The Beauty of freaks: A special business model of chefs and mountain guides

I just had the pleasure to spend sometime with two passionate freaks and both have built a business around their uniqueness and idiosyncrasies. The idea behind this post is to inspire you to find YOUR business model for YOU. Do not copy somebody else but find something that fits YOU and YOUR unique skills.

I spent the last week ski mountaineering in Italy in Valle Maira (south east of the piedmont region, east of Cuneo). It was a very enjoyable vacation with lot’s of fun, work and pleasure but also with learnings I want to share with you.

I learned from two people, Lucas Iten, our mountain guide and chef Enrico Crippa from the two Michelin star restaurant Piazza Duomo in Alba. Both are passionates. Both are freaks.

Mountain guide Lucas Iten

The first freak I encountered was our Swiss mountain guide Lucas Iten also called Mountain Geier. Actually, Lucas is not really customer-oriented; he is just the best in finding the best run under the present circumstances. And the best run is not really defined by the customer but the possibilities of the day. And if that means to climbed 1700m than you better ascend.

You have to fit to Lucas. When you do, you have one of the best times possible in the mountains. He loves the runs; he is like a child with all his enthusiasm and joy. He is childlike but very professional in regard to planing and the risk of avalanches. He loves the days out in the mountains and loves to share his enthusiasm. We found runs local alpinist were surprised that you could make them.

Early in life, Lucas knew that the mountains will be his life. In a young age, he climbed the Eiger Northface and did everything to avoid things he was not the best at like school.

Lucas has joined forces with a Bergpunkt, mountain experience travel agency. And like Lucas, the business model of Bergpunkt is not focused on end-customers but at their partners, the mountain guides. Remember that you need a value proposition not only for your customers but also for your key partners. Take a look at the canvas.

Bergpunkt’s business model targets creative and crazy mountain guides. For these kinds of mountain guides, Bergpunkt is a perfect partner, taking over all the things a mountain guide tries to avoid like administration and booking of guests. And by that, they get the “best” mountain guides and thereby Bergpunkt’s program is very attractive for end-customers like me. Lucas is not the only freak at Bergpunkt. All mountain guides I have experienced are just exceptional and in a very positive way out of the norm. They are freaks!

Chef Enrico Crippa

The other freak is the chef of the restaurant Piazza Duomo in Alba. I do not know much about him personally but his kitchen is that of a passionate freak. Since he is 16 he is into gastronomy. Now, he is just under 40 and has 24 years of experience and still has the passion needed. Starting his own restaurant Piazza Duomo in 2005 he got his first Michelin star after two years, the second after another two years. So let’s see if he will get the third.

As a youngster he started his career with the first Italian chef with three Michelin stars, Gualtiero Marchesi, considered to be the founder of modern Italian Cuisines. Other stations of his professional life were at other three Michelin star chefs like Antoine Westermann. To learn more, he left for Japan to learn a different style of cooking and the result at Piazza Duomo is breathtaking.

We had a perfect dinner with 11 courses they called Tradizione e Innovazione, a perfect blend of traditional ingredients and very innovative but still tasty preparation. Enrico Crippa combines the tradition of the Alba region with the molecular cooking style in a very good and creative way.

And also Enrico has developed a very good business model which allows him to focus on what he is best at, cooking. He joined forces with the Ceretto family to open his restaurant in Alba. The Ceretto family, a well-know winery family, wanted to put Alba on the gourmet map and with Enrico they found their partner. A perfect combination of business sense and culinary delight.


We see here a very special business model, the model of freaks and passionates. This model has some idiosyncrasies that makes the model so special like the freaks themselves:

  • Either take it or leave it. Both have in common that you either like what they do with passion or you leave it. They do not bend themselves for customers that do not fit.
  • You cannot copy it: You cannot copy their business model since they have unique competences and strengths.
  • Focused on strengths: Both have worked on their strengths and not on their weaknesses.
  • Complementaries needed: Both have found partners that supplement their skills. They concentrate on what there are good at and leave the rest to others that understand and foster their uniqueness.
  • Not scalable: Such a business model is not scalable. The uniqueness is build around the persons and their competencies. But as long as you can live well from it, why must everything be scalable?

The most important point is that there are so many different business models around. There is not one fits all. Find the business model that suits you.

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