Imposter Syndrome

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Imposter Syndrome

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Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world

Question #46
Rite of Passage Seventeen –The Helpmate–
1961-1962 I am twenty-eight years old

Q. Success due to “luck” not talent or skill? Have you ever felt this unsettling response? How did you deal with it…or did you also become “boring”?

The classic example of the imposter syndrome is a huge limousine pulling up at a fancy hotel. The head porter opens the back door and finds a small boy sitting alone. He is wearing shorts and looks startled, “What are you doing there little man!” thunders the doorman.

That’s how the imposter in the relatively new syndrome feels when he is discovered as being less qualified to be doing…whatever!

It’s almost exactly how I felt back in the early 60’s on New Zealand television. There I was, on Prime Time with a program that set out to provide dinner party directions to those who wanted to explore a gourmet lifestyle.

I was so certain that, at only 28 years old, I would soon be ‘found out’ by well seasoned older gourmets, to be…yes…an imposter, that I set out to prove my worthiness by knowing 170% more about the dish than I had the time to describe. That 170% was the percentage suggested by a communications expert in those early days when ‘depth’ was still a desirable goal for a commentator…on any subject.

The problem with a 170% back up is that it leaves no room for the unexpected or, for that matter, any sudden thoughts, especially happy and humorous ones that might engage the viewer and even cause a smile?

A smiling audience was not my objective. I strove to stop them frowning! As a result I was…boring!

TV FINDS A CHEF “Graham Kerr – already well known to radio listeners for his talks on good cooking – will make his TV debut on Channel 1 next week.” New Zealand, Listener, September 1, 1961 Photo Credit: John J. Gray

TV FINDS A CHEF
“Graham Kerr – already well known to radio listeners for his talks on good cooking – will make his TV debut on Channel 1 next week.”
New Zealand, Listener, September 1, 1961
Photo Credit: John J. Gray

So…what about now?

Treena brought this to my attention with a profound sentence that changed the rest of my life.

“You are the most unutterably boring man in the entire world and you need to do something about it!” She said this without her ever-present smile!

She also expressed the perfectly reasonable doubt that well seasoned older gourmets would never be my faithful ‘fans’ and that the vast majority who might watch would be people who had almost no knowledge of  ‘classic’ cuisine.

“These people,” Treena explained “watch television because they want to be entertained…and informed; in that order!”

It was her certainty that eventually had her taking over as the show’s producer and, as a direct result, of me becoming less boring?

How about you…were you ever so ahead of your time that you lived with the threat of being asked, “What are you doing there little man…or woman”?

This week I am reading Treena’s poem Georgia Straits

23 Comments

  1. Nico Says: 8:43 pm

    What a treat to find you ! I was watching you when you were regaling us with your recipes and humor! You brought a lot of joy and good food! In a lot of people’s lives, including mine. Thank you! Our paths are not always smooth, but I get a lot of solace from the saying you shared with us. Be or do the best in what you can do! I am now 70 years old although I feel like I am still 50, life is wonderful, I drink wine everyday true to my French Canadian heritage. Graham Kerr, the galloping gourmet, you, sir, are a treasure! Thank you!

  2. Jon Stevens Says: 7:36 am

    Aye, indeed. I was an imposter all my professional selling life. Competition made my heart sink and my stomach sour. I was never the successful seller I wanted to be. I was more golden retriever than pit bull and changed jobs just often enough I was never found to be drooling over the paycheck instead of the competition’s bodies. It was a deception I have had to work to shed in my retirement as I pursued the best advice I ever got…”To thy own self be true”. It is hard to do that until we figure out who we really are. Getting that written down got a foundation in place I have built on and created a life with much more contentment.

  3. Lisa Says: 5:14 am

    did she hurt your feelings when she said you were boring?

  4. Jean Says: 5:38 am

    Yes. Based on a previous large promotion I was hired on two separate occasions into jobs that stretched my capacity to perform successfully. As with Treena, I was fortunate to have people around me to fill in the gaps was where I was weak and teach me where I needed to grow – like fertilizer. As God directs our steps, and gives us potential, He also provides protection and a way of escape – Praise Him!

  5. Michael Boyce Says: 4:17 pm

    What You should do is a Regular You Tube Program on Cooking! As Emeril Lagasse says “Kick It Up a Notch!” So,BAM! You’ll have a chance to do it again,but W/O the TV Staff Looking! Great Idea,Right?

  6. Robin Smith Says: 8:06 am

    I have often felt like I am an imposter in my job. Others see me as successful, but I over compensate. I totally understand the 170% over prepared feeling. It is hard to live this way, because you live in the shadow of being “found out” and ousted. I just work end up working harder!

