Getting out of the kitchen

On Bluefrog Creative by Aline Reed, 15 February 2013

As our blog approaches a milestone (our 100th post is coming up soon) Felix Davey, Head of Copy, finds a topic as yet unexplored: the importance of creatives presenting their work. WARNING: this post will make you hungry.

It’s been a while since this blog featured an intricate – tenuous?
fundraising analogy.
So I thought that it was about time I explained how being a creative at an
agency is really quite like being a chef.

Customers go to a restaurant for food, and clients generally
go to an agency for creative work. Chefs/creatives labour behind the scenes to
create the product. This work takes time and requires particular skills. It can
also be known for a certain temperament,
unsuited to interaction with customers/clients.  

With many agencies, clients have very little contact with
the people who create the work they pay for. And customers in most restaurants
hardly ever see the people who cook the food on their plate.

But Noma in Copenhagen is a little different. For a start, it’s the best restaurant
in the world
 and holder
of two Michelin stars. The gastronomic philosophy of head chef Rene Redzepi is
all about time and place:

“If you shut your eyes
and just ate the food, would you know where you were in the world and what time
of year it was?”

Seasonal ingredients are foraged from the forests, dunes and
seas of Denmark, and brought together to create delicate and pristine dishes.
Such as crudité of carrot, beetroot, cucumber and kohlrabi:


Langoustine with oyster, parsley and seawater emulsion, and
rye crumbs:

Langoustine with Oyster, Parsley and Seawater Emulsion, and Rye Crumbs

And fish doughnuts:

AEbleskiver and muiiko. Lightly fried dough ( Aebleskiver) filled with fried muiiko, a small fish from Finland, which we ate, head and tail.

If that’s got your mouth watering, you can try making some
Nordic cuisine at home – here Redzepi explains how to knock up one of his
signature dishes: vintage carrot and camomile.

(It takes a mere two hours to make, and requires such
readily accessible ingredients as goat’s butter and wild sorrel, so it’s perfect
for a quick weekday supper.)


But at Noma, it’s not just the dishes that are unusual. It’s
the people who serve them – the chefs leave their stations in the kitchen and
bring their dishes to the table.

Redzepi explains, “One
of the ways to train the chefs to be better chefs is to make them serve. It’s
also a way of showing that we’re on the guest’s side.

“Instead of having
some kind of butler, you have an awkward person with rough hands and a little
sauce on the apron coming out and saying ‘Welcome!’ That is a very different
approach from your usual waiter.”

This approach benefits everyone involved. It helps the
customers understand the components of the dishes – when the ingredients are as
obscure as beach mustard,
who better to introduce them than the person who has foraged and prepared them?

It also helps create a warm and relaxed atmosphere, in contrast
to the stiff linen and stuffiness of many Michelin starred restaurants.

Above all, it makes the customer feel special and involved.
They are not just at the restaurant to consume and pay – they are there to try
something new, to appreciate and enjoy. Their experience is valued more than
their credit card.

As Redzepi says, the chefs learn from the experience too.
Although serving and explaining might not come naturally, it helps them think about
their creations from the point of view of the customer – how the dishes will be
eaten, not just how they are put together.

I would also imagine that it creates a better dynamic amongst
Noma’s chefs and waiters – more collaborative, and less ‘us and them’. By
getting out of the kitchen and into the dining room, the chefs see the
customers not as gastronomic naïfs or tiresome complainers, but rather as people
– people on whom the restaurant depends to survive.  

All this applies to the restaurant/agency analogy, too. Many
agencies keep the creatives tucked out of sight, without any contact with clients.
But at Bluefrog, we always present our concepts in person.

Just as it does with the chefs, presenting makes us see our
ideas from a different point of view. It focuses our minds – if an idea can’t
be shared clearly and succinctly, then it’s probably not worth sharing.

I also think that it helps foster a strong, collaborative dynamic
both within the agency – between creatives and client services – and with our

Concept presentations are an opportunity for everyone
involved in a project to discuss the best direction to take – for clients to
give direct feedback to creatives, and for creatives to ask questions of

They also build rapport – it really helps to get to know the
person who will be feeding back on your work in later stages, so you can
understand the thinking behind the comments and figure out the best way to
address them.

We don’t present each round of creative work in person – that
would be impractical, like a chef delivering the bill at the end of the meal – but
an open, frank discussion at the start definitely makes for a smoother, more harmonious
process overall.

Of course, that’s not to say I don’t find presenting to
clients an intensely nerve-wracking experience. Like many creatives, I feel much
more at home in front of a blank sheet of paper than I do in front of an
audience, just as I’m sure most chefs feel more comfortable by a stove.

So when I present concepts with an art
director, I can’t quite promise the
spectacle of Michelin-starred fish doughnuts or the charm of sauce stains on
aprons. But there’ll probably be some awkwardness, and perhaps even some ink
stains on our hands.

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