In this special digital 2K20 COVID-19 edition of the Newsletter

  • I genuinely am still not quite sure how to quite process COVID-19.

  • So instead, I talk about a TV show named Cutthroat Kitchen. 2020’s weird yo.

  • You learn how to NOT deal with some Cutthroat Kitchen Sabotages.

  • We somehow go back to a sentimental letter telling you not to give up.

  • We talk about places who won’t lose their performance bonus for responding to COVID-19 well.

  • And then you get a chance to win free La Colombe Nitro Lattes or a Grubhub Gift Card if you can guess the correct answers to some unique Cutthroat Kitchen Sabotages.

Hey wImagineers (and other public type people reading this),

I’m going to be real with you. When I planned to write these set of newsletters for 2020, they were all focused on Mission + Vision.

This notion that our conviction in who we are and what we were meant to do, overrides everything that may turn upside down in this world. That it doesn’t matter what happens in the presidential election, how much change happens in our lives, or just the sheer weirdness of the world — our Mission + Vision stays the same. That when darkness suffocates, we love brighter. That we can’t be paralyzed by the fear or anxiety this world gives us, not because we’re weak or strong, but because we care so deeply over who we were created to become and to love.

Then COVID-19 happened.

And my plan for the March letter not only went completely out the door, but I can also genuinely say, I don’t know how to process this. I could tell you that Biblically, we should live with faith and courage because God’s got this. I could tell you mentally that we should keep chugging forward in the face of all chaos because our Mission + Vision is greater than COVID. I could tell you that in the scheme of the universe, we’re all doing relatively well.

But let’s be real here, every single person reading this has faced fear, anxiety, depression, discouragement, and uncertainty. Every single person has been impacted by what is going on. And it would be disrespectful and dishonest for me to imply that you shouldn’t have faced any of those feelings. We’re in uncharted waters and we’re all human.

There’s one thought on my mind, but, that thought only makes sense in context. We need to talk about a TV show first. And I’ll continue with this letter after I do so.

Let’s talk about a show named Cutthroat Kitchen

I’ll be real with you, many of you probably know this show in its later years when they jumped the shark (in my opinion) and went harder on backstabbing each other and creating humorously silly challenges. But I much prefer the beginning years, when all they really had to work with was in messing with the ingredients and equipment chefs got.

Here’s how the show works

…Yes. I am going somewhere with this. I promise.
And we repeat this again until we end up with one chef, who gets to keep whatever cash they have remaining.

This is an Evil Show

As Alton Brown, the host of the show said, he’s not evil, he just facilitates the evil. I’m not evil, I only facilitate evil among my best friends.

There’s also something important to note, that the chefs know. Every single sabotage that rolls out on this show is tested, often in tandem with the other sabotages in that round. If you have two or less sabotages in a round, chances are, if you shopped right in the pantry, you can overcome the sabotage.

Alton Brown always said that the most evil sabotages on that show, are the sabotages you do to yourself.

Here are some classic ways to sabotage yourself in this game

We’re going to go from Sabotages to something wImagine would sign off on. Hang in there.

In Cutthroat Kitchen, there are a lot of sabotages that happen, and a lot can be thrown your way. But generally speaking, if you shopped smart in the pantry, cooked wisely, and understand fundamental cooking techniques, you can outsmart your way into at least staying competitive.

But when you sabotage yourself, you enter a territory that not even the game’s producers even considered, and so many chefs lose by sabotaging themselves.

I know real life isn’t like a TV Show (I’ll talk on that bit more at the end), but let’s be real, that’s still kinda true with us too right? The world is going to ‘sabotage’ you. They’ll try to take advantage of you, walk over you, and take from you. COVID-19 will try to touch you, cause you to lose your job, give you anxiety over the future, and generally break you and leave you dead. Let’s be honest with ourselves here, we are fighting against a mutant who didn’t even pay for its stupid luggage fees to travel to Murrica’.

The question I invite you to ask isn’t “How do I avoid sabotages”? Heck in light of COVID, I’m going to go further than I normally would and invite you not to ask “How do I create a less sabotaging world?” The question to ask is “How do I prevent myself from sabotaging myself or my world?”

You have no control over the pain and hurt others can do to you, but you do have control over what you let it do to you. In Cutthroat Kitchen, you have very little control over the sabotages that come your way, but you do have control on whether you just give up or think outside of the box.

In this season, you have a choice on whether you wash your hands or run like the wind. To YOLO and help heal people or to YOLO and help party with people. To live with confidence that you shall overcome or live with fear that you shall die. To draw politically lines or to (virtually) unite. To be moved by anger at people or moved by conviction to help people. To move or to stop. What will you focus your mental & physical energy towards?

Some of you are focusing all of your physical & mental health towards trying to assign blame or anger at someone or something. And to be clear, you may be absolutely right. But I know someone with even more power to destroy you and that’s you and you alone.

