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Chefs vs. Cooks

Note: This is a reprint of a previous Emergent Marketing Newsletter. If you’re not receiving our email newsletter, you can subscribe here.
A Chef is an Creator - taking pride of his work and thinking carefully about the impact they want to have on their audience.

Many marketers, sometimes without knowing it, seek to be “cooks” (through their actions).

Other marketers; and there are a lot fewer of these, seek to be “chefs.” Their actions (and beliefs) are very different.

I’ll explain by way of an analogy, then tie the idea back to our world:

When you go to a restaurant: there are two types of people who cook the food that diners order.

One type typically works in Michelin star establishments, like the Aviary in Chicago, or Gordon Ramsay in London, or the Mirazur in Menton, France.

… or Momofuku, culinary brand run by Chef-Owner David Chang:

“…when the customer is not just satisfied, but they’re static, dazed and confused by what they’ve just tasted. You don’t want people to talk; it’s not good enough. After they’ve eaten something you want them to be: ‘Oh my god, what the fuck just happened?!’

Those types of dishes don’t come easily; they often have to be built up and torn down dozens and dozens of times, and even when there is a chance they won’t connect with the audience. But with that connection between the chef and the diner, gives the restaurant their vitality; this trust, this give and take.”

These people are called chefs.

The other type are cooks.

You’ll find them in places like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Chili’s Grill & Bar. Even your local “pretty good” restaurant.

The difference between the two is vast, of course.

The chef understands the interactions between ingredients and flavors at such a deep base level; he or she can reassemble them into art.

Something that tastes out of this world.

An experience that diners will book a year in advance for. Sometimes even longer in the case of elBulli in Catalonia, Spain, run by chef Ferran Adrià.

The cook, in contrast, can only see his world as recipes. Creations and ideas from others.

The cook starts from a recipe, and tweaks and fiddles from there.

Or if the restaurant is McDonald’s: follow the damn recipe to a tee. No thinking for yourself. Just follow the tried-and-tested (prescribed) system.

I’m going to be quick to point out that the world needs BOTH types of people.

Someone new, young, and hungry; seeking to one day become a Michelin star chef, doesn’t cut their teeth in a McDonald’s or a Chili’s Grill & Bar.

They’ll start washing dishes in the restaurant they one day seek to emulate, watching their idol operate, sucking it all in like a sponge, asking questions, taking notes, thinking deeply.

To a person who sees themselves as a chef-in-waiting; they do it for the calling because they *need* to create world-class food and serve it to people who care about the experience and joy of eating.

They don’t do it because it’s just a job.

A cook, in contrast, rarely follows this path.

Their starting point is working in ordinary restaurants learning from ordinary cooks.

For the cook, it’s almost always a job; a means to an end.

In business, the online marketing we do; the dynamic is similar (if not the same).

The cook-marketer seeks out “recipes” to copy or clone.

The shiny objects, the silver bullets, the tactical loopholes to game some platform.

Because why reinvent the goddam wheel, right?

These recipes (templates; the “follow-my-system” blueprints) are traded like hot commodities on the stock market.

Every cook-marketer wants a piece of the action.


But ask any cook-marketer how many recipes they have…

… and they’ll produce volumes and volumes of worthless recipes; many of which were never followed.

But here’s the INSIGHT that many cook-marketers don’t realize on their quest of opening their restaurant selling cook-inspired mediocre grub.

Denny’s attracts Denny’s customers.

Red Lobster attracts Red Lobster customers; toting gift cards.

IHOP, Applebee’s, and Pizza Hut attract customers seeking an average predictable dining experience on a budget.

Nothing wrong with this; nothing at all.

Loved by millions of smiling kids on a sugar high the world over.

The chef-marketer, having cut their teeth, not by blindly following recipe after recipe, but by learning about “ingredients,” about “flavor profiles,” and playing the long-game to get to where they seek to go.

Like Anne-Sophie Pic.

Anne-Sophie Pic - the daughter of chef Jacques Pic at Maison Pic - three Michelin star Restaurant

Anne-Sophie Pic is the daughter of chef Jacques Pic, and grew up at her family’s restaurant, Maison Pic.

