Cooking Team Building v Culinary Team Events: Do YOU See the Difference?

Cooking Team Building

With the popularity of reality TV, there is increasing interest in cooking team building and culinary team events for employees and client appreciation.

Companies are also using recreational cooking:

  • as an alternative to dinner during team building retreats and sales rallies
  • for networking during conferences

A catered meal is sometimes served. Often, the day begins or ends with a business meeting.


Cooking events are:

  • scalable indoor or outdoor pro grams accommodating groups of 4 to well over 200
  • accessible. Change your menu and venue to create cost effective events or luxury gourmet escapades.

Many restaurants, catering services and culinary institutes are hanging out their shingles and promoting "cooking team building". I recently discussed several pitfalls with Julie Burke, President of Tall Order in Vancouver. Tall Order offers specialized culinary team events and a new twist to reality TV inspired events like Cake Boss and Chopped. Julie cautioned:

"You get what you pay for. Many companies automatically opt for the lowest cost provider. With over 25 years of experience in the culinary/hospitality industry, I've attended many events. Some providers pitch "team building" but offer passive cooking demonstrations with little group interaction. Companies should ensure that they make informed decisions based on specific objectives and a clear understanding of the reasons for price differences."

I agree. Julie highlighted another pitfall:

"Many culinary institutes promote and charge for team building but fail to disclose that they are using unpaid student volunteers supervised by a faculty member. How can decision makers make informed choices without transparency?"

The result is that clients think they are saving money when, in fact, they are over-paying for what they are actually getting. It's not an apples to apples comparison.

Another area of concern we discussed was safety. It takes seasoned professionals to create a safe environment, especially if employees have limited cooking experience. My company facilitates cooking team building simulations and organizes cooking team events in Canada, the Caribbean, Asia, and the Middle East. To ensure safety, we decline all requests to serve alcohol before or during cooking. This has cost us some business. We partner with chefs with a proven safety record. A trip to emergency is too late for clients to learn it doesn't pay to be penny wise and pound foolish.

Cooking Team BuildingCooking Team Building

We've also noticed major confusion about the difference between cooking team building and recreational cooking events.

Recreational Cooking Team Events

Upbeat corporate events offered by professional chefs. They include:

  • Cooking contest
  • Dining
  • Judging and prizes

Cooking Team BuildingCooking Team Building

Highly engaging simulations with business-related "take-aways". Professional facilitators and chefs team up to deliver:

  • Phase 1: Briefing Linking Simulation to Business:

    • Menu Design with Brainstorming tools 
    • Shopping Challenge
    • Restaurant Decor Challenge
  • Phase 2: Interactive Cooking Challenge
  • Phase 3: Relaxing and Dining
  • Phase 4: Judging, Feedback & Prizes
  • Phase 5: Debriefing
  • Phase 6: Business Application Exercises

 Add observers to provide feedback and valuable insight into team dynamics.

Cooking team building and cooking team events both have their place. Do you see the difference?


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