Exploring ingredients, attention to detail and the incredible potential of the whole food experience.
The recent burst of popular food documentaries on Netflix alone says a lot about our love affair with food. The profoundly positive reaction to Jiro Dreams of Sushi, ‘Cooked,’ two seasons of ‘Chef’s Table’ and more remind us that food and the experiences around it are expressions of passion, and that passion is definitely contagious. Viewers fall in love with the sculpting of single piece of sushi as part of a story and experience in itself. If a chef can illuminate the irresistibility of melting butter as potential for something amazing to come, imagine what brands could do when it comes to telling their stories in the many places that they can connect with consumers.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi, provides the best example, following the legendary chef Jiro Ono in his lifelong pursuit of sushi perfection. While the importance of high-quality is stressed, the film focuses heavily on romancing his relentless pursuit of getting better at his craft every day, even at 90 years old. Rice is expertly and delicately formed in his palm, seaweed is brushed above an open grill, and an apprentice discusses his four-month tribulation for a Jiro-approved tomago egg. Its absolutely beautiful and inspiring. ‘Cooked’ and ‘Chef’s Table’ follow the same formula of placing food in a greater context of brilliance, often with characters explaining how a mundane ingredient can become heroic if given the proper care.
Our ubiquitous predisposition to be drawn to food and all the emotions and memories attached to it is a no-brainer in modern healthy food marketing. Yes, a product could be healthy. Yes, it could be responsibly sourced. Perhaps it ticks all the boxes of a modern dream product—(it may even be low in calories). But what is its potential in the kitchen, on the table, in life? How does it make cooking more memorable? How do you make something with it that your children will always associate with home? Does it spark inspiration? Our sudden interest in food documentaries reminds us that while consumers may have deep interest in the facts, they are also hugely invested—if subconsciously—in the artful process of them actually coming together and the experience they have the potential to create.
These films are cues to how successful ingredients and process can become when they are considered and celebrated in a larger context of life. When a brand is inextricably linked with this creative process, or the humanizing effect of turning nature into food, it connects with a consumer on a life-long, emotional journey of food experiences that are part of who we are as a culture.
The brand almost always becomes profoundly more interesting, more meaningful, and more valuable to our lives as conscious consumers. As voiced by Michael Pollan in the “Air” episode of ‘Cooked’ season 1, “If I gave you a bag of flower and water, and you had nothing else to live on, you could live on that for a while. But eventually you would die. But if you take that same flour and water and bake it into bread, you could live indefinitely.”