I’d done my homework weeks in advance and read about the G9 meeting in Peru earlier this month, where the International Advisory Board comprised of prominent chefs such as René Redzepi (Denmark), Ferran Adrià (Spain), Dan Barber (USA), Massimo Bottura (Italy), Alex Atala (Brasil), etc. got together to discuss plans for the Basque Culinary Center, lauded as the ‘Harvard of Gastronomy‘ according to our trusty newspaper in Basque country, El Diario Vasco.
In attendance at the inauguration of the BCC last monday were the Prince and Princess of Asturias, so I assumed the crowd would be an international hodge podge of chefs, journalists, politicians, students, bloggers, and the occasional groupie or trophy wife. Such was the case, minus the keyword ‘international‘, unless you count Gabriella and me who were likely the token foreigners of the two-fold event.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for culinary research, innovation and education. I’m on your team, Spain. But let me take a page from my BC professors and reiterate, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Leading educational institutions cost a pretty penny. Fact. So Spain, if we’re going to spend the taxpayers’ money [amidst a nation-wide economical crisis] on a multi-million-euro facility with state of the art design and equipment, we better have a good plan, right? I’m not just talking about curriculum, faculty, and students.
Rewind to business strategies 101: How to Write a Business Plan. Baby steps. Let’s define our entity, objective, mission, the WHO, WHAT and HOW. A school is a school but it is also a business. Simply put, it requires teachers and students. How do we find these teachers and students? As much as I love the line from Field of Dreams, ‘If you build it, they will come‘, my alma mater tells me otherwise. Marketing is a big player here.
Let’s take a look at the BCC video presented at the inauguration and examine these two promises in particular. BCC prouds itself on research in haute cuisine for its diverse culinary talents of tomorrow, with buzz words like ‘evolución‘ and ‘internacional.’ Here we acknowledge the WHO and WHAT, but HOW will BCC deliver these promises? Again, I’m not asking for course curriculums or anything to that degree of specificity. If BCC is to be the Harvard of gastronomy but without the years of history and history-changing alumni, it’s going to need more than a shoutout from Ferran Adrià and co. every once in a while for the world to take notice and realize it is or will be the venue of food research and development. And if we want to attract international talent, we have to bring in the international press. Si o no?
I’ve got a journal and camera, but I am far from a NY Times journalist or photographer.
What spawned this tangential critique of the BCC Inauguration and undeniable realization of its dearth of marketing? My attendance. I simply looked around the room, expecting to see or to hear ‘others like me,’ but as I’ve been told, soy rara. I was literally a unique case, an outlier, a rare breed. (In a less literal translation, I am peculiar. I am distinct. Also fact.)
I was twittering or as they say here, twitteando, throughout the day to share my joy and some fotos of the event only to realize that others doing the same and @ mentioning @bculinary (twitter account for BCC) were all Spanish, perhaps with the exception of two or three people. And where were the @bculinary tweets? <chirp chirp> On siesta?
Social media is what’s haute.
At most, I hope my two cents can be a wake up call to not just @bculinary but also to anyone who wants to promote anything internationally.
Don’t forget what you’re marketing and who you’re marketing to.
Hire creative thinkers. Embrace diversity.
Create buzz and the bees will come.