Agile Cooking

By Brian Lucas

This one is dedicated to the quintessentially irrepressible Cassandra, the quietly resolute and creative Emilia, the charmingly sociable and persistent Lynette and of course the unusually thoughtful, dryly humorous, chocoholic runner Nicole.  One day soon they will conquer the world and we shall be conquered willingly.

“Cooking requires confident guesswork and improvisation– experimentation and substitution, dealing with failure and uncertainty in a creative way.” ― Paul Theroux

I can just hear someone saying, “Really Brian, Cooking?  Agile?  You cannot be serious!  You are supposed to be writing a business blog!”  The fact is, cooking has many parallels to projects and business initiatives.  Both require a vision, demand resources, consume materials, are subject to schedules and deadlines and produce an end product that hopefully will be consumed.  The similarities do not end there however.

In our hustle and bustle world of microtime, hypertasking, hurry and adaptation, the following is often true:

  1. We find at times amazing variations between the original vision and what was achieved in the end.
    1. We started to build a management information system and it ended up being a process control system.
    2. Our Eggs Benedict ended up being an omelet.
  2. We find that we never have all the resources we wanted or were promised.
    1. We asked for 6 experienced developers and we were given 4 interns.
    2. Just try and find someone to peel potatoes or cut up some onions for you when you are in a rush.
  3. We are never given all the materials we need.
    1. You were promised an Android tablet that you can test compatibility on… right that’s going to happen.
    2. Of course someone used all the Parmesan cheese and didn’t mention it.
  4. Schedules change and deadlines are missed.
    1. Second quarter current fiscal year became third quarter next fiscal year.
    2. Dinner was planned for 6 and ended up being supper at 8.
  5. We missed the boat on that one and clearly did not get it right.
    1. 10,000 electric toothpaste tube squeezers are sitting in our Arizona warehouse and no one is buying.
    2. Spaghetti with salsa sounded like a good idea until the first bite.

I have been preaching that if you think agile in your personal life it will help you be agile in your business life and vice versa.  Agile thinking can become quite natural if you apply it regularly and just like solving math problems, singing opera or hitting a baseball, practice improves performance.   So here is a little vignette on Agile cooking to help you roll with the changes in and out of the kitchen.  This post is doubly agile since I am writing at least half of it during my weekly writers club meeting, over food, wine and conversation followed by brandy, cigars and more conversation.  My fellow writers challenged me to prove I was truly agile and do 4 things at the same time.

The other night I had the pleasant opportunity of cooking dinner at the home of a very good friend of mine.  Pat is a warm, vivacious, feisty Italian, 5 foot nothing and one of the best people this world has ever turned out.  I had promised to make my famous oranged tomato sauced Salmon patties with Parmesan garlic smashed new potatoes.  I normally like to serve a spinach and arugula salad with glazed pecans along with it, and of course compliment the meal with a bottle of wine.  Unfortunately Pat is allergic to nuts (she must use up a lot of diphenhydramine when I am around) so the nuts (except me) were out. Pat has a notorious sweet tooth, so I was looking for a sweeter Shiraz to stand up to the meal and was anxious to pick up a bottle of 2011 Jam Jar, which is reputed to have subdued berry and honey aromas that reveals strawberry with a hint of spice. While sweet, it is said to be smooth and balanced and ends with good finish and a bit of dark chocolate.

Just last week I held a webinar on Agile’s Evolution and continued to run a Google hangout for it this week.  That unfortunately, bit into my shopping time and I had to run out from work over lunch to pick up the wine at a small liquor store.  They did not have the desired fruit of the vine, so I ended up with a standby from one of my go to in an emergency vineyard’s Clos du Bois.  I picked up a bottle of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Reserve, which I hoped in vain Pat would like.  To add “spice” to my disappointment the supermarket that I was shopping for the ingredients at did not have the fresh dill I always use for a garnish on top of the grilled patties, so I ended up doing without.

