I was already familiar with Jamie Oliver (“Jamie and Jimmy’s Food Fight Club”) and his personal accounts of growing up with dyslexia and how reading difficulties have impacted his professional pursuits in both negative and positive ways. Over the last few years, I have been amazed at his commitment to education and his passion for teaching young people with dyslexia how to cook and live healthy lifestyles (Check out Jamie’s Food Revolutions). In 2010 Oliver announced he would be opening a school for students with dyslexia, while of course incorporating cooking as a primary focus. Chef Andrew Dornenburg, also comes to mind. The award-winning chef, food artist, and author attributes his “passion, creativity, and multidimensional free thinking” to his dyslexia.
This month, the BBC’s own Chef James Martin (also author of recent best seller Slow Cooking) attributed his success and creativity to his personal challenges with dyslexia as well. In fact, if you read the multiple articles out there on the web about any of these three famous chefs, you will find they share a belief that dyslexia provides them with a competitive edge and the drive necessary to make it in business and in life. But why?
Well, first of all people who happen to be dyslexic often possess a rare gift. When I speak, I often refer to this gift as the gift of perspective (There’s an awesome study by Yale researchers that discusses visual perception and acuity in relation to dyslexia and astrophysics, but that’s another blog for another day…I’ll post the link below for you).
Secondly, people with dyslexia are deliciously bright and creative, often (but not always) exhibiting an uncanny artistic side.
At one time, I was the Dean of Students at a private academy specifically for students with learning disabilities. Most of our students had dyslexia and/or attention deficits (like me). Each year the academy hosted a sort of interactive open house referred to as “Celebrating Strengths”. For one evening, rather than focusing on academics, the often overlooked creative or innovative side of students was celebrated. Some chose to perform a dance, or to play a piece of music. Others would display photography, unveil their own technological innovation, dazzle us with equestrian showmanship, belt out a tune, or tell a story. You get the picture. It was such a wonder and smashing success that I incorporated a similar event at the classical school where I later served as principal.
I cannot recall if any of the students at either school ever presented a cooking segment, or food art, (as an avid foodie I am certain I would remember that) but it would make total sense. Cooking is part science, but it is also most definitely part art. Good food displayed well can be an exquisite culinary masterpiece.
Jamie Oliver, Andrew Dornenburg, and James Martin are well-known champion chefs and proven entrepreneurs with dyslexia whom I have never met, (for the record I would not turn down the opportunity to meet them). But I have met lesser known chefs with similar vision, originality, resourcefulness, and wicked imaginations who, you guessed it… also have dyslexia. It is fascinating to see how the gift of dyslexia can manifest in so many different and exciting ways among so many talented and beautiful people and even in what we choose to eat!
So on this third anniversary of The Edventurist blog, raise a glass! Cheers to the chef with dyslexia in your life or to any food artist with dyslexia who’s cooking up something Mmm-mazing! To read more about chefs with dyslexia and their experiences look below!
For more about Chef James Martin and his dyslexia click here!
For more about Chef Jamie Oliver and his dyslexia click here!
Click here to read about Chef Andrew Dornenburg and dyslexia!
To read more about Yale Research and Astrophysics hit it here!
(Chester Goad is founder of The Edventurist blog, an adult living with ADD, a university administrator, writer, speaker, and disability advocate, who is committed to making life better and more fun for people with attention deficit and dyslexia.)