It started with a sip: inspiration to execution


It’s the spark that ignites every great idea, creation, and business. However, much like a spark on its own won’t start a fire, inspiration alone isn’t sufficient to successfully execute the concept.

There are lots of amazing interviews, posts, and articles talking to entrepreneurs about how they took an inspiration and created a business – that’s not me. Instead, I’m going to share how a sip of beer turned into the most technical 3-course dinner I’ve created, along with the lessons I learned along the way.

Ok, so this might really be an excuse to show off what I created, but I do think there’s a couple take aways buried below!

Inspiration to concept

Couple things you need to know about me: first, I like beer: I’m a home brewer, I got married at a brewery, my honeymoon was in Eastern Europe so we could visit Trappist breweries…you get the idea. Second, I’ve been cooking for as long as I can remember and have tried to add a new technique or two to skill set every year – sous vide, smoking, molecular gastronomy, etc.

In Small Data, Martin Lindstrom talks about how he notices small details and brings them all together to create unique marketing campaigns/brand positions. I’ve been developing this talent most of my life, especially during my academic years in science/psychology research.

Combine all of the above and it should not be surprising that inspiration hit as I had a sip of BFM’s Abbaye De Stain Bon-Chien. This is a best-in-class French Bière de Garde style, whose flavour is sour up front and is followed by deep fruit flavours of grapes, cherries, apple, earthy funk, light spices & oak. My brain immediately thought “this would be amazing with duck.” BANG – inspiration!

I had a fragment of an idea but I needed to flush out it out into a fully formed concept. Paired menus with beer and food are not new and I’ve attended many but one stood out: an incredible 7-course menu from De Heeren van Liedekercke in Brussels. Each course is paired with 2-3 beer and the dishes are both simple yet fancy (to learn more about what makes them special: There was my framework – scale it down for my resources and I would do a 3-course menu.

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Most of the menu and pairings came together easily by looking at what beer I had stored away and using classic combinations like beets, citrus, fennel and goat cheese. Dessert required tapping back into an earlier inspiration. In the first episode of Sugar Rush on Netflix, contestants created a cake that looked like a fried egg on a piece of avocado toast. The cool part was the “yolk” bursted when a fork pressed on it, just like a real yolk. The technique used to do this is called frozen reverse spherification and is one I had tried using before with less than ideal results to make bursting cocktail spheres inspired by a Facebook video by Tasty or Bon Appetit. I loved the concept and thought I could make it look even better than they did. There it was – the fully formed idea!

I should mention that “Short & Tall Brewing” is the imaginary brewery that my wife and I use when we share our beer or host events.

Support, testing, and planning

Speaking of my amazing wife, it’s around this point I had an idea I could share and get her input on (read: get her approval). Fortunately she enjoys food and beer as much as I do and gave the green light. Having the support of “partners” on projects is key! I also did my first round of market research to make sure the guests were actually interested in taking part in this experiment. Given I selected my friend who recommended the Belgian restaurant and another couple who are my default “I have a food craving/idea that sounds ridiculous” people, they said yes without hesitation.

As mentioned, most of the menu I could create in my sleep but the dessert wasn’t as easy. Nothing about the avocado toast was as it appeared – the toast was angel food cake, the avocado was pistachio ice cream, the egg white was coconut milk, and the yolk was lemon curd. The last two require extra techniques and ingredients such as sodium alginate and agar. I did a test run for the joint birthday dinner for my mom and wife, both of whom love these flavours and my wife wanted to test it out as much as I did. Worked perfectly!

Final stage was preparing for the actual execution. This is where having support and third-party vetting both come in handy. Talking through presentation options with my wife (who really had no idea what the meal would look like beyond the dessert), she reigned in my crazy ideas and reminded me that KISS (keep it simple silly) was a better option. She was 100% right! It also made me think about how much I wanted to be cooking while guests were there, leading me to have way more done in advance than I had planned initially.

Finally, time to eat!

It started with a sip of delicious beer, was blended with numerous small data points and memories to create a concept, got approval from the “executive” and “consumers”, was researched and tested, and finally taken to market with great results. Here’s what it looked like:

Roasted heirloom beet salad with citrus, fennel, arugula, sweet drops and goat cheese. Paired with Beau's De Berry's and Block 3 Brewing Co. Hundo P
Sous vide duck breast with fermented garlic honey glazed carrots, lemon garlic asparagus, and mushroom medley. Served with BFM Abbaye de Saint Bon Chien & Alvinne Sour'ire de Mortagne (original and kriek)
"Avocado toast" - angel food cake, pistachio ice cream, coconut milk, lemon curd. Served with Flying Monkey's Chocolate Manifesto and El Toro Bravo
From the following day but shows off the yolk.

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