Since the preparation can take some time, and I would be tied up at work all day before our planned dinner; I decided to be agile and start the preparations at my home first, the night before.  I took the small, new red potatoes and scrubbed them thoroughly with the skin on; then microwaved them wrapped in a wet paper towel.  I also baked the wild caught Alaskan Salmon until it was almost done, basting it in lemon and fresh garlic juice.  While that was happening, I chopped the chives, celery, red onion, parsley and more garlic.

I also started on the oranged tomato sauce.  I like to use Brandywine Yellow tomatoes for their marvelous color and sweet taste.  The sauce is simple; I just blanched the tomatoes to remove the skin and simmered them in a pot on low heat.  When they had liquefied, I strained out the seeds and put the mixture back on the heat to reduce.  I added a spoonful of brown sugar, some fresh ground pepper and a splash of sweet wine vinegar.  When it was almost a sauce, I add fresh basil, chopped very fine.  Lastly, just as it is coming off the heat, I added some fresh squeezed orange juice and orange zest.

When the Salmon was almost done, I mince it up fine and put it in a large stainless steel mixing bowl.  I added the chopped celery, some minced celery leaves, red onion, crushed red pepper, fresh minced garlic, several organic, omega intensified, cage free eggs, Parmesan cheese and organic stone ground oatmeal.  I mixed it really well (if you added too much oatmeal and it is dry just add another egg and/or a little extra virgin organic olive oil).

When the potatoes were done, I put them in a stainless steel pot and smash them down with a potato masher (pretending it was a non-agile manager I know – just kidding, I never cook in anger).  I added a heaping amount of Smart Balance with flax seed and a small splash of fat free cream.  I mixed it thoroughly and then added the chives, parsley, some Parmesan cheese and white pepper.  Now the hardest part of your meal was done.

I popped everything in covered foil containers and in the morning plunked it in one of my big coolers in the back of my vehicle along with the white wine.  I left the loaf of honey sunflower bread on my front seat that day where it would stay pleasantly warm.  After work, I slipped over to Pat’s house and we began the unloading.  It took all of two minutes.

Pat was making the baby spinach and arugula salad with dried cranberries, raisins and red delicious apple wedges.  We sliced the bread, set out the blue cheese stuffed olives and began making the patties and grilling them.  It doesn’t take long to grill them, since they are already mostly cooked.  We just browned them lightly on each side.  I made extra patties, since I had promised my friends, who I have dedicated this post to, a meal at work to celebrate another successful webinar I had given.

Because the hard parts of the meal were already done, we were able to have a very pleasant dinner and conversation, without being stressed out.  The Salmon patties topped with oranged tomato sauce and grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses (sans dill garnish) were served with the garlic smashed potatoes with chives, bleu cheese stuffed olives and honey sunflower seed bread.  The spinach and arugula salad on the side was a wonderfully light meal complement.  Pat sadly did not like my wine and resorted to a sweet red she had waiting in the wings.  For desert we had ice cold lemon sorbet.

By making extra potatoes and salmon, I had the makings of the celebratory lunch at work for the next day.  All I had to do was pick up the making for the salad and quickly whip it up before the lunch.  I also grabbed a German chocolate Bundt cake for our resident chocoholic Nicole.  The gang got together and printed up a celebratory certificate for the webinar and they all signed it.  We had a great time.  There you have it two great meals where most of the work was done a one time.  I adapted to the changing situations and lack of perfect resources, environment and materials and still produced a high quality product and received 100% customer satisfaction.

So what are you serving for your next agile meal? Remember till next time to Keep Agile!

