Have you ever cooked goat? Matt Gillan wants you to. He's a Michelin-starred chef trying to raise the profile of goat meat. To do that, he turned to storytelling – and it was incredible.
The Great British Menu is a TV cooking competition. Top chefs from across the UK battle for the chance to cook a starter, main course or dessert at a swanky banquet.
Neither 'swanky' nor 'banquet' makes me think 'goat'. Goats' milk and cheese are everywhere. But we rarely eat the meat. And that means the male Billy goats live an underappreciated life.
So how would you tell this sad story?
Storytelling proves its worth once again
Matt Gillan did it with a show-stopping main course. Using every cut of the animal, he created a dish that scored 10/10 with food critics and fellow chefs alike.
It's the dish that I'm most emotionally connected to. I grew up on goat. My mum grew up on goat. She introduced me to it… My dish is very personal to me - it's more than just a plate of food.
But he didn't stop there. Matt adapted the Billy Goats Gruff fairytale. He added a herder who raised and nurtured his bearded friends, and cooks who celebrated them on a plate.
He had the story typeset, illustrated and printed – and he presented a copy to each judge alongside their dish.
In the words of judge Oliver Peyton:
It's amazing he's done this… It's got it all going on. It's got the backstory of saving the goats and making sure the Billy goats are taken care of. The general history from his family. The quality of the cooking. I have never tasted goat this good.
It's all about the audience
On the surface, Matt's story is about Billy goats. Except it isn't. Matt was competing to cook for the Women's Institute (WI) centenary feast.
One thing the WI really hates is waste – they're all about preserving and using every bit of food. So Matt made the story about that.
He said, 'Look, we're throwing this wonderful meat away. If we just care a bit more about rearing these animals, we could all enjoy food this good.'
Matt made his audience the hero of his story. And it blew them away. Utter genius.
As fellow chef Michael O'Hare said:
What Matt's done is create something that's much more than a plate of food. It almost feels like the start of a campaign that he's championing, and I don't think there's anything that hits the WI brief more than that. Flawless. Absolutely flawless.
The lesson here is simple. If you want 10/10 engagement with your audience, tell a story that's about them and the things they care for.
Of course, there's nothing like a happy ending...
The Seven Pillars of Storytelling
Audiences are tired of facts and figures. But stories? We’re hardwired to see stories as a gift.
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