk! I had an ingenious solution in hand, fueled by what I can only assume was hunger and lack of sleep. Skipping the rest of the gory details of how this culinary catastrophe came to be, I will just say that it was… brown. So very, very brown. I am embarrassed to say I ate as much as I could. That embarrassment is mitigated by not having been able to force down much.

Today things are much different.

In the years since that time, I have learned to cook quite well. I have learned tips and tricks from a variety of sources and incorporated them into what I do in the kitchen to become a better cook. Sometimes I learn from successes, but more often I learn more from failures (and not just my own). There is great power in failure if we are willing to see the lesson.

This same principle applies to us as musicians. Sure, we strive for excellence, but can you remember a performance or a rehearsal that was an unmitigated disaster? Do you know what lessons you learned from it? Could you have learned it faster by observing someone else make that mistake before you did? As the saying goes, there is no failure, only winning and learning.

That day when I attempted an ingredient substitution that violated the laws of nature, if not the laws of man, I learned the difference between bravery and insanity. And it was a lesson well learned.

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