About Brian Lucas

In his life, Brian Lucas has been a coach, farm worker, forester, health care advocate, life guard, general contractor, mechanic, mixologist, musician/singer (in a rock group), salesman and teacher. Brian has worked as a project manager, technical marketer, methodologist, manager, software architect, systems designer, data modeler, business analyst, systems programmer, software developer and creative writer. These efforts include over a hundred hi-tech initiatives in almost every business and industrial sector as well as government and military projects. Among them, he designed and developed a quality assurance system for the first transatlantic fiber optic communications network, a manufacturing system for a large computer manufacture’s seven manufacturing centers, a data mining system for steel production, an instrumentation system for cable systems, defined requirements for government’s information systems and designed and developed human performance management systems. Brian has educated and mentored many over the years, designing programs to discover and develop talent. He has also lectured extensively to a variety of audiences. Brian is currently devoting as much time as possible to the innovation of business agility and human capital management along with the next generation of agile software development. As an amateur theoretical physicist he is working on joining general relativity and quantum mechanics through a multidimensional time corollary on string theory and negating the uncertainty principle with Louis de Broglie’s wave/particle hypothesis. He is also an avid blue-water sailor and wilderness backpacker. He enjoys billiards, boxing, chess, cooking, famous battle reenactments and war gaming, fencing, flying, gardening, horseback riding, martial arts (particularly Ninjutsu), philosophy and psychology, playing musical instruments (7 so far), poker, rapid-fire target shooting, reading (he tries to read a new book every night), painting with oils, scuba diving, skiing and recently writing novels.
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43 Responses to Agile Cooking

  1. Anthony says:

    Cute lesson.Im not sure how smart your writers club was to challenge you! One question Pat.. How was Brian’s cooking??

    • Elaine says:

      Anthony – Brian cooked his salmon patties for me and they were fantastic!!!!! Brian is an incredibly creative chef, who can create a sumptuous feast on the spur of the moment in a very short time. I have to run, I am getting my first puppy today. -Elaine

    • Genica says:

      Apparently Anthony Brian has never cooked for you or you wouldn’t have asked that question. Brian brings his genius to cooking like everything else he does. He is a master of the rapid feast.

    • Carole says:

      Anthony – Brian is a great cook and a kind and generous host who does far more for his guests than anyone could hope to expect. He is also the kindest and most thoughtful man I have ever known. If you are his friend you are fortunate.

  2. Sally Rider says:

    Yow Brian! That is some dedication! I hope Cassandra, Emelia, Lynette and Nichole appreciate the praise and the fame! 🙂 That is a fun parallel between cooking and projects. It rings remarkably true. I guess when you have to put food on the table you adapt. I no you say motivation is a key factor in being agile and this is perhaps another proof. I can’t waite to try out you recipe. Are you up for a few culinary questions? I admit I am jealous of Cassandra, Emelia, Lynette and Nichole. When do I get my dedication? 😦

  3. Portia says:

    This was very clever and inventive Brian! The recipe sounds great! I guess the lesson you are teaching here is you adapt naturally when you have to at things you do all the time like cooking. It is a good point. I wish you would write a post about how you wrote this post doing four things at once. In all seriousness, I think that would be instructive! Does that rate me a dedication? 🙂 Hey are you available to cook dinner at my house? 🙂 🙂

  4. Lynette says:

    It is truly an honor to have this blog post dedicated to myself and my colleagues. Brian, you are a very talented and thoughtful person. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with you and to learn from you and your agile thinking! You are an amazing chef and we were lucky to be the recipients of such talent! I enjoyed reading this post and will remember the lessons learned the next time I find myself “not so agile” in the kitchen or in life. And I still want the salmon recipe!

  5. V. Bogrov says:

    My good friend Brian – You like good food! That is good! With herring, caviar and vodka it would be better! Do svidaniya!

  6. Pat says:

    Anthony – Brian is an excellent cook and excellent friend. It is truly humbling to be mentioned in his blog. Whenever I am not so agile, he reminds me to be agile – that’s not to say this Italian always agrees.

    Thank you Brian, for your friendship and great cooking!!

