Five Berkeley MBA teams have submitted proposals for a new course of action for elBulli restaurant as part of world-renowned Spanish Chef Ferran Adrià's international Ideas for Transformation competition.
Haas was the only West Coast business school selected to participate in the global competition, which launched last year and required submissions on April 30. Adrià asked MBA students to develop strategies and models to guide the 2014 launch of elBullifoundation, the successor to his recently closed restaurant, which he hopes to establish as a "pioneering center for gastronomic creativity and innovation."
Thirty-two teams submitted proposals. Three finalists, to be announced May 25, will be flown with their faculty adviser to Rosas, Spain, for the final awards ceremony on June 27. Lecturer Greg La Blanc advised the Haas teams.
"What I really loved about the competition was it was an open canvas," says Ken Su, MBA/MPH 13, who admits being a "Bay Area food snob." He adds: "Adrià said, 'I want a center for creativity,' and when people asked for more specifics, he said, 'That's it.'"
That lack of concrete guidance made the competition more difficult, Su acknowledges, but also more fun.
Su's team, called the Haas Tenedores (forks), also consisted of Gabriel Gomez-Rojo and Aashi Vel, both MBA 13. Their proposal envisioned creating a "global ideation nexus" whose central program they called the TedBulli Innovation Camp─a twist on the TED Conferences. But unlike the typically one-day TED conferences, elBulli would host a month- or week-long camp focused on a particular theme, such as poverty in India, in which leaders from different disciplines and with different skill sets develop solutions.
Indeed, all of the Haas teams proposed creating a multidisciplinary forum, each with a different twist.
Los Osos de Oro
The Haas "Los Osos de Oro" (Golden Bears) team—Arun Abichandani, MBA 13, Brett Conner, MBA 12, and Aaron French, MBA 12—proposed creating a "traveling idearium" consisting of dynamic, focused workshops that bring concepts developed by foundation residents in Spain to all corners of the world. Spending a month in one location, the traveling idearium also would offer an evening interactive culinary experience–think Cirque de Soleil for food.
The concept stems from Adrià's proposal for an idearium—a pod-like, circular room—for his future foundation to give people the space and technology to brainstorm and refine ideas.
Another team—consisting of Alia al Kasimi, Togay Ozen, and Onur Toprak, all MBA 13—proposed developing an incubator ecosystem that connects researchers, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists, with elBulli serving as the nucleus. The goal would be to define and solve problems related to food in novel and creative ways, and then guide teams to successfully implement those ideas.
A group of big thinkers such as Al Gore and Alice Waters would identify problems the foundation should focus on, and then researchers with projects related to the problem and fellows without specific projects would be brought to the center to work on the issue, for periods of three to six months. At the conclusion of that period, the foundation would hold a conference for leaders in the field and venture capitalists to discuss the problem and choose projects to fund. The foundation would then get a stake in the ventures.
The AlGeRa team─a name drawn from the first two letters of team members Alex Pederson, Genevieve Wang, and Ramon Alvarez, all MBA 12─proposes turning to the public for ideas for future research and creation at the foundation through an online forum. Those ideas would be selected by Adrià and five creative directors, renowned chefs who would each lead a creative team.
The students also focused on further developing The Bullipedia, an online repository of gastronomic creations and history created by Adrià, by expanding it to include new creations from the foundation and entries from the general public. The team proposed tapping partner Telefónica's expertise by creating an interactive exhibit at the foundation to feature the most interesting creations from elBulli restaurant and all over the world.
La Dolce Vita
The Haas team La Dolce Vita—Nandita Batra and Alicia Chan, both MBA 13, and Kristian Lau, MBA/MPH 13—presented their proposal as a viewbook for prospective participants in the foundation's activities. One valuable resource they proposed the foundation would give to successful chefs is time.
"Between his small crew of seven and 16-hour days, Chef Sawyer often wishes he had more time to stop and brainstorm about new dishes and new creations," the team wrote of a fictional chef. That chef, they said, went on to spend three weeks at the foundation learning about creativity while designing serving vessels with a ceramicist and thinking about color with a visual artist.
The team's proposal includes developing an "Inside Look Initiative" in which the foundation visits restaurants and homes to see how people interact with food and each other; a "Play Pen" to watch children discover the world through play' and a "Dim the Lights: elBulli by Night" annual fundraising dinner.