'chef' – storytelling, design & social media on the road

This week 'Chef' is released in UK cinemas. I caught a preview screening at the weekend, having missed out on any buzz or expectation around the John Favreau film. What I certainly didn't expect to discover was a showcase guide to the power of social media marketing, design principles and online storytelling.

Favreau plays Carl Casper, a hugely talented Los Angeles chef, who's had his creative wings clipped by his employer played by Dustin Hoffman. After being personally and professionally destroyed by an online food critic, he quits his job & goes back to basics by opening a mobile-kitchen serving Cuban-style street food.

While there's plenty of what I'm reliably informed is known as 'food porn' on display during the movie, it's the role Casper's 10-year old son Percy plays that really catches the attention. Travelling with his father and another chef between Miami and Los Angeles in the truck, he manages to create a huge online following of customers, simply through telling their on-going story via Twitter, Facebook and Vine. It's all in direct contrast to his father's earlier mis-handling of social media, which contributed to his fall from grace at the start of the movie.

Social media – particularly Twitter and Vine – can be seen as restrictive. You have very few words available to you in a tweet and 6 seconds in a video initially sounds way too short. Yet these limits can be incredibly freeing when you realise you don't have to cram every single bit of information into your message – you just need enough to entice your audience into wanting to know more. In 'Chef', before they know it, there's a large crowd waiting for them to open in New Orleans – all because of 140 characters here or a 6 second video there uploaded by Percy.

We use the same scaling back principle when redesigning slide decks for our clients. We often start by dropping everything congesting the slide – bullet points, flow diagrams, multiple images – and then pick one strong background visual. We overlay this with a simple headline or sentence to support and help ingrain what the presenter will be saying as their slides flow beautifully behind them. That simplicity is all the audience and presenter will ever need to share a message.

Towards the end of the film Casper plays a 'one second a day' (created using the app of the same name) video sequence put together by his son, which brilliantly tells the whole story of their culinary road journey in around a minute. As human beings we're hard-wired to respond to story –even one that flashes past us as quickly as Percy's does. As long as it adheres to the classic story structure of beginning, middle and end we will follow it easily.

So the next time you're writing your presentation material and building your slides why not try starting from a social media-esque restrictive position (and perhaps book a ticket for 'Chef' as well) – you may just find it makes life a whole lot easier.

Image credit: Flickr


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