I’m not saying let the world get away with evil because love without truth isn’t love. But what I am saying is that some of you are living in stress, anxiety, and fear because you chose to let a battle take over your heart. Some of you are letting others paralyze you into not doing everything you can to bring love back into your broken world. And I don’t blame you, heck, I paralyzed myself a bit when this first broke. That’s not weak, that’s being human. But what I’m calling you to do is to be more than a human, I’m calling you to be the light of the world because that’s what you were made to do.

At the end of the day, the greatest hope in your world starts from you, and you alone. You have a choice whether to bring people together to tear people apart. To yell at the haters or help them understand where they went wrong. To be courageous and do really hard things to help people or to just give up.

The most important thing wImagine does in my life will never come from the future its planning from. The most important thing it does is in reminding me what battles I’ve been through and the scars I faced. Hey if you’re still reading this, side bar thought, there’s a game at the bottom of this page, give yourself +202 points automatically just by noticing this bit. Ok back to the letter.

I pray, you never forget the battles you have overcame. I pray, that you stay alert so that you don’t sabotage yourselves. I pray you find the strength & hope to roll with the punches and fulfill your mission + vision (safely) to restore your broken world.

You cannot stop in the face of COVID-19. You cannot break in the face of COVID-19. Don’t sabotage yourself, you got enough from the world already. Just keep marching forward and be courageous, because there is greater power in your name than COVID, because there is greater life in the name of Jesus.

One last note. Some of you may question why I’m using a TV Show to describe the world.

Yes, I get it, this world is not a TV Show, and our sabotages are not ‘tested’ in the same way they may be on a TV Show. I get it, it makes sense. But there’s a Bible Verse I love because most people abuse and misuse the living heck out of it, and it is:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremhiah 29:11 (NIV)

That verse was never intended to be read as “Your life will be easy and painless”. In our current lifetime, we live in a fallen and broken world. There are consequences from both intentional and unintentional evil in this world, and this evil isn’t a boomerang — it’ll wreck anybody and anything it can.

God never promised a painless world, there’s a price to pay for evil. But God promises to help you overcome that pain, so that what was meant to destroy you, gets bashed on its head and became something that matured, strengthened, and grew you.

The same Jesus who traveled the cosmos to bring you back home is still in charge. And even though COVID is running rampant through this world, whether you realize it or not, I’ve seen God working something in your heart. I’ve seen you ask questions you never asked, drop positions you never dropped, and just surrender everything you thought you needed to humbly ask what can I do to help? What can I give? How can I serve? How can I love?

If you’re willing, I challenge you to say this five second sentence to yourself & to God because I think it can change the trajectory of your decade: “Please reveal how through actions and not words, I can serve my neighbors & world, for such a time as now.”

There’s doing the right thing. And then there’s doing the right thing first & consistently.

Anybody can do the right thing once the whole world’s doing it, copying is the easiest thing to do. But I want to take a moment to honor the wImagine Church Partners who BEFORE the fire engulfed all of us, they did the right thing and they’re still doing the right thing.

Living by Faith is a two fold lifestyle. First, it’s knowing that God’s got this. But second, it’s also doing things that may not make sense to you, but you do it anyway, heeding your wisdom from a God who can see ahead of you.

Doing what God wants you to do, before you understand or see the why, is living by Faith. And these Churches here did the right thing, before they even saw the why, which tells me a lot about who they pray too.

I invite you to make time this Easter to tune in to one of these places, not just to honor a dude named Jesus, but also to honor the places that jumped into the smoke first and are staying in the fire.

If you are Brian, Beth, MCK, MKG, MKF, Kris, Erin, or Pennsy: there are free La Colombe Lattes or Grubhub Gift Cards (depending on where you are) up for grabs here.

Let’s be honest, we all need a distraction. Below are some example Sabotages from the show Cutthroat Kitchen… which I like because they involve bits of science & culinary understanding than comedic or athletic skills.

What would YOU do in these situations? When you come up with an answer, click on the Answer Tab. Add (or subtract) your points and let me know what you get!

Also yes, this is how I drink my coffee on work travel. Using a wine glass. I don’t drink, I just drink Starbucky.

Goal: Make a thin piece of Chicken that is breaded & fried, and sautéed in a lemon & caper sauce.

Sabotage: You had to make it using Chicken Nuggets.

What should you do?

+100 Points if you (generally) got this point:

Break the chicken nuggets down into crumbs, re-bread it, season it, and fry it into another shape like a coquette or fritter.

-50 Points:

Just use the Chicken Nuggets straight up… which is what the chef did before he got eliminated.

Goal: Give yourself -1,000 points if you don’t know what this is.

Sabotage: You sabotaged yourself — you heard Briskets and Gravy and didn’t come out of the pantry with anything to make biscuits. And no, you’re not allowed to go back in.

What should you do?

+100 Points if you got this all the way right and +50 Points if you got partial:

Tell the truth to the judge and present to him the absolute best Briskets and Gravy so you win on taste and presentation. Don’t grade yourself on this but a second good idea is to keep saying how screwed you are, so your competitors let their guard down and end up making horrible biscuits and gravy.