At the age of 23, in 1992 she returned to Maison Pic to train under her father to become a chef. He died three months later, and she moved to working the front of the house.

In 1995, the restaurant lost its third Michelin star, for which she felt she had lost “her father’s star,” and spurred her to return to the kitchen.

In 1997, Pic took control of the restaurant. She had no formal training in cooking. In 2007, she regained Maison Pic’s three Michelin stars.

This was only the fourth time anywhere that a female chef had achieved three Michelin stars.

That same year, Pic was the only woman on French newspaper Le Figaro’s list of the top twenty richest chefs in France.

In 2011 she was named the Best Female Chef by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Anne-Sophie Pic’s customers queue up to pay, on average, $360 for a full food experience. Or $120 for lunch.

This is the long game of the chef.

It’s not for everyone, but it is for the many who care about creating something meaningful.

The INSIGHT, once again, is that the restaurant (or for the chef-marketer: the business they’re building) ATTRACTS the type (or quality) of the customer.

A Maison Pic customer will *never* dine in a Denny’s. Not in a million years. And the same is true in reverse.

Again: there is no right or wrong here, or better or worse, only in the perception of the various customers who CHOOSE to dine where they dine.

Our customers are no different.


Every day I see Denny’s-style online business breaking their nuts to attract customers who are seeking out fine-dining experiences run by chefs, not cooks.

Customers who are BLIND to Denny’s-style businesses.


The starting point is deciding who you want to serve.

Who are the customers you CHOOSE to do business with?

(The restaurant doesn’t come first.)

Pick the right customers you intend to serve.

If you’re after an IHOP-style customer, build an IHOP clone. Following IHOP-style recipes will prob’ly get you 80% there.

But don’t break your back, trying to attract customers not seeking that experience. That won’t work. You’ve built the wrong business.

If you seek to serve Gordon Ramsay-style customers, learn to think and behave like a marketer-chef from the get-go. Build that business.

There’s no shortcut.

No loophole.

No secret backdoor you can buy your way through.

1000s of marketers have tried.

Years later they look back at the wreckage and wonder what went so wrong.

The “shortcut” is to get rich slowly.

Weird, I know.

Counterintuitive for sure.

Which leads me nicely to the call-to-action.

Being a chef-marketer isn’t for most people.

Most marketers choose to be “cooks” or at least choose to behave like cooks.

But because I know the type of customers I attract to my little “restaurant” here on the internet (a damn fine little establishment that serves the weird)…

There’s a pretty good chance that’s you 🙂

Top level illustration of Lean Business for Creators

I created Lean Business for Creators (LBC) for people who want to be “chefs.”

The whole idea behind LBC was to empower chef-style marketers.

People who want to build something unique, something meaningful that serves the weird.

LBC is for THREE types of people:


I’m new to all of this.

I have no business (I earn no money online yet).

I don’t know who to serve.

I don’t know what to build or how to build it.

I don’t know how to attract people worth attracting.


I already have a business.

It’s going pretty well.

But I also want to build something new on the side: a side business.

These were the two core customer profiles I created LBC to serve.

But since attracting some 660 awesome people in (from the previous two enrollments), another use case I hadn’t thought of emerged.


I have a business.

It’s doing ok-ish.

But I know I have blind spots.

I don’t know what I don’t know: I know there is leverage that I’m not seeing.

For this use case: customers are taking ideas and elements from LBC and applying it to their current business. And it’s working.

There is a lot of “how-to” in LBC, but what you don’t get is a template (recipe) you can blindly copy from.

The “Lean Business” you create with LBC will be UNIQUE TO YOU.

It’ll be like your DNA: no other “version” will exist anywhere.

There will never be 1,000 LBC clones knocking about the inter-webs that looks the same, tastes the same, smells the same, and quacks the same.


The three use cases are:

  1. new (trainee “chef-marketer” willing to do the hard work)
  2. build a side business
  3. add to your current biz

If this resonates with you, I invite you to join us.

Now go make some magic.

—André “chef” Chaperon

Yesterday a new LBC customer sent me this:

Feedback from a happy Lean Business for Creators customer

(Kevin asked for his identity not to be revealed.)