Originally from New Zealand, London has been home for the last 12 years.
I love creative problem solving, cross disciplinary team collaboration and making cool stuff that makes things better, culinary or otherwise!
This blog post is based on a talk I’ve delivered at Pi People 8: Side Hustle Mania. You can watch the full talk below.
And below are the 7 reasons why being a chef helps me be a better service designer.
1. If it tastes good, do it.
In both cooking and Service Design; this is a good rule to follow. Take Kiwi & Roo, our food is antipodean, but really this just means stealing the best of different flavours and cooking styles, and bringing them together into something new, that works. The same applies for Service design. I think it’s really important to pick the flavour and tools that are right for the project rather than just sticking to one way. I have no problem mixing a bit of product design thinking with a change management curve with a innovation framework if that’s what the problem needs.
2. Necessity is the mother of invention.
Anyone can cook a kickass meal if they have the best ingredients to hand. But that never happens. There’s always budgets to work to, ingredients forgotten or unavailable, unexpected dietary requirements to deal with. And it’s in these moments that you have to think on your feet and get creative. And it’s in these moments that you can sometimes create the best dishes and the best meals. Applying this lesson to service design definitely helps too. Conditions and prerequisites that you have to work around don’t need to be a problem, they can in fact help turn the solution into something really special.
3. Behind every plate of beautiful food is order, systems & hierarchy.
If you ever thought that a plate of food was an expression of pure creativity and craftsmanship - think again. Of course it must taste good, but to deliver that plate of food time and time again, in an enjoyable and operationally efficient way takes a lot of careful design, planning and organisation. To make your dish successful you have to know more than just what tastes good, you have to know numbers, margins, health and safety regulations, chef training and skill requirements etc. And same goes for the services we design. It’s not enough just to create something that looks good. It has to work. And to do this, you have to be prepared to get into the deep end of what it takes to successfully deliver it.
4.Your food is only as good as your front of house experience.
You could be the most kickass chef but if you haven’t designed your front of house eating experience it won’t matter, because people won’t like it. It will be cold. Or late. Or they won’t know what they’re eating. Or all of the above! Helping your wait staff get as passionate about your food as you are is crucial, as they’re ultimately the face of it. Same with brands and services delivered by retail, branch or call centre employees. If they don’t love what they’re serving, can’t talk passionately about the finer points of it and don’t go that extra mile to deliver what customers are asking for your service won’t ever hit the mark. Enable these teams to love what they do.
5.Taste, taste, taste.
Cooking can (and should) be an iterative process, wherein you adjust and adapt your food based on how it tastes in the moment. When adding different elements together to make a dish, you have to taste each one individually and then taste again when the dish is complete as it will always be changing. Every chef understands the 4 crucial elements their are to balance out a dish: salt, sweet, sour and bitter notes. Constantly tasting means you can constantly readjust. Same goes with services; iterative testing, adjustment on individual and then the sum of the parts. It’s the only way to know what you’re serving people.
6.In a kitchen there’s nowhere to hide.
In a kitchen there is no where to hide. Literally the only place to escape is the walk in refrigerator so not a place for a long term hide out. To begin with, this is pretty confronting. Like on the first day at Ottolenghi when I was on chopping and cooking aubergines all day and I burnt them. Everyone saw. Even Ottolenghi himself! Embarrassing! You can feel pretty exposed, but then it also plays a huge part in the successful rhythm of of the kitchen and helps teams work together effectively together. Without having to ask (or have a meeting about!) what people are doing, you can easily see what’s happening around you.
7.You don’t interview, you trial.
In a kitchen, potential new chefs are hired only after they’ve done a trial shift. A practical job interview in a real working day. This way, senior chefs get to see first hand how they work, communicate with those around them and operate as part of the team. The decision to hire them is based on their work and their fit. There’s good lessons here for hiring Service Designers too; it’s not just about their work on paper, but how they go about delivering it as part of the team.