From The Kitchen – Lessons in Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Teamwork

This morning our Chazen Spain tour officially (sadly!) concluded following an insightful meeting with David Munoz, Chef / Owner of Michelin Award winning restaurant DiverXO in Madrid. For readers of this blog not well versed in the culinary awards scene, think of a Michelin as winning the FIFA World Cup or the Superbowl. At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we walked into the restaurant to meet with Mr. Munoz. Since Monday our group had met with senior leaders across the county, but suddenly found ourselves at an acclaimed restaurant, suited up at 9:45 in the morning, with no plans to eat anything. As a ‘foodie’, I remember thinking that Carlos and Miguel (our Chazen leaders) had to be playing a sick joke on all of us but after we started it didn’t take long for me to figure out that there was much more to this meeting than food.

A true self-starter, Mr. Munoz has an inspirational story. After finishing culinary school and working alongside a number of high profile chefs in London, he (alongside his wife) started DiverXO with NO seed capital. Given the thin, volatile margins in the restaurant business there is no question that this was a huge risk but as he explained to the group, when you love something you’re willing to make sacrifices to achieve the end result, whatever that may be. What was particularly impressive was that he was so balanced and sure about his decision. After speaking about the origins on DiverXO, Munoz went on to offer a lesson on teamwork and leadership that rivaled many of the Spanish leaders that our Group had met earlier in the week. With three Michelin Awards under his belt at the young age of 33, Munoz is clearly doing something right.

After DiverXO, our group headed over to Arroces de Segis for a closing lunch that featured a plethora of Paella, ham, bread and even TWO birthday cakes for Josh Hessan. Carlos and Miguel picked a gem. The food was on point and I had to be rolled out of the restaurant. Needless to say, I am going on a juice diet when I get back to New York.

Away from the event today, I should note that last night (Thursday) Telefonica sponsored an Alumni Club of Spain event featuring Ignacio Conde-Ruiz, a member of the Expert Committee on the development of the Sustainability Factor of Pensions 2013. The event was a welcome treat. The Group heard from a thought leader at the forefront of Tax Reform in Spain, and mingled with a host of notable alumni. For me, the time spent on Thursday night really drove home the point that our Columbia MBA and the CBS Community at large, truly is one of a kind.

Note: Never heard of DiverXO? Worry not! There are plans for a New York location in 2015. Just in time for graduation dinners. Mom, if you’re reading this, please be on the lookout so we can make a reservation.

Link to Meeting with the Prince of Asturias:

Also, be on the lookout for another post that delves into the cultural and business lessons learned following the week in Spain. Thanks for reading!

Nate Walcker ’15, Spain


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