Mike Duppenthaler, right,
co-owner of Blue Ribbon Cooking
and Culinary School in Seattle,
cooks up some team building with
a group of clients.
companion program, Las Vegas Team Building,
believes the inherent bonding power of food is one
reason businesses are beginning to take note.
“Breaking bread and enjoying a meal
together are universal items,” says Margles, a
Costco member. “Food brings people together;
it’s just a natural thing.”
PHOTO COURTESY OF BLUE RIBBON COOKING AND CULINARY SCHOOL
Silvia Bianco, of chefsilvia.com, notices a
similar phenomenon during the custom
team-building classes she offers in the
“It’s part of the mystery of food,” says Bianco,
a Costco member. “Without you realizing it
you’re getting to know these people in a powerful
new context, and once that happens you can’t go
back to work and not care about them.”
For Margles, a chef with an MBA, team
building with cooking was a natural merging of
her two passions—business and food. And
though her team-building events emphasize
fun and camaraderie, her clients also practice
skills that apply in the office.
“Many lessons in the kitchen translate to
the corporate world,” Margles says. “In fact, the
kitchen represents a microcosm of the working
world, with deadlines, decision making and
cooperation necessary to succeed.”
Another benefit of cooking
is its all-inclusive nature. While
some of its team-building competitors (rock climbing, obstacle
courses, paint-balling and the
like) highlight physical limitations, cooking tends to level the
Back at Blue Ribbon, an hour
h as passed and the energy level and
c ooperative spirit are tangible.
G ood-natured chatting and hearty
laughs blend with the sounds
of whisking, slicing and banging. Later, the culinary creations are judged, with the chocolate,
crab and sushi groups winning top honors.
At 6: 30 p.m., after several hours of cooking,
networking and snacking, the group files out,
sharing a communal connection that wasn’t
there a few hours prior.
“You see these people come together,” says
Vanessa Johns-Webster, Blue Ribbon’s director
and a Costco member, “and at the end you see
them sit down with all the food they’ve prepared—all that they’ve created together. That’s
what being a team is all about.” C
Recipe for success
mix it up in the kitchen
By Peter Malcolm
ON A RECENT FRIDAY afternoon, accountants from KPMG Seattle and would-be employees are donning their aprons for their own
version of Iron Chef at Seattle’s Blue Ribbon
Cooking and Culinary School. The local branch
of the international audit, tax and advisory firm
regularly brings campus recruits interested in a
career in public accounting to Blue Ribbon
( www.blueribboncooking.com) for a few hours of
cooking, eating and networking.
A murmur of light-hearted chit-chat emanates from the group, but some of the participants seem a bit on edge in this new
environment. The group of 50—half recruits,
half employees—are divided into six teams,
each with a featured ingredient and each headed
by a professional chef. They are given a recipe,
supplies and an hour to prepare enough bite-sized appetizers for the entire group.
Let the bonding begin.
For years, companies have sought activities
that promote team building. And for more
years still, people have been cooking and eating.
It was only a matter of time before the two
ingredients were mixed.
The result? An
and team building—and a fun,
effective way to
strengthen personal bonds within o rganizations.
Take the case of one Blue Ribbon client,
Work Tank Seattle, an ad agency. Cynarah
Alcantara, a Work Tank account manager,
brought her in-house creative team and a group
of clients to Blue Ribbon for what she hoped
would be an afternoon of bonding between two
entities that seldom interact.
“It was funny: When we first arrived everyone was doing their own thing and staying
within their comfort zone,” Alcantara says. “By
the end of the event—after all the cooking,
chopping and eating together—the two worlds
had mixed and everyone had a great time.”
Similar team-building classes are offered
across the country. Catherine Margles, president and founder of Creative Cooking School
Inc. ( www.creativecookingschool.com) and its
Peter Malcolm is a Seattle-based writer and occasional contributor to The Costco Connection.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.