Is outside input necessary in your growth as an artist/photographer/chef?
I would submit that you need evaluations from a neutral source to grade your skill set...
Before you're a chef, you're a cook. Before you're a cook, you're a kitchen assistant. Evaluation of those skills is about competence across a range of basic techniques, across a larger and larger range of techniques, and mastery of a whole range. Then it starts to be about creativity, and it starts to be hard to grade.
As a photographer, I don't have competence across the basic range of techniques -- so I'm like a short-order-cook being "creative" with tamari eggs and apple wood smoked bacon :-)
My cooking is improving faster than my photography because 3 or 4 times a week I cook something I haven't cooked before, and that forces me to learn.