on evolution, not revolution (5/30)

There's an inherent tension between tradition and innovation that exists in nearly every facet of society - a delicate dance between our roots and the change we desire.

And few understood this balance better than Anthony Bourdain.

"Food is everything we are," he proclaimed. "It's an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It's inseparable from those from the get-go."

Yet even if food may be linked to culture and heritage, its industry is also a stage for perpetual reinvention. The newest fads and trends – from celebrity snack lines to gastronomic innovation – come and go within a matter of days.

It’s this same dichotomy, this same juxtaposition between bedrock traditions and evolutionary change, that exists across all pillars, all industries of our modern society. Hospitality is a balance between high-touch service with cutting-edge automation and efficiency. Politics is nothing more than a tug-of-war between preserving institutions and progressive reform. The arts are constantly juggling reverence for the classics and avant-garde experiments.

In each realm, there are ingrained customs, practices, and norms that took centuries (and millions of people) to cultivate. Springs of wisdom, hallmarks of culture passed down through generations that not only communicate identity, but belonging as well.

Yet in the same way, each domain is shaped by the winds of fad, disruption, and the relentless pressure to evolve – the defining characteristic of our modern era.

It's alluring to unquestioningly chase what's new and trendy, just as it's tempting to cling stubbornly to overly-rigid tradition. But true mastery is achieving a cohesive blend - seamlessly integrating our desire for evolution with an unwavering respect for our roots.

Restaurants, hotels, governments, art movements - any institution that endures must do so by walking this tightrope adeptly. Not remaining static in the past, yet not abandoning the foundation.

The world's most revered have found the balance Bourdain recognized. And all that’s left to do, as Chef Daniel Boulud says, is to regard “the future in terms of evolution, not revolution.”