The best kind of creativity and innovation creates mind-blowing experiences where the price becomes irrelevant and the sensory effect is just “WOW” and “AHA” and “GOT TO HAVE”. We just had one of those moments. It came in the area of food. Or maybe you should describe it as being in the area of experimental, sensual and artistic experiences. The restaurant NOMA in Copenhagen was just lately named the best restaurant in the world (ahead of legendary restaurants like El Bulli and The Fat Duck), and it certainly is worth mentioning as a superstar also in the field of innovation.
Let us walk you through our menu and tell you why…
NOMA is placed very discretely in an old salt storage facility in the up-and-coming harbor district in Copenhagen. When you enter the door there is at least five friendly waiters standing there to help you out, and seat you at a table. The very relaxed Norwegian (yes, NOMA is in Denmark, but the staff is VERY mixed – we probably had waiters from five-six different countries attending us) that is our host, seats us and delivers the first part of the menu, which is also the first part of the innovative power of NOMA:
Element of Surprise (…surprise!)
The menu you buy says that is it a seven course meal, but it is really 18-19 different taste experiences delivered in all kinds of formats. The first one sets the tone:
-“ Take a close look at the flower setting on your table”, says our taste guide. “The branches you see are also your first dish. It may look like just a branch of fir tree, but it is a piece of hard bread made of just fir tree. Please take some from the vase and dip it in the yoghurt on the table. Enjoy!” From the first moment of this experience we understand that this is going to be a dinner like no one else we have ever experienced before. Take something existing everywhere (a flower setting) and make it into something completely different (bread). Ask yourself: what in my industry is just always there in the middle of the table and never discussed, never acknowledged and never put through the innovation grinder? Then we are presented to dish number two:
Back to the roots (…and back again!) We are presented with a terracotta tray filled with moss and lichen. It’s like a perfect photo of Nordic forest soil. If you think about the Nordic countries and food, the best known dishes in the world is probably the cinnamon bun, the smorgasbord and maybe the salmon. But traditionally the Scandinavian countries have not been at the center of attraction when it comes to the culinary. But NOMA really goes back to the roots:
-“This is your second dish. The lichen has been marinated in KarlJohan-mushrooms and have then been fried” says our Norwegian friend in a quiet, whispering and almost sacred tone. Innovation learning number two. Do not only look at all the glossy, glamorous examples of brands and products out there coming from all over the world. Look down at your own feet, your own roots, and see what you can find and make that special and outstanding. Then…
Continuous Experimentation (…never ending!)
… from one kind of roots to another. In front of us on the table is being put an old tin box, the flower painted, cozy looking one like the one your Grandma used to have her homemade cookies in. And in there were indeed small cookies that mixed flavors ranging from wood to strawberries. It was their latest try from the kitchen, in a menu that is constantly changing from day-to-day, week-to-week.
In a kitchen that must look like a mix between a chemistry lab, an art studio and prototyping workshop the chef Rene Redzepi is creating forward motion and change every day. Of course he is portrayed as both a tyrant and a person with some kind of disorder, but sometimes this people that in our schools today are often given some kind of diagnosis, are the ones that can create true genius. And never give up. Never, never give up.
And this was only the beginning of this odyssey of the world of sensory experiences. We could have described the whole menu but we will not spoil the surprise of the last fifteen courses on the menu. We would recommend everyone to attend NOMA and enter it into the books as either education or pure R&D-work. This kind of experience gives you more energy and ideas than most conferences.
And in case we forgot to tell you – it was very, very delicious!