Education Inspiration at #ElevenMadisonPark

I promise I won’t write about food that often.  But tonight, I found inspiration in an unlikely place.

As @tabletj and I are preparing to move to Seoul, we wanted to have a celebratory dinner at one of the locations on our New York “Bucket List.”  The place was no other than Eleven Madison Park (EMP). My understanding of what fine dining experiences can be was shaped around a decade ago when I ate at Nobu for the first time.  I had a moment at Nobu when I first realized and experienced food as an art form.  Tonight, the meal at EMP made me think of food as a participatory and performance art. Several courses gave us as diners the opportunity to personalize or interact with the food in an unexpected way. The captain, Tim, and all the other staff were amazing, entertaining, and engaging throughout the 4 hour or so 14 course meal. The attention to detail and thought that went into every aspect of the meal was incredible. I was already starting to think about teaching and student engagement from the dining experience.

Then it happened, we were offered a tour of the kitchen. Yes, it might have helped that we knew the captain (a 2nd degree friend), but what an amazing surprise.  As we were led by Marta, Guest Relations, to the kitchen, this poster jumped out at me, placed at the entrance of the kitchen.

Poster at EMPIt’s a little hard to see, so this is what it says:

Cool

Endless Reinvention

Inspired

Forward Moving

Fresh

Collaborative

Spontaneous

Vibrant

Adventurous

Light

Innovative

My first thought was, “Wait, those are the same qualities we want classrooms, teachers, and students to have.”  The story behind it (as told by Marta) was nothing short of inspiring.  She said that when the chef at EMP changed to Daniel Humm back in 2006, they read a review in the New York Observer by Moira Hodgson saying that the restaurant needed “a bit of Miles Davis.” They took this feedback to heart and researched Miles Davis and came up with important qualities that they found through their research.  These words became their philosophy and the poster greets everyone working in the kitchen as soon as they enter into their work place.  You can read a little bit more about their response to this feedback in the New Yorker Magazine Article by John Colapinto, “Check, Please” (full article).

Yes, that's a photo of Miles Davis behind us.
Yes, that’s a photo of Miles Davis behind us.

After hearing this story and having a cocktail in the kitchen, we were greeted by Chef Kent who told us that they try to have 10-15 tables out of the 35 they serve every night visit the kitchen as it is a source of their pride. The kitchen was energetic, but worked seamlessly like a well oiled machine.  Truly living up to their philosophy as demonstrated in the meal they served.

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Some take-aways for me:

1. Feedback. What an amazing way to truly embrace the feedback you get and make it a driving force behind what you do.  As educators, do we allow the feedback we get to drive us further forward?

2. Philosophy. All the qualities they found from researching are all 21st Century skills that we are trying to teach children! These qualities shaped this highly successful restaurant.  Why would we not want our students to have these qualities?

As we were leaving, we got a little souvenir of granola for breakfast and the list of what we ate.

Here are the photos from the meal with the names as listed on their menu that they give you at the end of the meal:

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Thank you, Eleven Madison Park, for allowing us to have a glimpse at the philosophy that makes you such a successful restaurant!

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One thought on “Education Inspiration at #ElevenMadisonPark

  1. Wow! I love your connection between the classroom and the qualities valued by the restaurant. Our goal as educators is to develop learners with qualities and values to carry them into the world and be risk takers, collaborators, principled, creative, tolerant, empathetic and life-long learners. It sounds like a wonderful night! All the very best with your moving preparations!

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