Cooking Up A Memorable Experience

The New York Times is trying out a different kind of reviewer. And when it comes to a $220 seven course tasting menu at one of New York’s finest restaurants, Daniel, who better to send than a group of second-graders?

I’m not going to lie. This is a very funny video. Seven-year-olds aren’t known for being rather reserved in their opinions so placing them in this unusual situation certainly produces some moments of great comedy.

But it is also a great illustration of why it is important to understand your target market.

Kids are notoriously picky when it comes to food. They go through phases where they will only eat one type of food or refuse to eat another. And very rarely is it predictable. But there aren’t many children out there who are demanding to only eat caviar. (At least I haven’t met one yet, although maybe I don’t travel in the right circles!).

Presenting seven-year-olds with these haute cuisine dishes created all kinds of amusing comments and actions. There was intense fear surrounding trying ‘fish eggs’ which turned out to be a true concern. The pasta dish, Squash Ravioli with Pork Belly a la Plancha, didn’t go down as well as one would expect with comments such as “It tastes like soap. Why am I eating soap?”. And one child held their hopes out until dessert in hope that they might enjoy that component of the meal.

These dishes are delicacies that would be savoured by any true food connoisseur and they would leave the restaurant with an experience they would treasure for life. But not these kids.

Clearly haute cuisine isn’t the best way to spend an afternoon when you are seven years old. Most children would prefer a packet of chips and a playground. That is what would fulfil their desires and create a memorable experience for them.

So what is my point?

You can approach a situation as an opportunity to educate your audience – much like Daniel Boulud, Head Chef at Daniel. The aim, from his perspective, was to take these kids on a culinary journey and provide them with an intense food education. But this aim clashed rather dramatically with that of his audience.

A $220 tasting menu isn’t what is going to create a memorable evening for these kids. As Daniel Boulud remarks at the end of the video, “Next time we will do Macaroni and Cheese”. Had he presented Macaroni and Cheese to these kids and a chocolate cake for dessert they would have had a much more valuable culinary experience.

Just because you are providing a high quality experience for your customers doesn’t mean that is what they are looking for!

In a point towards Daniel, the kids absolutely adored the final component of dessert.

What was it?

Small lemon cakes . . . . I rest my case!