  7. Cheryl says:

    I never realized this about cooking before Brian, but it is perfectly true. You have a wondrous gift for seeing underlying paterns, truths and realities that has always astonished me. From physics to cooking your eyes see a different world – one that is always overflowing with amazing discoveries and wonderful possibilities. This post reminded me of our college days. When we were all strapped for cash and could not look at another pizza or bowl of ramen noodles. Somehow you were always able to prepare these creative and tasty feasts inventing them seemingly out of nothing and almost violating Noether’s theorem. You always made sure our whole gang got invited to the meal. Those were good days and good memories because of you. Miss you dearly! – Cheryl

  8. Erik Vonn says:

    Dear Mr. Lucas,
    As a professional chef, I am always looking for recipes and this one intrigues me from the overall combination of how you put the ingredients together, its obvious health benefits and the ability to serve this in a short order setting. Who you mind sharing the full recipe with us?
    Erik Vonn

  9. Erik Vonn says:

    Mr. Lucas,
    I forgot to ask you when you kept the salmon mixture over night did you freeze it or simply kept it chilled?

  10. Brandy says:

    Oh Brian this was such a funny and true comparison. I have to finally admit you are a better cook than I am… And a better singer, and a better chess player, and a better… you know you are a very frustrating guy!!! lol
    Great to see you posting again!

  11. Fran says:

    Hey Brian!! What’s a gal gotta do to get a meal cooked by you? Heck I’ll drive in from Ohio!!! – your Frannie

  12. Henry Burns says:

    Cool article! I like the analogy between projects and cooking – very creative and interesting. I’ll have to get my wife to try the recipe though, because I can’t even boil water! lol -Hank

  13. Algenon says:

    Good Lord man! What planet are you from? It certainly isn’t Earth. You are far too logical and make far too much sense for an Earthling. On a serious note, I perceive that you often look at things as a third person observer. My younger brother, who was a genius with an IQ of 169, often did the same thing. He was a mathematician and did not have the scope of knowledge and interests that you possess. Keep posting from the beyond, it keeps us terrestrials thinking.

  14. Pierre Fontaine says:

    Interesting dish… Anyone can prepare a fine meal in a fully equiped kitchen with choice ingredients when following a recipe. I would argue that a true challenge of a master chef is to prepare a delicious meal on the spot with only the ingredients at hand. In that respect, master chefs are master agilists, a term I find appealing. Please post more agile recipes!

  15. Fredericka says:

    How wonderfully delicious a concept, to use cooking to teach your business principles. Please post more like this and provide more “agile” recipes! 🙂 Would you be open to an email correspondence?

  16. Beatrix says:

    Hey Brian – I just caught this second article on agile cooking after reading your Salmon cooked agile style in 15 minutes. You really have a flair for writing and now you have to come to my place for dinner – although I am beginning to feel maybe I should let you cook it! Ha, Ha! Are you on Facebook? -Bea

  17. Champs says:

    Where do you find the inspiration for your food ideas? I luv them!

  18. PiaGirl says:

    Hi Brian,
    Can you pleeeeze post an article on your favorite foods and recipes. These little glimpses you give us are sooo enticing!!!! Thanks so much! -PiaGirl

  19. Arlene Graylock says:

    Wow Brian!!! Is there anything you aren’t agile at??? 🙂 You have a fantastic knack for simple, commonplace explanations of complex things!!! You should shoot some agile cooking videos and then we can get a chance to see you!! Don’t be shy!!!

  20. Destiny Irene Walmsley says:

    Brian I love your salmon recipe! I tried it and it was divine! For some reason or another your comment on number 5 “Spaghetti with salsa sounded like a good idea until the first bite.” had me in stitches! lol I hope you publish an agile cookbook! You should be on TV!

  21. Anita Wismer says:

    This is a wonderful way of looking at the subject of agile! I never thought of it in this way Brian, but now I can relate to it and it makes perfect sense! Where were you when I was struggling to learn agile two years ago! Cheers! Anita

  22. KeltyGirl says:

    Brian you’re both super smart and can cook!!! Where can I meet you??? Are you on Facebook? 🙂 K

  23. Lindy Sweetham says:

    You are one sweet and delicious guy! Are you married? Adverse to living in the UK? Just kidding, but you are a very fascinating man and I would love to attend one of the seminars you give in person. Please let me know if you give any presentations in Canada. I am going to be doing some work there this year and I would love to meet the man behind this blog in person.
    Sincerely, Lindy.

