When You Crave Creative Octane

Photo: Netflix

One evening while on the road, I finished my work early. I had time on my hands, but I was too tired to write.

Too tired to work.

Too lazy to work out.

So I turned to my favorite source of entertainment: Netflix.

Up popped a suggestion to watch Chef’s Table.

I’d never heard of it.

I already like cooking shows. Chopped is a favorite since it’s all about high-speed creativity and nosh. These kinds of shows speak to me.

I thought I’d give Chef’s Table a try.

Holy Cow.

The premise of this show is:

  • Highlight chefs from the world’s top restaurants.
  • Tell their stories.
  • Reveal their philosophy for coaxing the best flavors out of the ingredients.
  • Show their creative processes in action.

Holy. Cow.

I was hooked within 10 minutes.

This is now a source of creative inspiration for me.

Let me explain.

This Show is Creative Octane

Photo: Netflix

The photo above is Chef Grant Achatz (left), owner of Alinea — a restaurant in Chicago that has received three Michelin stars. Chef Achatz grew up cooking in his family’s restaurant — a diner. Though he learned to cook, he didn’t prepare this kind of food. He attended culinary school and then worked in highly acclaimed restaurants.

And then his eyes were opened.

Fast-forward a bit to the point when he and business partner, Nick Kokonas, dreamed up their restaurant, Alinea.

They wanted it to be different, new, cutting edge.

Chef Achatz was looking for inspiration.

He found it while visiting an art museum.

The masterpieces captivated his mind.

How could he create that with food?

Up to that point, the dinner plate had dictated the size of his culinary creations.

He wanted to create the scale of art that he saw hanging on the walls of the art museum.

“It frustrated me that as chefs we were limited to scale that was determined by plate manufacturers. Why not a tablecloth that you can eat off of?” said Chef Grant Achatz.

That thought opened a new creative door for him.

How could food be art?

That notion meant changing the scale and the dimension.

It meant touching all the human senses.

And surprising the customer at every turn.

Look at the photo again.

Chef Achatz turned the table into a canvas for dessert.

Here’s how it works: Two chefs visit your table and create the artistic masterpiece before your eyes. Customers eat the food off a special tablecloth that is brought out specifically for the dessert course.

Art + Gastronomy = Masterpiece

Photo: Business Insider

Alinea’s food category is actually molecular gastronomy.

This may not be your cup of tea, but that’s beside the point. The food is only part of the experience.

The meal is multi-sensory.

The table is multi-sensory.

The restaurant is multi-sensory.

For example, these balloons are edible.

Photo: GastronomyBlog.com

And this dish is served atop “vapor pillows,” which slowly release a scent, such as lavender, that complements the course.

Alinea is Named After the Paragraph Mark (¶)

Can you see it in the logo?

Alinea means “a new line of thought.”

And that’s what Chef Grant Achatz creates for his customers with every course of the meal — a new line of thought, a new course of action, a new experience.

Even the website experience is different. For example, you don’t book a reservation. You book an experience.

The Creative Genius of the Series

By highlighting these gourmet chefs, David Gelb, creator of Chef’s Table, created a new line of thought as well.

For every viewer.

Each episode highlights a different Top 50 restaurant from somewhere in the world, a different chef, a different creative process. So the story arc is always changing.

Each episode is a cinematographic masterpiece.

The photography.

The lighting.

The score.

The storytelling is mesmerizing.

You feel that you are digging into the brains of these creative geniuses.

Gelb’s interview style is ethnographic in nature — the chefs open up and share details of their lives, their craft and their vulnerabilities.


Whether I’m working on a consulting project or writing my novel, when I crave creative octane, I watch an episode.

Within minutes, my creativity wheels are spinning.

I watch it now with my Idea Notebook open in my lap and pen ready. The ideas flow — for my work, for my writing, for my relationships, for every creative pursuit.

When you crave creative octane, seek creative genius.

Sometimes You Need a Little Creativity Boost

My free eBook might just help:

5 Exercises that Will Make You 10 Times More Creative

I use these exercises to keep the juices flowing — in myself and in my clients. (I am a marketing consultant, after all.)

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