Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Dessert theatre or social exercise ?

Pudding for many is the highlight of a meal, a sensory overload of sweet, sugary treats.  But what do you offer to 260 exceptionally well travelled business school Deans and MBA directors ?  With so much 'been there, done that' grey hair prevailing, you would think that there is little this exclusive group of wise heads had not seen or experience previously.  Not so....

My first 'real success' utilising the time-lapse function on my iPhone.

Whilst I enjoyed the pure entertainment of seeing something entirely different, a never-been-done-before (NBDB) perhaps ?  This performance certainly had a wow factor - to the extent that the first tables to be decorated drew a crowd of smart phone wielding academics.  Now that is really something   

However, my diet prohibits me from indulging in puddings, so I limited myself to tasting a tiny portion of sorbet and a sprinkling of healthy berries.  It was clear that the sauces and petals were very much for decoration, not consumption and the more conventional ingredients were arranged in micro sized portions.  What would hygienic etiquette require of you ? There were no plates or serving spoons to enable you to avoid re-using saliva encrusted spoons in the shared items.

Dry ice cloud:  exciting enough to take some snaps

The theatrical finale came with Heston Blumenthal inspired science, for a cloud like table cloth generated by ultra cold dry ice that quickly vanished into the ether.  The Ooh ! and Aah ! crescendo moment.  If only the serving staff had looked like they were enjoying themselves in the process.  

Our table left much of the food in the centre of the table untouched, rather wasteful. Other tables, where the chefs had a small gap to operate in, saw uneven distribution of the sweet treats limited by the arch of the chefs reach.  (You can see a couple of gaps in the above photo).

Antonella, Dean of the Monaco business school (centre picture above), took a different view, perhaps unencumbered by film crew responsibilities, having carefully observed the group dynamics across the various tables.  She noted that some of the tables collaborated, rotating the glass top, an impromptu lazy Suzie if you will, to offer those with larger appetites the chance to consume more and bring out of reach items into play to those who might have missed out.  

Dare to be different:
Justin @AMBA conference

The traditional banquet service would see a pre-plated dish or glass cups distributed.  Limiting choice and customisation, (often popular with in large catering operations) results in a fast, lower cost service proposition that is sometimes referred to as McDonaldisation.  Antonella highlighted this 'communistic' approach which appears to offer everyone the same and yet fails to easily offer more (or less) for those with anything but average portion desires.  A form of equality that is perhaps unrelated to needs and wants.

You do not need to participate in an AMBA gala dinner spectacle, book at table at the dark & sensory 'Dans la noir' or hunt down an Ethiopian restaurant like Mesi's on Holloway Road where cutlery use is optional, to challenge your fellow diners (or romantic date) to a social experiment.  

Why not try out sharing plates at home and observe the different behaviours it can generate ?  

That is what you get from an MBA: Learning to look at life differently.