The Garrulous Jay – Turnip Eight Ways

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I confess I have a bit of a soft spot for Master Chef – The Professionals. After a long day in the office there is something both comforting and compelling about the show’s tried and tested formula of pitting ambitious chefs against each other and the proven professionals and critics.

One of this week’s episodes introduced us to a lady called Tasoula who produced something really rather remarkable as her main course signature dish: Turnip Eight Ways or, as she called it, Planet-based Turnip (about which more later).

I can almost hear some of my readers guffawing and making some slightly snide remark about my roots (get it?) in rural Norfolk. Even the show’s judge, Gregg Wallace asked, “Tasoula, your bench is extraordinary. Are you missing any ingredients?”

Tasoula’s star-turn with a turnip involved the following: (1) turnip purée, (2) grated turnip, (3) turnip leaves, (4) confit turnip, (5) pickled turnip, (6) turnip foam, (7) turnip sauce, and (8) turnip powder.

As she put it, “I wanted to show you can use simple things and you can do something great”. And all three judges were delighted by her dish, with Marcus Wareing describing it as “brilliant”.

Not for the first time I was struck by the way in which it is possible to start with the most basic of products, or in this case produce, and still deliver something new and startlingly good. I think this lies at the heart innovation in many businesses.

Tasoula’s base ingredient was the humble root vegetable, but through a combination of creativity and ingenuity she managed to present it in multiple different ways. Central to this were the different methods of preparation of the the turnip, as well as the other ingredients she used such as coconut and pistachio.

But what was equally impressive was the way in which this was underpinned by her culinary philosophy. She called the dish Planet-based Turnip because, as she explained, turnips “really help the soil with lots of nutrients”. In other words, this was the epitome good food doing good.

Having that strong ecological underpinning to her dish again speaks to the need for all organisations to have a clear cultural foundation on which to build their products and services. This also came through in her dessert: a sugar-free peanut sponge.

To summarise, successful innovation seldom comes from brilliant new ideas, but much more often from the creative reinvention of existing products and services, driven by a powerful sense of mission reflected in a clear culture.

It could start with something as simple as…an Apple.

PS – Much to my disappointment, Tasoula was ejected from the competition last night. Her scallop shashimi with “oceanmite” and beef cheek Kokkinisto didn’t quite cut the mustard. I guess this reminds us of another important lesson, which is that consistency is also key to success.