Page 9 - May 2021 Barbecue News Magazine
P. 9

bbq slumps
Rising From the Ashes
 Vic Clevenger
Chimney Cartel
 The Phoenix is a long-lived bird associated with Greek
mythology that cyclically regenerates or is otherwise born again. Associated with the sun, a phoenix obtains new life by rising from the ashes of its predecessor. Some legends say it dies in a show of flames others that it simply dies and decomposes but either way, it rises up from the ashes of what once was. The Phoenix is very symbolic for those who have hit a slump and overcome. What was once great hits a section where the wins, walks and memorable showings become almost non-existent. But like the Phoenix, we will rise from the ashes and shine once more.
However, slumps are real. Ask Michael Jordan who, upon returning to basketball, after trying baseball, hit a major slump. Other nota- bles have suffered the all-feared slump. Mohammad Ali, Lance Armstrong and even Seabiscuit (yes, even a horse can suffer a slump). Slumps aren’t restricted to just individuals but also to teams. Boston Red Sox had a slump many called a curse after they traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Even my beloved Cincinnati Reds have never been the same since the dismantling of the Big Red Machine. But can it happen to a cook? Restaurants hit their stride then another takes their place for one reason or another. Slumps happen for a reason and the quicker one takes steps to fix it, the quicker the slump is over.
Slumps Don’t Just Happen
One day you are on top and the next, you’re not. Michael Jordan could do no wrong when he was on the court. However, when he returned from baseball, it seemed he could do nothing right. He wasn’t soaring like he was famous for, making him the first Super- man on the basketball court. He wasn’t hitting the shots or snag- ging the rebounds like he once did. But there are reasons this happened. Many sports analysts have, well, analyzed this with a variety of answers. His dad, who was his best friend, had died. He had retired. Lost interest. Played baseball, in the minors. When he came back, he wasn’t the “Air Jordan” with whom we stood in awe.
For the cook there can also be a variety of reasons for the slump. Stress is a big factor. Perhaps something else, a death, a separa- tion, or financial concerns, has captured your attention. These dis- tractions can be numerous but it’s how you handle them which could make all the difference. You can receive devastating news or have something lingering in the back of your mind which can plunge you into a slump. One bad cook isn’t a slump, so let’s be clear on this. The slump is bad cook after bad cook. Just like one bad game in the sports field. You must learn, if you can, to place it in a compartment to deal with at the appropriate time. King Solomon wrote in the Book of Proverbs, everything has a season (my nutshell version). To be fair, there may be something that re-
quires immediate attention which will take you from your focus. But those times are very few, if we’re honest.
Slumps Bring Questions
Have I hit my peak? Do I still have what it takes? Is it time to re- tire? Is there something I can change that will put me back on top? Great athletes struggle with these questions and more when they hit their slump. Ali must’ve had them when he came back after his suspension with George Foreman and Joe Frazier on the boxing scene. Especially when Frazier beat Ali. Recently Drew Breeze, not really in a slump, but certainly not where he should have been, de- cided to retire. When Payton Manning wasn’t winning like he used to questions would abound, such as, “Is it time for him to quit?” If those are the questions the announcers are asking, just imagine what is going through the sports figure’s head when he or she real- izes how big a slump in which they find themselves.
If you, like me, are finding yourself here, asking questions, such as, “Do I still have what it takes to win?” then let me suggest a couple of things. When a basketball team hits a slump, the wise coach takes his team back to the basics. This is where I am. Back to just cooking some great steaks. No more overthinking. Secondly, I’m removing my pride from the equation. I’m not such a good cook that I cannot still learn. Julia Child would attend food conferences (usually as a speaker) but would still attend classes, sit on the front row, and takes notes just so she could be better. Thirdly, swing for the fences, expecting the win. Babe Ruth was the homerun king hitting more homeruns than anyone else. He held that record for decades until Hank Aaron broke it. The Babe always approached the plate to hit a homerun, resulting in still holding the most strike outs. But his attitude was one of swinging for the fences.
Slumps Aren’t Permanent
Like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, it’s demise wasn’t perma- nent. Nor is the slump you’re in. When Ali hit his slump, he was able to return to win the title. When Jordan came back and had his slump, we all watched as he overcame, soaring to more titles. The list would go on and on of sports icons hitting a slump then rising above it. With all the questions infiltrating their minds and the people whispering, “Are they done?” they would not give up. They were determined to rise from the ashes.
When the Phoenix would rise from the ashes, in lore, it was more glorious than before. The same can be true of the cook who has slowed his/her roll to re-group. This is why returning to the basics, removing your pride and a winning attitude is so important. You can still walk the stage. Just determine you will be the Phoenix and your name will be called from the stage more than before.
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