“We need to be traditional but not boring”. We try to better understand diversity among Nordic entrepreneur chefs.
The field of culinary and gastronomic science is an enigmatic combination of keeping with tradition and being competitively innovative. 1 How many aspiring elite chefs would recognise the advice to not stray from the given recipe yet feel the pressure of having to serve creative and innovative dishes? The concept of organisation diversity in international business literature refers generally to the improving of organisational demographics linked to business performance. 2
For the purpose of this article, diversity management is viewed from the theory and practice perspectives of the culinary and gastronomic sciences, from the use of raw ingredients to the management of HoReCa (hotels, restaurants, and cafes) establishments. How do entrepreneur chefs reconcile the seemingly contrasting values of keeping with culinary tradition and heritage with creative innovation so as to remain relevant and competitive in the industry? Insights given in this article are derived from a small corpus database of interviews of about 80 000 words, gathered from Nordic elite entrepreneur chefs.
Consumer food trends in the Nordic countries indicate an increasing preference for eating organic and locally produced food, towards sustainable gastronomy. 3 In this context, what is on the plate needs to reflect the season and what is available from the surrounding landscape. Short food supply chains (SFSC) are preferred and sun-ripened mangoes served during the winter season in a restaurant surrounded by Norwegian fjords for example, are not stomached well by Scandinavians.
As one Norwegian respondent relates, SFSCs and sustainable gastronomy poses a challenge in diversity in terms of the use of raw produce. Apart from brainstorming with his team on novel flavours, such as incorporating the use of wild seaweed harvested from Norway’s coastal regions, he approached this challenge through revisiting traditional Nordic cooking techniques and organising his network of suppliers.
Traditional Nordic cooking techniques such as smoking, salting, pickling, and air-drying enables a more comprehensive menu presentation throughout the year. Through applications of older cooking techniques, his food establishment has the option of serving pickled herring and reindeer heart throughout the year even if the latter is better suited for the autumn/winter seasons. In terms of business practice, it is also important to keep a network of diverse suppliers for an array of organically and locally grown produce. Seaweeds are sea vegetables that have best growing and harvest seasons. For fresh produce such as berries, vegetables, mushrooms, and meadow herbs, it gets challenging to get these produce in the winter due to the minus temperatures and snow outdoors.
A Swedish entrepreneur chef who founded a three-star Guide Michelin establishment in Sweden and who has expanded the brand into global operations, likens running the restaurant to the game of football. He attributes his success to being able to steer team diversity towards a common goal. Whether working at the front of the restaurant or working in the kitchen, his team is comprised of individuals with different backgrounds.
Part of his job is to ensure that individuals with complementary knowledge expertise are heard, and their ideas cohere in a manner that is efficient and produce excellent food and service. Diversity in his founding enterprise is also reflected in the food establishment’s core philosophy of combining Nordic and Japanese culinary elements with a French culinary soul. The core philosophy is reflected in the Singapore establishment for example, in its multiple courses that reflect both Eastern and Nordic culinary techniques in the long menu created to convey a range of flavours.
In summary, the consistent finding and insight from Nordic entrepreneur chefs in managing diversity in a traditionally conservative field, is to return to the Nordic culinary heritage. Old knowledge is reviewed in order to innovate towards sustainable gastronomy and to remain competitive in food service excellence. Excellence in this case with Guide Michelin recognition, depends very much on the ability and capacity of the entrepreneur chef to manage and organize enterprise resources efficiently.
1 E Fooladi and A Hopia, “Culinary precisions as a platform for interdisciplinary dialogue,” Flavour, Vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 4–7, 2013.
2 J S Rachele, “Dismantling diversity management,” in Dismantling Diversity Management, 1st ed., Routledge, 2018, pp. 1–8.
3 G Vittersø, G Lieblein, H Torjusen, B Jansen, and E Østergaard, 04 May 2005, “Local, organic food initiatives and their potentials for transforming the conventional food system,”. Accessed via http://journals.openedition.org/aof
Cheryl Marie Cordeiro is a Scientist at the Department of Marketing Research at Nofima, The Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research, located in Tromsø in Northern Norway. She has a PhD in applied linguistics from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Her current projects include EU-China-Safe, working on food safety and traceability for the EU-China food partnership; TastyKelp studying how novel seaweed products can be brought to market and Market Access, studying non-tariff related barriers to global trade for Norwegian seafood.
Copyright © 2020 Singapore Institute of Management