PS: This chef made it to the next round. The other chef, WITH NO SABOTAGE, made a biscuits and gravy taco where gravy was a salsa and the tortilla was bicuit-y. Both dishes did not resemble a Biscuit & Gravy, but, the brisket both looked and tasted better, so it won.

Goal: Make a po’ boy sammich. It’s a traditional sammich from Louisiana, consisting of meat, which is usually roast beef or fried seafood, often shrimp, crawfish, fish, oysters or crab.

Sabotage: You get canned oysters and must use it as your only source of protein in the whole dish. Canned oysters, besides being canned, are already cooked which makes it hard to actually fry it as per the tradition.

What should you do?

+100 Points if you got this all the way right and +50 Points if you got partial:

Cover the oysters in breadcrumbs and lots of oil + water, and stick it under a salamander (think of an upside down oven where incredibly high-powered & focused heat comes from the top). That’ll help quickly heat the crumbs so they stick on the seafood, without cooking the seafood too much.

-50 Points:

Not cook the seafood, just bread it calamari style. Just because it’s canned doesn’t mean it tastes good cold and crusted. This is what the chef did… before she got eliminated.

Goal: Make Satay, which consists of some some chopped meat meat (i.e. chicken, goat, pork, seafood, tofu, etc.) that’s skewered on bamboo skewers or the midrib of a coconut palm frond. These are grilled or barbecued over a wood or charcoal fire, then served with various spicy seasonings. Satay can be served in various sauces, however in this challenge, it’s expected for it to be served with peanut sauce (and no, there’s no peanut sauce just waiting in the pantry).

Sabotage: You lost peanut butter (which is typically used to make peanut sauce) and must use Peanut M&Ms instead.

What should you do?

+100 Points if you realized this:

Just melt the M&Ms and filter out the chocolatey water so that you’re left with the peanut remains. Then blend it up.

-50 Points:

Just cut the chocolate out of each M&M (which is what the chef who bought the sabotage thought the right answer was.)

Goal: If you don’t know what an Ice Cream Cone is, deduct 10,000 points now.

Sabotage: You have to mix your entire ice cream in (food safe & already cleaned) large traffic cones. No mixing bowls or anything of the sort.

What should you do?

+100 Points if you got both choices and +50 Points if you got one

You could either plug the smaller hole at the top of the traffic cone with something like an egg (this is the official answer) OR fold the traffic cone so you create a crease near the top, and mix in a sideways cone so the top can’t open back up again (this is Alton’s answer)

-50 Points:

If you forgot there’s a hole in the top of the traffic cone because that is a problem, milk would run out of that top hole.

Goal: If you don’t think you know what a Ginger Cookie is, give yourself minus 100,000 points.

Sabotage: All of your fresh ginger is stolen from you and you have to use pickled ginger like you’d get at a Sushi place. (No, the wasabi is not mixed it. It’s just straight up pickled ginger.)

What should you do?

+100 Points if you figured out this isn’t a big deal:

…This really isn’t much of a sabotage. Pickled Ginger actually balances the sweetness really well and has even more ginger flavor than normal ginger. The pickling changes the way the chemical leaveners work so while the cookie won’t be crunchy, it’ll still have tons of ginger flavor.  Just call it a soft-baked cookie.

Fun fact, this was the most expensive sabotage by this point in the show at $16,500 in the third round, and remember, you only start with $25,000! Didn’t work because for all the reasons we just said, this chef still won.

+50 Additional Points if you said this:

You can still also use other spices like cinnamon and clove to make it more like a typical ginger cookie.

-50 Points:

Be the idiot who thought this sabotage was worth $16,500.

Goal: Red velvet cake is traditionally a red, red-brown, crimson or scarlet colored chocolate layer cake, layered with white cream cheese or ermine icing. Common ingredients include buttermilk, butter, cocoa, vinegar, and flour.

Sabotage: You get all of your red coloring items replaced with beets. 

What should you do?

+50 Points if you go down this route:

So Beets are occasionally used as part of red coloring for red desserts. So you could have blended the beets up and mixed that into your batter, which is what the chef did. The problem is, beets when baked, tends to lose their redness.

+100 Points if you got this answer and +50 points if you got part of it.

But if you mix the beets into the icing, now we’re talking. Because beets are red and have some sweetness, they’ll actually go reasonably well in an icing when properly mixed with cream, sugar, etc.

+50 more points (yeah, bonus round), if you got this

Heck, just make the icing red and don’t color the base of the cake. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a perfect Red Velvet cake, it just has to remind you of one. Then you won’t have to sacrifice the base of the cake (which won’t ever be red anyway), keep the red on the icing, and you can pitch it as an ‘Inverted’ Red Velvet Cake. This was the correct answer by the testing team.

-50 Points:

Add only one beet and then put it to the base of the cake. Not only will it not change the color, you would have wasted your time doing absolutely nothing.

How did you do? Remember to add your Bonus Points hidden in the Letter!

 (yes. there were hidden points if you read it.)

Got to the end? You rock. Remember…

You got this.

And also Happy Easter, God may not have freed us from stupidity (thanks Brian), but he has freed us from something greater.