Last night my wife and I and friends had an experience of a lifetime.
Thanks to Ken Grier at The Macallan we had dinner at El Celler de Can Roca.
Dinner is to small a word for the experience.
This restaurant is run by three brothers and has been named the Best Restaurant in the World.
I would not debate that rating. And note - this is in a small town an hour north of Barcelona.
Being an educator - when faced with such excellence my mind immediately goes into discovery mode - seeking to learn the "how" behind such excellence.
The first clue came from one of the brothers. Joseph explained, "It's all about innovation in everything we do. It's about working the whole. It's the food, it's the team, it's the wine, it's the presentation." And it's true. There are many restaurants with great food. Many with great atmosphere. Many with great service. However to make all of the pieces come together in a harmony of sensory glory takes a level of care and collaboration between the three brothers - who each focus on one area - cooking, pastry, wine.
It also takes incredible collaboration among the staff. At a super high end restaurant great service is a given. However here the service was also filled with something special. Conversation with them had a realness that was striking. A wine steward taught me about the nuances of a specific drink - like an old friend would.
The lady leading our table was equally impressive. She was also very young. We asked when she started and she said 5 years ago. At the age of 18 she did a 6 week internship and they hired her to work in the front of the house. Note - can you imagine the best of the best hiring an 18 year old to represent them serving food?
This demanded more investigation. As she brought the next of what were a total of like 16 tasting courses I asked her "What did they teach you? What was the one thing they said to focus on?"
Her answer was immediate and without hesitation. She said, "They told me to do it from the heart."
Eureka! (sorry it's the best word I know for it) -- suddenly I understood Joseph, the wine steward, the entire staff, the food, the experience.
These brothers do it from the heart. They do it because deep inside they really, really love food and wine. The consequence of their personal passion is an experience for guests that is unmatched on planet earth.
They love it with a love and passion that goes beyond a job, goes beyond making a living. It is in their soul.
Thanks to Ken Grier for making it possible for me to experience the magic. When I asked Joseph about The Macallan he said, "There is no one else - The Macallan matches what we are trying to do here."
Thinking on it - as we left the restaurant at 1:30 in the AM (we sat down at 9:00 - remember this is Spain) - that is the secret to El Celler de Can Roca, The Macallan, Apple, Patagonia and all great innovators - they do it from the heart.
Within the Innovation Engineering movement we do from the heart as well. However, we have much to do to join the ranks of these great leaders. Experiencing El Celler de Can Roca renews my energy for the journey.