“There is no greater harm than that of time wasted.” – Michelangelo
Lars Erik Robinson, Lead Cook at Freedom Square in Seminole, Florida, knows this too well. Like Michelangelo, multi-talented Lars devotes his time to developing his artistic gifts. As you may have guessed by his photo, this culinary pro is also a freelance illustrator and caricaturist.
Moving to Sweden with his mother at the age of 8, Lars’s first experience with food service was helping out in his school cafeteria. New to the Swedish language, he found comfort in quietly serving others by straightening the cafeteria’s chairs and tables. Lars has worked in food service ever since. He has cooked everywhere from fast food restaurants to schools and corporate cafeterias.
Lars discovered his gift of illustration at an early age. He’d spend hours and hours staying up late to review his sketches before he went to sleep. He was constantly staring at a completed project asking himself what he could have done better, obsessed with improving. His portfolio stretches even beyond cuisine and basic sketches, though. As a matter of fact, it’s filled with a wide array of published art media.
Don’t Waste Time
Lars couldn’t choose between his two passions. In fact, he worked at the grill and sauté station in the Ringling College of Art and Design cafeteria while completing his Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration with a minor in computer graphics.
Eight years ago, he had his first break-through illustration. His illustration was the cover for American Spectator Magazine.
The thing is–I don’t want to have to choose between my two favorite creative platforms. Making time for illustration outside my food service career allows me to pursue both passions at once, while still relating to and satisfying people.
See the Big Picture
Lars works hard at balancing his creative passions with family time. He cooks full-time throughout the week at Brookdale, then sets up his caricature station at weekend events and even centers his Sunday nights around studio work. Lars recommends power naps for a creative mind trying to juggle multiple interests.
It’s tiresome at times, but, when I look at the full picture, I’m so grateful for the talents I’ve been given and am able to pursue. It’s always a challenge balancing both passions, but each are something I look forward to every day. I couldn’t have one without the other.
Overlap Your Passions
Lars encourages others to relate their multiple passions to one another. Doing so helps you grow and see one passion with an atypical perspective.
Some ask why I cook when I can be an artist. Cooking is an art, I reply. It’s just as much an art form as my illustrations. You’re still creating something that will satisfy someone else. That’s what I’m all about.
Presentation is extremely important to Lars, no matter the art media. He credits his illustrations with his ability to look at cuisine uniquely–building detailed, contrasting texture to magnify interest and adding composition and height on his plates to enhance a dish’s beauty.
Always Seek Improvement
With each dish or drawing, he continues to look at each completed project with the same creative critic eye he did as a child.
To be an artist, it’s necessary to have a passion for what you’re doing. You cannot give up on improving yourself. Every single day I hone in on my culinary and drawing skills. I’m always seeking opportunities and brainstorming alternatives to continue improving. To deeply care is to always strive for improvement–no matter if you’re the best in the world or just getting started. I’m always, always learning.
Collaborating with his mentors gave him the aptitude to harmonize the fast pace of his creations with taking the time to make others feel happy and comfortable. Lars’s Brookdale Freedom Square mentors taught him the ins and outs of organizing and managing a kitchen. He’s trained in all units in his eight years at Brookdale. He regularly reads Brookdale’s Hospitality Leader Magazine, a monthly magazine distributed to all Brookdale communities that includes career training tips, community and associate spotlights, culinary related articles, and recipes.
Brookdale expects higher and higher standards for our residents. We are constantly having training sessions and meetings with our executive chefs, chefs and sous chefs to improve. One thing that a great chef has is an ability to balance speed with customer service. I love this challenge. Some residents specially order food, but we need to maintain speed with care.
Lars was recently promoted to Lead Cook at Brookdale. Residents know he illustrates and often ask him for drawings. When a resident was celebrating her 100th birthday, he asked if he could do a drawing for her. She was extremely happy with her new caricature.
I was working for another company, and I mentioned at one point that I also illustrate on the side. There, someone said that they didn’t appreciate that I was talking about my other pursuit at my job. Here, it’s different. That’s what I like about Brookdale. The residents and associates here not only appreciate who I am, but they embrace it. Brookdale lets me be me.