The Difference Between Cooking and Baking.

The Difference Between Cooking and Baking.

At first glance, cooking and baking seem to be different sides of the same coin. They both require various edible ingredients. They both require skill and knowledge. They both call for cutting, chopping, mixing, and stirring. And they both can create good things to eat.

But the actual processes of cooking and baking are often very different, a point which is made abundantly clear if you read their respective recipes. Cooking tends to be more free form and open to interpretation and improvisation – asking for things such as “a handful of sliced almonds,” “season to taste,” or “occasional stirring.” Baking, on the other hand, is rigidly precise, demanding not just a cup of flour but one cup and one tablespoon of sifted white flour, for example. And while cooking allows for substitution, baking does not. Don’t have as many onions as the recipe calls for? Throw in some scallions. Short on shallots? Garlic will do nicely. But if you find you don’t have enough baking powder, baking soda’s just not going to do the job.

Cooking then, seems more like art; baking more like science. No wonder, too, that the different disciplines attract different types of people. While the uninitiated would think that good bakers would make good cooks and vice versa, that doesn’t usually tend to be the case. Instead, good cooks will usually say that they can’t bake and good bakers don’t brag about their cooking abilities. Different strokes for different folks.

It’s not just in restaurants that you find people with very different skills working together and contributing their different abilities to present superior products. In our office, for example, we have a number of people with very different skillsets and temperaments who understand that if we each do what we’re best at, the sum of our labors will be worth so much more than our individual contributions. We’ve got left-brain thinkers who are number and detail oriented and apply their abilities to tracking our projects, meeting our deadlines, and maintaining our computer system and our offices. We’ve got passionate people-oriented professionals who maintain our client relationships and get their satisfaction from satisfying others and keeping our clients satisfied too. We’ve got creative thinkers — artists, designers, and writers — who get their jollies from creating concepts, strategies, and visual solutions that have never been seen before but move our clients’ businesses forward. And we have hard-nosed analytical business thinkers who make sure that our clients — and our agency — stay proactive and profitable no matter how the world around us changes.

In his book Good to Great, author Jim Collins famously wrote about “getting the right people on the bus.” But he also talked about making sure that the right people were in the right seats on that bus.

Building Brand Value and Good To Great

My father used to say that “you can’t make jobs for people, you have to find the right people for the jobs.” This presents a real challenge as the world and our business evolves and changes. As we continuously reinvent ourselves — from a design firm to an ad agency to a brand management firm to a consultancy — we need to continue to provide opportunities to the people in our office who are also evolving and changing right along with us.

Over years of generously giving me great advice, my friend, client, and mentor Seth Werner has impressed upon me the critical practice of hiring for attitude. As Seth points out, you can teach skills but you can’t teach outlook. This too presents an ongoing challenge as we endeavor to keep the right people in the right seats (Jim Collins) in jobs that we created for the business opportunities and not the practitioners (Leonard Turkel) who have to have the right attitude (Seth Werner).

So as we all try out a sparkly new 2014 and plan for the future while we reflect on the past, it seems to me that there has never been a better time to seek out the best and most passionate cooks and bakers you can find and make doubly sure that your cooks are cooking and your bakers are baking.

THAT should help create a delicious new year for all of us.

By |2018-02-14T13:51:29+00:00January 6th, 2014|16 Comments


  1. Julie Donnelly January 8, 2014 at 10:17 am - Reply

    I read “Good to Great” and as you said, it’s a fantastic book for anyone who is building a business. After needing to learn by experience, I’ve finally gotten the right people in the right seats – and it’s amazing how much better the business is running. The most important “right seat” came after meeting with Bruce. I found out that while I was on the right bus (teaching people how to self-treat to eliminate pain), I was in the wrong seat. Bruce explained where the right seat was located (focusing on back pain), and my business is taking off! Without this “little” switch I could have been struggling for years. Thanks a lot Bruce!

  2. Rory Lee January 8, 2014 at 10:19 am - Reply

    very true!-As a vegetarian, I have learned to improvise in the kitchen and even request substitutions while dining out, creating very delicious meals 🙂 That is the artist in me! LOL– With my chemistry background however, I know we still have to keep the measurements and method in tact, so as to not blow up the “lab”! LOL…
    very important key for 2014- is to gather and surround ourselves with great people who bring our vision to reality. They may not think the way I do, as long as they can see what I see as the end result.
    Thanks Bruce, for always lifting the lid on my thinking 🙂 Happy New Year.

  3. Loren Murfield January 8, 2014 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Well said! I love baking and cooking, depending upon my mood but you are absolutely right – each takes a different set of skills fostered by a different perspective.

    I love the quote from Jim Collins in Good to Great. I would add that as leaders we must make sure that the passengers know where the bus is going, that they actually want to go to that destination and how many stops there will be. No longer can leaders expect the passengers to sit in their assigned seat and go wherever the driver takes them.

