Cooking with Style: You Are the Essential Ingredient
If you've ever tried replicating a dish you've seen experts present on television but just missed the mark, you are not alone. Not even the professionals can make a dish come out right every time or with precision accuracy and consistency. A person's mindset and surrounding conditions change from day to day almost as much as it does from person to person. As long as it still looks and tastes good, there's nothing to worry about even if it's not exactly as-seen-on-TV.
Everything has its own unique essence, which applies to people as much as it does to individual ingredients. Without knowing it, we each have our own particular style or way of doing things, even if we're trying desperately to imitate someone else's. After all, no two pizzerias make exactly the same pie, am I right? We cannot entirely remove ourselves from the equation, and that is neither a good thing or a bad thing. In some cases, our failure to imitate others results in a personal discovery or triumph (Hetalia fans, recall the incident in which Japan was forced to imitate Britain's beef stew and came up with nikujaga instead). While not all cases turn out that way, however, you still shouldn't give up.
There is no one right way of doing anything, especially when it comes to cooking. In some cases there might be when it comes to how certain ingredients or pieces of equipment need to be handled, but innovative chefs both expert and novice know how to make use of what they have at their disposal and the surroundings and atmosphere they find themselves in. The result might not always be perfect (even experts are still human), but it will be something that amounts to a valuable learning experience at the very least.
Furthermore, one person's opinion, even that of a renowned critic or expert, should not determine your success or failure as a cook or as a human being. Even those people disagree with each other, so as long as you can be honest with yourself, your own opinion should be the only one that truly matters to you. Everyone has different tastes in cuisine anyway, so what might be distasteful to some people may seem just fine to others either on an individual or cultural basis.
People often talk about cooking with "love" or "soul" as if their feelings or spiritual energy was an ingredient all in itself. This is not far off the mark, even though even the most well-meaning cooks can still produce a failed dish. In cooking as with anything else, the most important thing we can add to something is ourselves. Even with ingredients that come mass-produced, people are still involved in some step of the process along the way, and that factor should not be overlooked. Someone has to care, and that energy comes across as part of the experience even when it doesn't seem to. That particular mindset often translates as the core or variation of a person's style given his or her particular skill level, and each is as different as a handprint and can change over time. There is always room to grow and time to improve, so give it your best shot and don't worry about finding yourself in a slump.