When I sat down for a Q/A session with Ferran Adria, head chef of the now closed renowned El Bulli restaurant, I thought I would experience a discourse on the culinary techniques and tastings that gained him recognition as the most influential chef in the world. Though we were not treated to a deconstructed martini and a 34-course meal of avant-garde cuisine, what we were served was an impassioned speech about innovation within business, technology, and the culinary arts. His recent genius, culminating in a global competition among MBA students, resonates with the goals of HBS on a level well above culinary consumption.
Ferran Adria, in collaboration with Telefonica, who will provide technology and R&D support, is embarking on a revolutionary project to build a praxis of culinary creativity and societal influence. Ideas for Transformation Global Ideas Challenge Competition is a one of a kind project that seeks to build the elBullifoundation as a hub of gastronomic creativity, from inception to execution. While creativity will be expressed through cooking at the center, it will be much more than a restaurant. Adria described, “Besides the area of gastronomy, and the cooking side, we want it to be a workshop for sustainable energy and a workshop for technology”. The center will house everything from a museum to brainstorming innovation labs, all focused through the culinary arts.
The project enables the top business schools from around the world to compete in shaping the future for elBullifoundation. The conceptual boundaries of the business model are limitless, and it is up to the participants to guide the future of the foundation. Each team will improve on the defined idea set forth by Adria and will give insight and recommendations for business strategy, technology, and financial issues.
The project will take place between 2012-2014 at which point elBullifoundation will open in Cala Montjoi, Parque Natural Cap de Creus (Girona, Spain), as the newly imagined creativity center dedicated to the generation of ideas and cuisine innovation. Adria hopes that the outcome will set standards for similar global projects and will encourage ideas to be disseminated through culture. He stated “we are going to share this creativity, give it to the whole world, that is why it is a foundation”.
Adria speaks about the project with such passion that imminent success is apparent. 2014 will call for a progressive business model for elBullifoundation, but this writer challenges the participants to include one more aspect. Solving developing world problems, such as hunger, is not currently part of the project scope.
In a project that strives to achieve so much, it is understandable that it can’t solve all complications, but idealism is a driver of innovation. Designed as a project to create significant cultural impact and involving sustainable practices; it seems only logical that it would also encompass social responsibility. To be truly sustainable it must operate responsibly on every level or else it is sustaining at the risks of underdeveloped countries.
Can you have a truly creative and sustainable empire if it doesn’t involve social responsibility? This observation highlights the true genius of Ideas for Transformation. This project is limitless; it is open to the minds of the business school students to affect the future. It offers a chance for idealism to partner with strategy to encourage challenges made to our business structures. I am excited that HBS has the chance to participate in Adria’s genius that will change society’s approach to culinary cuisine and global innovation.
Andrea Giangiorgi is the ad manager at The Harbus. Her favorite meal in Boston is brunch at Aquitaine, as long as they provide profiteroles. She encourages all patrons to demand that Aquitaine starts providing profiteroles at brunch in the future.