Iron Chef Artist

Artists, get your smocks on and prepare for battle....

There are countless reality television shows today that spotlight young, talented chefs aching to break into mainstream culinary arts. From Iron Chef, to Top Chef, to Hell's Kitchen, to Chopped, these drama-packed cooking series all have one thing in common: you're asked to prepare a creative and appetizing dish using the same quirky, dissimilar ingredients as the contender next to you. Example: Imagine having to prepare an entree from ice cream, pork rinds, bananas, and nutritional yeast! And the heart-pounding catch? You have to do it in a fraction of the time it would normally take you to prepare, cook, and present an actual meal. No pressure, right?

It never ceases to amaze me just how creative chefs can get under these - excuse the pun- "heated" circumstances. Everything appears to be off-the-cuff, yet each chef is also carefully drawing upon a wide knowledge base and years of experience to produce culinary excellence. Educators, especially elementary school and afterschool teachers, know this reality all too well...

Whether being gifted an extra 20 minutes of class to do an art project or being doomed with less time or materials than you thought would be available to you, teachers have to create art lessons on the spot all the time. 

Let’s set the stage.

You’re in your classroom. Your first grade class, in record time, has just finished all of their handwriting assignments and done them with impressive accuracy. You want to reward them with an art project; something that is semi-structured while giving them the free-form reward they deserve. In the corner of the room, you see that Zack brought in a bunch of coffee sleeves his mom collects from her daily Starbucks run. You also notice that you have a bag of left-over balloons from Lilia’s birthday party last week. There’s also that ten-year old ball of twine you never did find a way to use. In addition, you have all of the traditional materials available to you: scissors, markers, tape, construction paper, etc. This is what you have at your disposal. 

How can you use these materials to create something magical? Suspending any judgment on whether your ideas are creative or boring, notice what potential projects come to mind and write them down on a sheet of paper. Take several minutes to do this right now before reading on.

A particularly creative aspect about the aforementioned scenario is the way you’re integrating two unique materials- coffee sleeves and balloons- into the art lesson. The novelty alone is stimulating! Immediately, what came to my mind while holding a coffee sleeve was how it can be formed into numerous different shapes: a funnel, square, diamond or circle. I could also use scissors to cut into it, open it up, or twist the sleeve. After a minute or so of holding and examining the coffee sleeve, I received an image of the basket of a hot air balloon. By combining the coffee sleeve, balloon, and twine, I realized I could make Recyclable Hot Air Balloons.

Presto! A simple idea that utilizes a minimal amount of materials, encourages recycling, and offers an unconventional approach to making a hot air balloon.

Materials are to an artist what ingredients are to a chef: creative building blocks filled with limitless potential. Use the most delectable ones, in just the right combinations, and your end product will conquer the tastes of all. Just remember: You don't need a bunch of fancy pre-determined ingredients to make art. All you need is the creative intelligence to recognize that what lies in front of you already is art.

Let the fine simmering of ideas commence!