Over lunch the other day, someone told a story of a friend of ours who had traveled to China. He stopped in for some sushi that was catering to American tourists and as our friend looked over the menu, he casually and affably offered the suggestion that they include the typical “Seattle Roll” (typically containing cucumber, avocado, raw salmon, and masago, tobiko or cream cheese). The employee nodded encouragingly so our friend continued offering other typical, Americanized sushi variations. It wasn’t long before the manager had come out from the back with a sheet of butcher paper and was taking vigorous notes, diagramming every variation and idea that occurred to our friend. Later, it became common practice to have patrons jot down their sushi recipe suggestions and share them with management for possible inclusion on the menu.
Also, legend has it that at Kane Sushi in California the menu is on the walls and has been developed by enterprising customers. They diagram out a sushi suggestion and if the restaurant likes it and can satisfyingly recreate it, they laminate it and hang it on the wall. One Yelper writes, “a nice touch to the establishment is the overwhelming selection of custom sushi rolls, which keep growing depending on customer imagination.” Menu creativity never stagnates when you have a large group invested in making it grow.
Now, my first instinct is to grimace a bit, thinking that raw fish recipes aren’t something that I want amateurs messing about with. But the real lesson here is that anyone can be involved in the ideation process as long as the experts are the ones assessing and implementing. As long as I’ve got some great sushi chefs at the helm, there’s no way that they’re going to let a disappointing product end up on their menus, which means I can taste a civilian-inspired, chef-approved creation – yielding culinary surprises that weren’t even on my radar. This is a similar lesson for other ideation programs – the work of evaluating ideas should belong to the people who know what they’re doing, but the gift of suggestion and innovation should come from anywhere.
Are there some things that the crowd shouldn’t weigh in on? What kind of sushi combination would you invent?