    I watched The Galloping Gourmet, from the time I was very young in the 70’s. I’m in my 50’s now. I still remember your sense of humor and I believe that I cook with gusto and humor, experimenting, because of you.

    Best Wishes – Robin

  7. Michael Boyce Says: 5:19 pm

    Always be proud of Yourt Legacy,Graham,and be aware You were and area Trailblazer in TV Cooking Shows,Ranking up there with Julia Child,Emetil Legasse,Guy Fieri and many more Who’ve followed in Your Footsteps,with many more to follow! So “WALK TALL,Graham,WALK TALL!!!”

  8. Graham Says: 8:31 pm

    I am increasingly in your debt as you choose to add your comments to my fledgling attempts at ‘ blogging’.

    Thank you for your encouragement and kind words. I should add that I am no longer feeling the ‘imposter’ syndrome but have settled down to the idea that I should see others as more important and with better ideas than my own. When I GENUINLY accept this truth the whole problem of being ‘called out’ loses its threat and a potential criticism becomes an opportunity for real growth and who doesn’t relish that?

    I want so much to be of service, that’s how I started out and it’s how I want to finish. Please keep on sharing your own understanding of life. In these troubling days we need one another’s encouragement more than ever.

  9. Ron Says: 11:13 am

    The question at the start had to do with luck vs skill or talent. In reality luck has a significant role. Luck put you in New Zealand and in front of the camera. It was your skill and talent that provided much of the success. I say “much” because along the way luck found you again….several times. The fact that you were 170% prepared ensured that you had the skill and your talent is clearly a natural gift.
    I believe luck plays a part in many events in our life. Take for example how we met. Had I not been a faculty member of that esteemed culinary institute at the right time, no amount of skill or talent would have had our paths cross. I for one, am very grateful that luck shined on me that day. Warmest regards Galloping Gourmet!

  10. Lynn Severance Says: 10:19 am

    What I share is not exactly an “imposter syndrome” but I had some unnerving moments during the preparation days for my first year of teaching (primary grades). I was excited. Our staff was made up of many who were first year teachers and a first year principal – a great group! Along these days of prep, I was overwhelmed realizing I was clueless as to how to form reading groups among my “yet to be seen” students. I panicked. My “oh so young 22 year old self” never thought to ask a more seasoned teacher for help. So I was awake all of one night figuring out how to go in the next day and tell my principal I simply could not be a teacher and needed to quit. I was so nervous!

    I can still see his amazing face as I poured out my heart. With just a slight grin he said, “Hey Lynn, I know just the person for you! “ After a hug of encouragement, he marched me over to meet Jean – a woman who had taught a number of years at the grade level I was preparing to teach. Within 20 minutes I was soaring from a nudge in the right direction. The rest is joyful history of a beloved career that spanned 27 incredible years.

  11. Michael Boyce Says: 11:08 pm

    You ll always be the one,the ONLY,”Galloping Gourmet”,make no mistake about that,Graham! Wear that title Proudly,for that is Your Rich Heritage! You are no impostet,You are the Genuine Article!! And be Reassured,You were,never,nor are Boring,rather You’re Fun to watch,and Comic Relief to our own Boring day! For that,we Americans Thank You,and Bless You.Mr. Kerr!

  12. Ross Christensen Says: 5:45 pm

    I know exactly how you feel. I was answering questions on a website about food and one day the owner of the website said he liked the way I wrote and asked if I would write a book for him. I agreed and so was catapulted into the food writing scene. I had people asking me to write articles for them and I became the ultimate researcher. People asked for cooking demonstrations and to judge cooking competitions. Eventually I became the biggest know-it-all and I couldn’t walk down the street with people stopping me to talk about food and asking how I know so much about food. I wasn’t a chef (I am now) I was just a gourmand. Now many years later my resume can get me a job heading almost any restaurant but I just feel like a foodie who likes to research different things to eat.
    BTW, You aren’t the “former” Galloping Gourmet, you are the only Galloping Gourmet.

  13. Richard Says: 1:49 pm

    GRAHAM YOUR NOT BORING BRILLIANT YOU ARE
    Rcmflorida

  14. Gary Gillman Says: 1:46 pm

    Watching many of the shows now when I know far more about food and cooking than I did at 20 in 1970, what strikes me is how much you did know about these topics. You can just tell by your way with the ingredients, the working fast (all good cooks do that), the combination of ingredients, the prep, everything. You can always tell when someone doesn’t really know a dish, they fuss over minute quantities of spice, they measure too much, they worry too much. Growing in a hotel, going to a culinary institute, managing albeit young a hotel, the catering work in the army, all that had to impart key lessons and they are evident on the screen in all your work.

