What writers can learn from the best restaurants in the world

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I was in Barcelona at the end of last year and my wife found this amazing little exhibition about Ferran Adrià. It really got me thinking.

(There’s a nice online catalogue in English and it’s open until February if you get a chance to see it.)

It showed the evolution of the restaurant and then the explosion of creativity that happened when Adrià realised that he could change the underlying methods of cooking and create new recipes rather than endlessly striving to optimise existing, French-inspired ones.

As the guide says:

Thinking about creativity leads to a change in focus: more important than dishes and recipes are the concepts and techniques that allow them to be created. In addition, while there is general consensus on the fact that all five senses are involved in the act of creating and the act of eating, elBulli’s innovative proposal was the sixth sense. In other words, the involvement of reasoning and thinking ought to allow play, humour, irony, metaphor, daring transformation, analogy and childhood memories to be brought to the table.

There are some thought-provoking comparisons between high-end restaurants and writing agencies.

  • How to reconcile the demands of creativity and consistency
  • Integrating multiple ingredients and components of the customer’s experience into a satisfying whole
  • The idea that the experience is more than the product. Going to elBulli is more than just eating the food. So, perhaps writing from Articulate should be more than just words.
  • Balancing functionality with beauty. Cooking is an art but it is also a craft; so is writing.
  • Abandoning traditional forms and methods can be very liberating. Goodbye press release template. Hello encapsulation and foams.

I’ve been a bit obsessed about these questions for the last couple of months and my wife just bought me A Day at elBulli – a beautiful, beautiful book – and my mother bought me Nicholas Lander’s The Art of the Restaurateur.

I’m massively enjoying reading both of them and I think they will be very influential as I spend the next few months thinking through where I want to take Articulate.

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