Heston Blumenthal: Innovation in Unexpected Places

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h1Being a chef means I am at the crossroads of sensory design because eating is the only thing that we do that involves all of the senses.

Chef Heston Blumenthal, The Fat Duck

In the pantheon of rock-star restaurateurs, Heston Blumenthal is legend. An English chef, Blumenthal is the owner of The Fat Duck, a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Bray, Berkshire which has been annointed restaurant of the year, best restaurant in the world and best restaurant in the UK. Blumenthal is part scientist, part creative genius. He's a champion of low temperature, ultra-slow cooking (to bind in fat while preventing collagen molecules from re-forming), and his groundbreaking culinary concoctions range from doormouse lollipops to bacon-and-egg ice cream.

His trademark is his desire to push boundaries and bring creativity to the kitchen. Blumenthal also breaks out of the kitchen and brings his unique approach into the marketing arena – and stole the show at the Marketing Society's 2011 Global Leadership Conference in London with a presentation about pure creativity, highlighting innovation as a key to the future for marketers.

So what is the single most important ingredient for innovation? Heston's answer is simple: naïveté.

"The more you learn about a subject the more you are likely to find reasons it won't work. I always prefer instinct over anything I have time to think about," he explains. "If you can maintain some sort of child-like inquisitiveness, some wonderment, some sense that anything is possible – even if it's not – you'll be amazed by how many other ideas you'll come up with."

Blumenthal believes innovation more often than not comes from the places you least expect. "You need to be aware that innovation can happen on any level and ideas can come from anywhere; from seeing a leaf fall from a tree to the most cutting-edge design," he says. "I am personally at my most creative when interacting with creative people from completely different disciplines to my own, whether that be a perfumier, a scriptwriter, a magician or an experimental psychologist. Being a chef means I am at the crossroads of sensory design because eating is the only thing that we do that involves all of the senses."

Having created everything from Roman to Victorian feasts, Blumenthal feels that the past plays a key role in his quest for innovation. "Great ideas can come from delving into the past. After all, innovation and development, in general, are all relative," he explains. "Innovation does not exist without tradition. Modern cooking is an evolution and not a revolution of what has gone before. I believe that innovation comes from being aware of the world around you, being inquisitive and loving what you do. With all of these things in place, you just need to relax and innovation will happen."