By Matt Smith

Some years ago we used to do quite a bit of work for the famous chef Jose Andres and his Think Food Group.  For those of you who might not be familiar with Jose, he’s an internationally known Spanish-American chef who is based in the D.C. metro area.

In Washington, his restaurants include minibar (which is harder to get into than a weekend performance of Hamilton) and Jaleo.  But he also operates fine dining establishments in Los Angeles; Las Vegas; South Beach, Florida; Frisco, Texas; Mexico City; and Dorado, Puerto Rico.  Many food/restaurant industry experts credit Jose for bringing the small plates dining concept to America, as well as a wide range of other innovative concepts involving how people interact with—and not just eat—food.  Suffice it to say, he’s pretty well known and is getting more famous by the day (at the recent Oscars telecast he took the stage to introduce a clip from the award-winning film, “Roma”).

Our work with Jose included the creation of a range of graphic images, both print and digital, that of course contained countless representations of food. After we submitted the work to Jose and his team, word came back from one of his associates that Jose had a question:  Why does the food always have to be shown on a plate?

I have to admit, that single inquiry stopped me dead in my tracks.  It has served as an inspiration to me and it made me realize a few important things about creativity, leadership and good work. That single question changed the course of the work we were doing for Jose, making it more interesting, creative and engaging.  It also influenced much of the work I’ve done ever since.

Why? Because it made me realize that great inspiration and remarkable creativity can be found all over our region, and sometimes in the most unlikely of places.  You just need to know where to look for it. Jose is not a writer, or an artist, or an illustrator, or a video producer.  He’s a chef.  But he made me think about the value and importance of thinking differently about a process. And that kind of a mindset can change everything because creatively it takes you somewhere you’ve never been before.

It’s about thinking off the plate and being inspired by the good work that is all around you. It can even come from
a bunch of tater tots served in a glass shoe. Check out Jose’s unique serving style here.

The guy is simply a creative genius, and to experience his world goes beyond just eating the unique food he prepares and being lucky enough to participate in his creative orbit.  It also extends even to making reservations at his restaurants, which however frustrating it sometime might be, is nonetheless part of the overall experience. Just try getting a table at e, his place in Las Vegas, where the maximum number of seats is nine.  How about that for thinking a bit differently?

From where I sit, it’s all part of a wonderful brand experience that just goes to prove the point I’ve been trying to make in this column,  Good work, great creativity, and experience-changing marketing ideas can come from anywhere.  On or off the plate.

Matt Smith is founder of SmithGifford, and has close to 40 years’ experience as a creative and agency leader at the nation’s top agencies.  SmithGifford is a Capitol Communicator sponsor.

You can find Matt’s earlier columns at Oh, That’s Good.

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