Cooking for Fun and Team-Building

By Lain Ehmann

Want to make your meeting an unforgettable event? Then make attendees a part of the entertainment, suggests Tony Conway, CMP, president of Atlanta’s Legendary Events. Conway says lately he’s been called on to devise events that pull people into the festivities. He’s found that whether you’re celebrating a great quarter or putting together next year’s AOP, culinary entertaining makes an impact. Conway has planned everything from informal chili cook-offs to gourmet four-course dinners for executive clients.

Cooking can be a great teambuilding activity for several reasons, says Conway. “It’s not as physical as some teambuilding activities such as rock climbing or white-water river rafting,” he says. Also, virtually everyone likes to eat and almost everyone is willing to don the chef’s hat and apron to take part.

At the chili cook-off, participants are divided into teams. The first challenge is to create a logo and team name during the cocktail hour. Then the team goes shopping, entering the kitchen where they choose from a selection of 100-odd ingredients. The next step is to convene at their cooking station where they create their masterpiece under the watchful eye of a culinary professional to ensure safety and answer questions. Then comes the taste test. “Everybody gets a prize, no matter what,” says Conway, whether it’s for the most creative, hottest or tastiest result.

Another variation on the cooking theme is the gourmet dinner. Conway recently helped 30 executives cook a four-course dinner. While they were cooking, a wine sommelier conducted a wine tasting and participants selected their favorites to accompany their dishes. “It was a lot of fun,” recalls Conway.

Another event arranged by Conway challenged 12 female CEOs to create and decorate a wedding cake from scratch. “It was hysterical,” he says. “None of the 12 ladies had baked a wedding cake.” The challenge was a successful teambuilding exercise because they were all complete novices – and that was okay. They were able to set aside any notion of maintaining an image and focus on learning a new skill together.

Conway says appropriate music can add to the festivities. The four-course dinner and wine tasting was accompanied by The Big Chill soundtrack. “Everyone loves that music,” says Conway. Also, if someone just isn’t into the cooking thing, there are other options. He recalls one kitchen-phobic participant who wouldn’t go near the stove but happily hand-lettered menus to accompany the team’s meal.

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