02: Heston Blumenthal

This series examines imaginative people from different walks of life and attempts to deconstruct what makes them creative, unique and innovative.

One of the Masters of Imagination that I most admire has a childlike enthusiasm and playful nature, everything he does is contagious. He also happens to be one of the most famous, accomplished and innovative chefs around today. His name is Heston Blumenthal.

Let’s deconstruct his Mastery of Imagination:

 

He embraces experimentation

As someone pushing the edges of ‘molecular gastronomy’ (a form of cooking that fuses traditional cooking with new scientific methods) Blumenthal needs to experiment. And in some instances these experiments don’t work. But they always bear fruit and move learning forward. A lot of organisations today, even in the advent of widespread use of methods like design thinking, are afraid to experiment, and even more afraid to be wrong.

 

He combines traditional methods and new approaches

Blumenthal has been one of the pioneers in using technologies such as distillation, water baths and centrifuges. But these technologies and processes are combined with more traditional methods in order to create tasty and interesting sensory profiles of food, giving food what Blumenthal calls the ‘X factor’.

 
The Fat Duck dish "Sound of the Sea"

The Fat Duck dish "Sound of the Sea"

He adopts a ‘multi-sensory’ approach

One of Blumenthal’s most famous dishes is ‘sound of the sea’ where diners eat an oyster/clam/urchin starter whilst listening to the sound of waves through earphones hidden in a shell. As part of the ‘Fat Duck’ experience (his award winning restaurant in Bray, UK, he provides diners with a scent that represents the smells that one might experience in a sweet shop- ‘like a kid in a sweet shop’ seems to be one of his favourite phrases!

 

He is at the forefront of the ‘Experiential Age’

Blumenthal crafts journeys, theatre and fun for his diners. Prior to an eating experience at the Fat Duck, diners are sent an experiential video to create anticipation, whilst in the restaurant the courses are designed as stories that connect together into a whole, and diners leave with reminders of their trip. In Fat Duck, Melbourne the entrance is a walk down a dark corridor-an optical illusion that makes you think, Alice style, the world is shrinking before your eyes into a small view of the kitchen – it is actually a video and then a door opens to the right of the diner. A number of businesses today are struggling with the growing gap of consumers’ experiential expectations and old style corporate logic- a gap that are offering innovators, like Blumenthal, to fill this ever increasing requirement.

The Shrinking Corridor

The Shrinking Corridor

 

Key Lesson from this Master of Imagination

In essence what Blumenthal helps us to remember is that business, even serious business, should be fun. And that there should be a ceaseless quest in creating new and creative ways to excite and engage customers. Lessons that should be remembered by many leaders in business today.


Collaborating with RTE’s The Innovation Show, Katawave’s ‘Masters of Imagination’ is a series where we look at the pillars upon which these interesting built how they work. Learn about their key principles and how to adopt them yourself to create a truly imaginative and innovative organisation. Listen to RTE’s radio 1 on Saturday’s at 3pm. Or download the podcast on iTunes if you missed it.
Amy Hore