How My Love for Food Helps My Summer Internship

“Humans don’t just survive; they discover; they create. … I mean, just look at what they do with food!” — Remy, (Ratatouille, 2007)

Playing Chef With My Dad (2011)

There is nothing that excites me more than the thought of food. When telling stories of me as a baby, my mom always told me that I’ve never had a problem to eat (somethings never change). And this is something my workmates have noticed, my love for food. Every week, when we do our weekly meeting and share what are we grateful for, I someway somehow always slip my gratitude for the food I eat. Growing up, food has always had a special place in my heart, especially with multiple family members that cooks the best hearty meals. Despite my constant cravings for these comfort food (or any food, really), I wouldn’t want to eat the same food all my life. For me, a different day = a different craving. The thought of what breakfast I’ll have in the morning as I close my eyes to bed at night still excites me.

Trying to get my hands to my first ever birthday cake, that’s me dressing up as ‘Winnie The Pooh’ by the way (1997)

By following this excitement religiously, it is easier for me to transfer this habit to other things that are considered better, or perhaps, ‘more relevant’. So let me take you to my kitchen to share the not-so-secret secret recipe on how my love for food has built useful traits for my internship experience at Catalyst Strategy, a tech-startup company & business strategy consultant.

  1. It Sparks My Curiosity

Like picking up a new skill or habit, being curious takes a lot of practice. As advised by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, practicing to be curious can start from following what is interesting to you, even if that interest is faint at first. I often drown myself in the thought of a meal due to following many food accounts on Instagram. Then, my curiosity kicks in to try the food I’ve drooled about all day without knowing how it will taste. Not knowing the result (in this case, the taste of the food I’m eating) can be good in the sense that I won’t have an expectation towards the outcome I’ll have. What I’ll do instead is explore more, following whatever I find really interesting and exciting is what makes me dig deeper.

In starting my internship here at Catalyst, I was driven by the curiosity to know what it feels like to ‘sit on the other side’. The previous summer, I was interning in a company that hires consultants/agencies to partner with them in achieving their objectives. This year, I really wanted to know how it works in a consulting company. With the help of browsing here and there, my curiosity led me to finally send my application form as an intern to ‘Indonesia’s most joyful workplace’.

Each flavor is totally unique…but combine one flavor with another, and something new is created!” (Ratatouille, 2011)

2. It Pushes My Ability To Be Innovative

When I try something really good, there’s always the desire to remake the dish. Since most restaurants’ recipes aren’t available on the internet, I usually observe all aspects of the food without knowing what ingredients are actually used. But it’s this missing information that pushes my ability to innovate, Because I have to be creative in finding how to replicate the dish — instead of just following recipes.

At Catalyst, I was assigned to assist a workmate in crafting company marketing materials for Catalyst. Our specific task were to make case studies of the projects that the company has done. Seeing existing case studies both online and in the office, the challenge was to make new ones that are as, or perhaps, more exciting. Different projects = different problems = different ways to craft the case study. With this missing information, I am pushed to innovate an idea to craft the case study that would be ideal to the given topic.

3. It Allows Me To Be Experimental

In replicating a dish I like, there is no certainty that the taste will be the same in one-go. A Vietnamese Style Fried Rice from a restaurant my family goes on a biweekly pilgrimage to may succeed in a single effort. But after multiple trial and errors, I still can’t get the ‘perfect’ Beef Wellington (aside from the fact that this dish is harder to create). I only succeed once I dared to experiment with the amount of blended mushroom purée and add some Truffle paste into the dish.

During my internship, experiments became useful when I did several data mining for a consulting project. To really know the demographics of the targeted market, various methods were used to slice and dice the data. Since there is no exact formula to analyse the data, I had to try different ways to obtain the expected result. Continuously adding and eliminating variables until we got enough data to base our hypothesis on. Without multiple experiments, I wouldn’t know how to achieve this supposedly desirable result.

Getting overly excited with Truffles on my visit to Provence (2015)

4. It Makes Me More Sensitive Towards Feedback

Not being biased at all, I must say that my dad is a really good cook. I can’t recall a time when my dad cooks without asking whether the food he made is good or not. As a result, when I cook, the first thing I ask my family would undeniably be how good it tastes (After asking myself, of course). The good thing about making this a habit is that we become prone to feedback. We leave some space in our creative process to accept other people’s opinion to achieve a better result.

When I did my internship, feedback became the most useful when doing articles for the company blog. Since blog writing is a new thing for me, polishing the structure, coherence and style for a post become more efficient when done after asking for feedback from a fellow coworker. What needs to be remembered that when we involve ourself in projects, don’t mistaken feedback as an opportunity to get our work ‘fixed’. Feedback are made for us to consider possible ways in which we can make our work better.

Through my love of food, I have found my own recipe that has built good traits or habits for me as an intern, or anyone else doing an internship.

The ‘Not-So-Secret’ Secret Internship Recipe

The real secret to doing be good at what we do (as cliché as it sounds) lies in ourselves. So in the spirit of food and everything culinary, let the recipe be summed up with the words of Julia Child.

Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun
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