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“There’s no right or wrong – it’s very much a gray area,” said Chef Graham Elliot Bowles (center), who invited Kellogg students to his Chicago restaurant on Nov. 11 for a five-course meal and an “experiential learning” opportunity.

Graham Elliot

Food for thought

Chef Graham Elliot Bowles of “Top Chef Masters” serves a five-course meal and a lesson on creativity to a hungry group of Kellogg students

By Rachel Farrell

11/23/2009 - At Graham Elliot restaurant, the customer is not always right.

Students dine on Bowles' Wisconsin cheddar risotto
Kellogg students dine on Bowles’ Wisconsin cheddar risotto – a blend of artisan bratwurst, green apples, glazed onions and Cheez-it crackers – which was “inspired by a road trip to Wisconsin,” the chef said.
Photo © Dan Dry
“If you come in here and you want something on the side or something well-done, it’s not going to work out; we’re going to have to break up,” joked Chef Graham Elliot Bowles, addressing the 125 Kellogg students who came to his restaurant for an exclusive five-course dinner on Nov. 11. The students laughed as Bowles continued, “If you don’t dig [our restaurant], and it’s not a good fit, there are a million other places to try.”

The dinner was organized as an experiential learning opportunity for students in Introduction of New Products and Services (MKTG-465-0), a Kellogg course taught by Andrew Razeghi, a lecturer of marketing and longtime friend of Bowles. In between courses, Bowles shared his point of view on creativity, the culinary arts and running a restaurant.

“We like to reconstruct dishes,” said Bowles, serving a spin-off of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner — a delicate cut of roasted heritage turkey with chestnut mousse, sage stuffing, creamy casserole and cranberry chutney. “We like to take an idea, knock it down and build it back up. We want to try to elevate everything that people understand.”

The youngest four-star chef in the nation, Bowles began his career working at renowned Chicago restaurants Charlie Trotter’s and Tru. He was named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs” in 2004 and was recently a contestant on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef Masters.”

Known for his sense of humor, Bowles’ personality came through in his Wisconsin cheddar risotto, which was “inspired by a road trip to Wisconsin,” he said. A blend of artisan bratwurst, green apples, and glazed onions, the dish was topped with Cheez-it crackers and served with cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Bowles explained that four-star cuisine doesn’t have to be pretentious or abide by any rules. “There’s no right and wrong,” he said. “It’s very much a gray area. It’s all open to personal interpretation.” He also expressed his belief in maintaining a “democratic process” at his restaurant, in which the opinions and responsibilities of every staff member — whether sous chef or dishwasher — were equally valuable.

Those ideas resonated with many Kellogg students.

“I like that he said that everyone here matters — even the guy that sweeps the floor,” said Stephen Windsor ’11. “That idea is very relevant in business. Everyone working in your company isn’t going to be necessarily working on your team, but they still matter.”

Razeghi agreed that many of Bowles’ philosophies are relevant to industries outside of the culinary arts. Having a unique vision and communicating it is “part of great marketing,” he explained. “It’s about understanding who your audience is and having a conversation with them that speaks to them. I really admire how [Bowles] does that.”