Cooking With Unconscious Competence

Someone I met on my recent boat trip explained the Conscious Competence learning model to me and then my son Doug mentioned it in an interview, so now it’s crossed my path twice in one week. It got me thinking of the whole gluten free diet and what I’ve learned from my initial diagnosis to now.

I love this explanation of the Conscious Competence theory I found from MindTools:

“When we learn new skills, we experience different emotions at different stages of the learning process. For instance, at the beginning, we may not appreciate how much we need to learn. Then, when we discover what we don’t know about a subject, we may get disheartened, and we might even give up. This is why it helps to understand the emotions that you’re likely to experience at each stage of the learning process, so that you can manage the emotional ups and downs that go along with learning a new skill.”

The Conscious Competence theory helps us do this. According to the model, we move through the following levels as we build competence in a new skill.

  1. Unconscious incompetence – we don’t know that we don’t have this skill, or that we need to learn it (wrong intuition)
  2. Conscious incompetence – we know that we don’t have this skill (wrong analysis)
  3. Conscious competence – we know that we have this skill (right analysis)
  4. Unconscious competence – we don’t know that we have this skill, it just seems easy! (right intuition)

Pre-celiac I was a carb lover. No surprise right?! I loved corn muffins, toasted pound cake and—since I’m Italian—baked ziti, stuffed shells, manicotti… anything with pasta! I liked the pasta and ricotta dishes much more than the meatballs.

When it became imperative that I become Gluten-Free 4 Life, it was a total shock. I remember roaming the aisles of the grocery store thinking what do I get? I had no idea what I was doing. I made fried white rice and got a bread maker and made GF bread, but only after trying every bad gluten free bread available. None of them tasted good and I felt like a truck hit me when I ate them. And I learned through trial and error that white rice isn’t great for you either. I was unconsciously incompetent!

I figured out a change had to be made and that was when the conscious incompetence set in. I worked hard to learn, self-teach and focus on how to up my gluten free game.

I knew I had a gluten free knowledge deficit.

The better I became at preparing healthy gluten free meals, the more it was second nature to me. It became effortless. So, over a 12-year period, I learned a better strategy and taught myself to intuitively cook gluten free meals by working my way past the GF replacements and into the outside aisles of the grocery store. I’m now able to cook without recipes and can put together a magical meal… entirely by instinct.

Relying on recipes is the main reason people struggle with cooking. It’s why so many of us eat the pre-packaged, frozen and processed replacement foods. When you become unconsciously competent and can remove the burden of following a recipe, it frees you from all the stress, frustration and waste that comes from not having an intuitive sense in the kitchen!

Chicken Cordon Bleu, or Unconscious Competence Chicken Cutlets

intuitive cooking with unconscious competence chicken cordon bleu gluten free sage2 eggs, scrambled
1 pkg cooked ham, sliced
1 pkg sliced swiss cheese
Gillian’s gluten free bread crumbs
Kabob skewers

1. Layer one slice each of ham and cheese on top of each chicken cutlet.
2. Roll around the cutlet and place a half-size kabob skewer into the roll up.
3. Dip into a bowl with two scrambled eggs and then roll into a separate bowl of gluten free bread crumbs.
4. Bake at 375º for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked all the way through.