Change Something to Reign Supreme

What is the value in being different?

One of my guilty pleasures is the original Iron Chef, a Japanese “cooking battle” dubbed into English. I find it entertaining because my brain somehow conceives of this as gourmet cuisine thrashing about on the set of Godzilla.

The show is loosely tied around the idea each contestant will push their knowledge and skill into new works of culinary artistry. In other words, they are charged with taking everything they’ve done before to create something unheard of.

Success is almost always the result of asking how an approach can be changed while making use of what is already being done well.

The thing is, taking old ideas in a new direction invites criticism and Kitchen Stadium is no different. Every episode culminates with the evaluation of each dish by a panel of three judges.

As the food is graded, the taster attempts to parse wholly original entrées against the backdrop of standard restaurant fare. Nibbling from plate after plate, the diners offer their appreciation and “suggestions” to the presenting contender, who–in a manner typical of the Far East–accepts both with understated gestures of deference and respect most of the time.

Really, though, everything on the table should be at least a little ridiculous.

A novel concept–regardless of how extreme–takes others some time to understand and value, whether in a fine restaurant or up-and-coming business. If it were too similar to everything else, it would blend into the landscape and lose out to what has done the same for longer.

Familiarity is a craving, too–particularly in a species as afraid of change as we are.

Humans must be confronted by fresh experiences periodically to avoid stagnation. When our worldview is widened by a unique encounter, we are forced to determine if there is any benefit in assimilating “now” into “before” to change “after”.

Modernity is the result of repeated exposure to uncommon notions.

Otherwise, Henry Ford would have been defeated by the horse and computers would be dozens of vacuum tubes taking up entire rooms in a handful of locations around the world.

The future belongs to those who let the unknown reign supreme today.

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