I was walking around the East Village the other day, and since I’d been out all morning and hadn’t eaten anything I was getting kind of hungry. I decided to check out a ramen joint my classmate Kathy told me about the other day. I was talking to her about the one I usually go to (which is good but not the cheapest lunch) and she recommended I try Kambi on 14th. street.
I like to sit at the bar whenever I can, that way I can see what goes on behind the scenes in the kitchen. The first thing I notice is that the cooks here have an unexpected dynamic. Used to seeing the team jumping around the kitchen, always in a rush to fulfill their orders, I’m surprised to see something a little unusual: watching the staff here is a little like going to the ballet. The Chef and his sous-chefs move in perfectly orchestrated moves, gliding effortlessly past each other. On each side of the Chef, his cooks perform specific duties like clockwork. One takes care of cooking the ramen, the other brings the ingredients to and helps the chef, and a last one sets the plates giving it the final touches, coming together in a seamless integration of parts. Not only has the process been perfected so as not to intrude or be a hinderance, it has been transformed into a vehicle that guides the flow of the ritual.
Thinking about this reminded me of a strategy for creating art that one of my colleagues mentioned in class recently: She was going to a uniform store and buying herself a mason outfit and use it as her artist uniform. Her motivation was that to call yourself an artist you need to consider being one as your job. I don’t know if wearing a uniform is going to make you a better artist, but I do understand what she’s trying to accomplish. One of the most important things for an artist (and something that I struggle with a lot) is developing a consistent practice, to be able to carve out in a recurring fashion the space you need in order to work, think, and make.
One way of doing this is to create and put in place good habits. It is not uncommon to run into articles or research online that talks about the role that creating habits has in changing behaviour, and how the use of feedback loops aid establishing these habits by letting us be aware of them, which in turns helps us to readjust our actions. If we are able to shape our behaviour in order to establish lasting habits we can be more like the cooks at Kambi. The seamlessness of the process is what allows them to create (or cook, in this scenario). Distilling and perfecting our process can allow us to transform it into a catalyst for our practice, which in turn is what’s going to help us focus our energy on what is truly important: The act of making work.