Olympic Culinary Performance. Blog by performance psychologist Mike Duckett

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th September 2016

What did you expect of a coaching psychologist?

Since the last blog the Olympics have been and gone and the Paralympics is reaching its climax so I'm bound to be thinking about this! We get to watch the dedicated elite put years of preparation on the line for a few minutes for the chance to prove they are the best. We get to watch it happen and to learn about both the preparation and the aftermath.

There are many lessons to be drawn from the events and we’ve discussed quite a few in this space over the time between London and Rio, so I thought a simple reminder of some of the key points you can look back on and maybe think about would be timely:

Identifying your passion

None of these athletes could have put in the long hours of dedicated training and simple hard work to keep going and striving to improve without a deep passion for their sport. We talked about this when we looked at being clear about your values. Anyone could set a goal to win Olympic gold just as anyone could set a goal to win 3 Michelin stars but in both cases it will need to be important enough to you if you’re going to even get past the first hurdle – and there will be many.

Setting a well formed performance goal

This previous piece covers this pretty well: What Would You Like to Have Happen?

It’s all about knowing how to think about what you want to achieve, because how you think about the goal you’re setting will affect how you behave to achieve it. No Olympic athlete would have the goal of “not losing” or “avoiding Bronze”; they would have been translated into positive goals such as “winning” or “taking silver”. So why would you want to “not lose my cool when service goes wonky”?

Get in The Zone

This is about realising that to perform at your best you need to be in this elusive mental state; and that’s true whether you’re running or cooking!

Our previous blog identified some of the key ideas of ‘flow’ and one you will have heard a lot of during the Olympics is, “control the controllables” pointing out that having visualised your goal of winning 3 stars, you need to put that aside and focus only on what you can control to give you the best chance of achieving that i.e. your cooking. (Michelin inspectors are definitely not in your control!)

Control Yourself

Here we reviewed the essence of a model used by Prof.  Steve Peters, The Chimp Paradox, in which he talks of managing the chimpanzee within you to use it’s fast reactions and strength when you need it but then managing it back into its box! Exercising your chimp in the kitchen is probably NOT a good idea!

Stay in the present

Part also of getting in the Zone is the idea of being focused in the present moment. If you’re thinking about winning a race while running, you’re not focused on what you’re doing (running) to win that race. If you’re thinking about 3 stars while cooking you’re not focused on what you’re doing (cooking) to give you the best chance of being awarded the stars.

Simple.....we wrote about it in psychologists’ terms as mindfulness; being aware of your mental and physical state as well as all that’s going on around you...right NOW. It takes practice.


And finally, if things don’t go your way stay optimistic and get ready to bounce back. “More easily said than done” I hear you say, and you’re right. However, there are ways to learn to think optimistically and as we looked at them a long time ago we might come back to that because 'you can't win 'em all.

Mike Duckett has a degree in psychology and is a member of the Occupational Psychology division, the Sports Psychology division & the Coaching Psychology Special Group of the British Psychological Society. He holds a diploma in Hypnotherapy & Cognitive therapy and is a certified NLP coach.

With over 20 years experience he was one of the pioneers of applying performance psychology to coach people in the hospitality industry to get the best from themselves, in areas such as creativity; leadership; optimism etc.

As a certified NLP Coach and ANLP Accredited Master Practitioner, Mike has clients ranging from world renowned chefs, restaurateurs & sommeliers to up and coming staff in both the kitchen and front of house. You can see more of Mike's blogs atcoachforsuccess.wordpress.com

>>> Read more from Mike here


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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th September 2016

Olympic Culinary Performance. Blog by performance psychologist Mike Duckett