  24. Belinda Fury, PMP says:

    Brian you are the most creative and interesting writer on agile I have ever read! Are you a professional chef or a talented amateur? I love your articles about food they sound so intriguing! Any chance of you cooking for me and my project team? While you are teaching us how to be more agile? 🙂

  25. Rachael Coltrane says:

    Brian this was very interesting and instructive! Have you considered using cooking to actually team development teams how to THINK agile? It just a thought, but I wonder of it could work. If anyone could do it successfully its you! I enjoy your blog even though it is a little over my head sometimes.

  26. KeltyGirl says:

    Hey Tami stop trying to horn in!!!! Brian’s mine!!! 🙂

  27. Tamera Rio says:

    Great recipe Brian! I am surprise that you use both red onion and chives. Doesn’t one cancel out the other? Do you have a recipe list you would like to share with me? If you share yours, I’ll share mine! 🙂 Tammi

  28. WendyB says:

    Hey Brian,
    My friend Rachael sent me this post and I LOVE IT!!! Sounds like a great recipe – I can’t wait to try it. You are an amazing person. I am scanning through your posts and they are all super intelligent! Do you have any webinars? I work in the entertainment and hospitality industry and we are always getting wracked with last minute changes. I love how you preach about adapting. I am going to email you as well. I hope that’s OK. What a super blog! -Wendy Bolton

  29. Charlene (Last name withheld at reader's request) says:

    Dear Mr. Lucas, I have finally had the chance to read your blog. I stumbled across this post mostly because the other titles scared me. You are such an intelligent man and kinder than anyone I have ever met. Thank you again for your help when my vehicle got stuck. Things are working out very well at work for me. Back to the reason I am commenting. I wanted to add mine to those already here. This dish sounds very delicious. I am going to cook it up as a celebratory meal for my family. No wonder you turned down my rice and beans offer. 😦 I am beginning to think there is nothing you are not amazing at. Thank you again so much for all your kindness. My family prays for you each Sunday at mass.

  30. 1JerseyGirl says:

    I tried this recipe and it is FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!! Brian you are da man!!!! What else do you do besides being a genius and a great cook????

  31. Solidad Torres says:

    I am a fan of Brian’s recipes he has several here are the posts that have the recipes in them:
    Salmon Cooked Agile Style in 15 Minutes
    Being a True Friend Can Require Agile Thinking
    Rules, Rules Everywhere and Never an Agilist in Sight!
    Being Agile in the Face of Hurricane Sandy
    Is Agile a Return to Common Sense? (mention of flavored wine)

    I have tried all of them and they are amazing and simple to make!

  32. Abigail Strother says:

    Thank you Solidad for listing the posts that have recipes in them. I was sent this post by a colleague, and am intrigued by the recipe’s robust flavoring. I realize this is not a food blog, but some kind of index or category of the different items would be welcome for those of us just interested in that topic.

  33. Dinah Goldman says:

    What a wonderful post Brian, with two lessons learned – a fantastic recipe and so healthy – and how to be agile as you put it. A friend shared this link with me and I wanted you to know how much I enjoyed this post. Please consider writing an Agile Cooking book. I shall be the first in line to by it! 🙂 Dinah

  34. Dinah Goldman says:

    Yes thank you Solidad for the list. I should have thanked you before! Thanks Abigail for mentioning it!

  35. Karen Fenstermacher says:

    Wow Brian! Is there anything that you do that is not AGILE? 🙂

  36. Duncan MacArthur says:


  37. Karol Young says:

    Hey Brian…… Sorry I am not an agile person…… a friend of mine who is a totally devoted fan of yours turned me on to your blog…… your recipes have saved me tons of time in the kitchen though….. so thanks for sharing…… Do you do absolutely everything AGILE????? Ha Ha….

  38. Genica says:

    Karol the answer is a definite YES! 🙂 There is nothing Brian does not do well! lol

  39. Glenda Palmer says:

    Wow Brian! I’ll cook dinner if you bring the wine! 🙂

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