In our search for what is cooking in the Qhuba network and in the world of Strategy Execution we have organized What’s Qooking events: a combination of content and cooking in a workshop format. With small groups of twelve to fifteen people we have listened, cooked, discussed and eaten. To take this one level higher – and because cooking with a group involves quite a few concession in timing and results – we have decided to look for top chefs to do the cooking for us. Where to find the chefs?
The Michelin Guide seemed a logical starting point.
Since the weather was nice and I was in town anyway, I decided not to use Amazon for once, but to walk to the good old-fashioned bookstore. Not the most efficient way to buy a book as it turned out. The first bookstore did not stock Michelin Guides, but was kind enough to direct me to a colleague which they assured me would have them. So I walk further into town. On my way to the second store I passed my tailor. He called me in for an espresso, and enquired about the suits he had sold me earlier. As I explained why this was not a day to buy suits (too warm to try on anything, and besides the suits he makes last too long) and where I was going, we came to talk about three star restaurants. He warned me not to try to visit them all, because the last guy who tried – probably – did not survive.
In the summer of 2008 the Swiss gourmand Pascal Henry executed his plan to visit all sixty-eight top chefs in Europe in sixty-eight days. Everyday he ate at a different restaurant, drank a few glasses, and spoke at length with the chef. Henry kept a diary with notes, menus, and occasionally a note from a chef or sommelier. On the fortieth day of his journey he was in El Bulli. As usual he had ordered the Chef’s menu which here consisted of many small courses. His hat, his notebook and wallet where – this was also usual – on the table. Towards the end of the meal he walked out, never to be seen again. Maybe he jumped of the cliff, maybe the idea that he would for the rest of his life have to make the concession of having to eat less exquisite meals, maybe he was abducted by aliens who wanted to know how eartheners eat. We don’t know. This story is written down in a book by an author who has also written a book about etiquette together with my tailor.
intrigued, but not deterred, I continued to the next bookshop, and then to the next. A good time to reconsider the merits of e-commerce, with their long-tail strategies. Online you will find it all. But what you mostly find is transactions, less interaction. And that is exactly what you get with people, in shops.
The last shop I visited did stock the Michelin Guide. The guy behind the counter advised me to also have a look at a book called “In search of the Stars”, written by a Dutch chef, Paul van de Bunt, who undertook, with his wife Sandra, a similar journey as Mr. Henry. The differences are clear: they took a year to visit all fifty-four three star restaurants in Europe, and they lived to write a book about it. The book was not the goal by the way. Paul just wanted to learn, to see and taste the innovations, and to talk about them with his colleagues. Then for every restaurant he visited he created a dish, inspired by the chef he talked to. Obviously, he did not see them as the competition, but as people with a shared passion.
Cooking appeared to be a passion shared by the bookseller, too. When I told him about my “What Qooking” plans, he suggested that our first stop should be a new restaurant in Utrecht, called Podium. The chef Leon Mazairac worked for Alain Ducasse in Paris.His style he described as “no pretentious but lots of ambitions”. That sounds about right for us.
He just happened to have the chef’s business card in his pocket, and – talking about innovation – invited me to come to his bookshop next week where the chef would prepare insects, which are not only an answer to food shortage, the inefficiency of raising cattle for consumption, but are apparently quite tasty, too. I asked him if he would eat them, and of course the answer was yes.
To prove his point he produced a package of dried grasshoppers that he was going to prepare that night. Quite interesting. Probably coincidence. Wonder if he would have produced as double edged commando knife if I had asked him about the “SAS Survival Guide”. Quite a useful little book, by the way.
Anyway, I have all the information to plan our next What Qooking event, and however convenient e-commerce portals may be, they do not offer the Power of Conversations. As I said: the network enables interaction rather than the transaction.