A Chef’s Guide to Innovation

Banking has taken a leaf out of many industries, particularly the hospitality industry but cooking? Yet for an industry struggling with recovery, demanding customers and years of increased regulation, the time may be ripe for some fresh inspiration.

Aliena, Grant Achatz's restaurant in Chicago isn't just a fabulous place to eat. It's a case study in how to build a business model based on innovation.

For Achatz, his investors, collaborators and staff innovation is about everything from the food itself to the plating on which it is served to the design of the restaurant and the technology of the cuisine. Everything has to be unique and work to together to create a game-changing dining experience constantly seeking new levels of attainment.

Achatz's approach typifies the concept of innovation as dialogue - a continuous series of conversations and experiments from one gastronomic experience to another.

It also reinforces the importance of effective collaboration not just inside the Achatz kitchen, but beyond - from the creative team that designed the restaurant to the investors who shared the Achatz vision and the staff that constantly explore new ideas.

To capture just one quote:

"It is impossible to try to innovate. You can't decide to turn creativity on or off. All you can do is present yourself with interesting problems and try to find solutions. Then you refine those solutions again and again."

Achatz's own personal journey from line cook in a diner to Best Chef in America at the James Beard Awards is a vivid reminder of the enormous chasm that separates creative spirit from recognition and success. No matter how talented you are or how great your idea the path to recognition is strewn with pitfalls. This requires the entrepreneur to have not just imagination and creativity but an enormous passion for what he or she is trying to accomplish.

Crossing the chasm can be the most painful part of any innovation journey.

Bankers considering strategies for drawing customers back into branches may find the book by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas essential reading.[i]

[i] "Life, on the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat" By Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas


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