    On the side of confidence and needing to adjust the performance to appeal to people, I take everything you said. It sounds like you did learn with your late wife’s help how to do that well.

    But the show (Galloping Gourmet) would never have succeeded IMO without that solid knowledge of food, dishes, service, all that part of it. One doesn’t have to be a trained chef for that.

    An English cookery writer who was similar was Elizabeth David, I’m sure you must have read her work. She just knew food. You can tell in every line of what she writes. She wasn’t a trained chef either but she understood the subject at the levels she approached it (academic and dealing with regional cuisines). Jane Grigson, similar. Dorothy Hartley, similar. Craddock, Beard, Child, too, in their way. I wonder if you ever met any of them…

    Gary

  15. Dia Says: 1:12 pm

    Graham,
    Maybe it’s my thirst for knowledge and wanting to know how and why things worked or maybe it was my attraction to your attention to detail, or once your shows got to North America Treena had already fixed the boring bits. What ever the reason I never found you boring. I learned something new with each show and even with each rerun of the old shows.
    I understand feeling like you are not deserving of all the attention. I once recieved an award which called for upper management to fly in to town and have a formal presentation. But for me, I was just doing my job. I had, in my eyes, just done the job that I was paid to do. Some of my peers and more experienced coworkers where not as pleased. I was not at the top of my class, I was just really learning a whole new genre. But I was in the right place at the right time, and did what needed to be done. I didn’t feel the recognition was warranted but someone saw something in me that was special. Phrases like ‘fake it until you make it’ never set well with me so I found myself trying to learn 170% of the job and probably becoming boring trying to live up to that award. I was never faking it I was always trying to make it. I hope someone somewhere listening learned something from me in all my successes and failures, as I learned from you.

  16. Karl Says: 11:51 am

    Hi Graham this is the first time I hear somebody put a clear definition on something I experienced many times in my life
    I have many times been promoted to positions and roles where I felt totally inadequate
    I too worried when someone would call me out
    Over time I often grew I to my new role and had more confidence

  17. Thomas Says: 10:56 am

    I grew up watching your shows at my Grandmother’s home. ( I’m 60 years young now)

    My Grandmother loved watching your shows. Me? It was more of a delayed reaction. You made cooking fun and entertaining. I have copied one of your trademarks. I make sure to have a glass of wine nearby while I’m cooking. 🙂

    Thank you for not giving up while you blazed the trail for today’s cooking shows. And, for us wanna be chefs!

  18. Michael Boyce Says: 10:01 am

    “The Impostor Syndrome” sounds like “The Lazarus Syndrome”,where Doctors think they are God,but are not! It does sound like it smacks a lot of that!

  19. Kimberly Schaub Says: 9:14 am

    As a research chef and first food & beverage developer in my new role, I struggle with the Imposter Syndrome daily. I have been given a great opportunity to set a precedence both for mid-career food scientists in the company and for younger female leaders. The weight of the work and the precedent-setting will sometimes bog me down. However, I am fortunate to have a husband who encourages and challenges me frequently to think about my actions and words to make sure they are edifying to the people around me. This then allows me to live fully and do my best in my role.
    I am so fortunate to have been turned on to R&D through Graham’s mentorship and friendship.

  20. Kay Says: 8:12 am

    Graham, thank God your wife Treena saw how to make you be alive on your program. I could not wait to learn from you ! She was the exact partner for you and so many of us need help to cook. I was raised in the south and got married at 15 years old. I could make fried chicken, potatoes mashed or fried,beef stew and my eggs were always perfect. I had never had a baked potato so my first one was a piece of charcoal . I am just one person you taught to cook I am 68 now, I always get compliments on my gourmet meals! Thank you for taking me into your class.
    Sincerely,
    Kay Pope

  21. Suzanne Johnson Says: 6:20 am

    When I was 19, in the mid-eighties, I took a job at a Japanese nursery school as an English helper. Because I’d worked as au pair, I thought it was a good fit as well as an adventure. Once I’d committed to that task, the organization passed me onto another program which ran classes/programs for business people, high school students and only a few younger children. It was an unforgettable challenge and, because of imposter syndrome, I promised to return to Japan once I’d finished more school, TESL training and experience elsewhere. 15 years later I returned to Japan and taught English. I felt less like an imposter the second time around.

  22. Michael Boyce Says: 5:37 am

    If not for You among others,the Food Network and Cooking Channel,could never have existed-You are one of a small handful of Pioneers who paved the way for many others!

  23. Kenneth Smith Says: 5:32 am

    When I was young I watched the show every day. I”m no great chef or even a very accomplished cook. But to this day, I still like watching cooking shows and trying different recipes. I thank you for instilling the love of cooking into me.

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