  4. Alan Schutte January 8, 2014 at 11:05 am - Reply

    Nice post Bruce. Have always preferred attitude over talent. I can do a lot with a good attitude-mentor, guide, inspire-and enjoy watching the fruits of that labor grow with pride. To fill a shop with positive energy is a beautiful thing-and can take everyone involved to some great places. Many, many years ago a ridiculously talented AD/CW team came out of the same finishing school I went to. They got work in all the award books every year but for various different agencies each year. After about 3-4 years I crossed paths with a mutual friend and asked him ‘Are they so good that no one shop can hold them to themselves?’ ‘No’, he said, ‘They’re assholes, nobody can stand ’em for more than 6 months.’

  5. Chris Larsen January 8, 2014 at 11:05 am - Reply

    Great article, Bruce. As consultants to agencies across the country including Turkel for whom we have done some recruiting (ask Roberto), we search for many kinds of talent from creative to account managers to media folks and digital strategists. The key ingredient we search for regardless of skill set is attitude. My definition of attitude includes passion, energy, curiosity, a desire to get things done. That is what we look for in a candidate.

  6. Patti Fralix January 8, 2014 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    Excellent! I would like to make one distinction, not to disagree at all, but to distinguish between attitude and behavior. While attitude and behavior are linked, there are times that behavior has to take precedence over attitude, such as when one does not feel like being customer focused, but needs to behave in that manner regardless. Thanks for all of your great work, and for sharing it.

  7. Maura Schreier-Fleming January 8, 2014 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    This is especially true in the world of selling. Too many hiring managers forget their sales process when they look for salespeople. If they hire a salesperson who can’t prospect for a sales process that requires it, they’ve just hired a baker for cooking. It never works!

  8. John Calia January 8, 2014 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    @Bruce. A great point well made. I have always thought that projects should be staffed like a repertory theatre. That is, different projects require different talents and different leaders. Traditional corporate hierarchy ties us to a structure that doesn’t always serve us well.

  9. Jim Fried January 9, 2014 at 8:59 am - Reply

    So on point! #High5 to you, your dad and Seth. PMA is SOOOO important. I help lots of young people get jobs. Each year a car full of students come to meet with me from the UF real estate program. Each has a different skill set and temperament. One is a “broker” the other is a “developer” the third – an “appraiser”. All of the “careers” take different skill sets and temperaments to be successful.

  10. Jens Honoré January 9, 2014 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    Great article Bruce. Being different, adding different skill and also mind sets is often an understated value. My native country, Denmark is very homogeneous, and not only by population, but also in mind and comprehension. In many aspects a very good thing. But when you need a team where different skill sets are needed, I think, multi-layered cultural backgrounds in a group can be an extra bonus. Also among chefs !

  11. stuart sheldon January 10, 2014 at 10:06 am - Reply

    Clearly, a good cook is essential. And so is a hungry recipient. As an artist I feel the creative process is not complete until the flavors have been consumed and digested. And in a best-case, reviewed btw cook and eater.

  12. Tim Daniels January 11, 2014 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    In the kitchen, you have people with different “skillets” and “temperatures.”

  13. Rosa January 13, 2014 at 10:21 am - Reply

    Good one, Bruce!
    Wish I had someone else to drive this bus! Ha, Ha! (Mainly so as to have more time to respond to your insightful blogs…

  14. Cynthia Sharp January 14, 2014 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Another valuable post, Bruce. Of course, I always read your blog while playing my new harmonica! 🙂

    Keep in mind that experienced bakers know how to play the substitution game with ingredients -including baking soda and baking powder.
    Indeed, it pays to maintain a flexible and creative attitude.

  15. PATTICE February 11, 2014 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Thank you Bruce! ‘your cooks are cooking and your bakers are baking’.
    A wonderful statement to a change in our language usage that has driven me…Well..disgusted and frustrated to say the least…
    I cannot hear,or read, some one saying ..they cooked a pie, bread cookies,..or what ever goes in the oven! COOKING IS IN THE STOVE TOP, crockpot, or Microwave..The oven is for baking…a casserole, baked goods..a turkey…meat loaf….’.if it goes in the oven..IT’S BAKED.’..FOR THE LOVE OF KITCHEN LIFE!!’
    Go COOK the turkey in your deep fryer…but BAKE IT IN THE OVEN!!..
    Am I some dufus on this…but then I can’t stand when TV news reporters say some one was “busted”…or “bucks’ instead of Money, dollars or what ever..
    Thank you for you reading this RANT…but you are the only individual I’ve seen on line that used that phrase…Bakers Bake..a& Cooks Cook!!
    Thank you!!..I will enjoy any feed back on this!!

  16. Perfect Pitch – S L Flynn September 2, 2018 at 1:25 am - Reply

    […] to distinct recipes. In some cases, the recipes are prescriptive enough to cross the threshold from cooking into baking. My two polished queries were a good start, but they are ultimately just raw […]

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