by Jay Kitterman, consultant, LLCC Culinary Institute
Many in our community still do not realize there are opportunities to experience the Lincoln Land Community College state-of-the-art culinary labs other than by taking semester long college classes for credit. Our short term community cooking and baking classes are very popular and range from baking bread to making gnocchi. Another opportunity is through our team building program.
A few weeks ago, we hosted Hanson Professional Services in our culinary labs for a team building experience. Fifteen people from Hanson came together and prepared tapas dishes under the direction of LLCC culinary specialist, Chef Sean Keeley. Most foodies in the community are familiar with Chef Sean from his days at Ross Isaac’s. The Hanson people were divided into three teams and competitively prepared tapas.
The options for our team building program are unlimited. For those that want to be very competitive, we have the “Iron Chef” night. Just like the popular television program, each team is given a mystery basket of food items and the opportunity to create a meal. Similar to the office, success for this event is based on planning, good leadership, delegation and direction. Often a judge from the company will determine the best of the best based on taste, presentation, creativity and teamwork.
For Hanson, CEO Sergio (Satch) Pecori and guest judge Mike Aiello from Troxell Insurance served as judges. Team building experiences include “Build a Burger Challenge,” “Chocolate Challenge,” “Pizza, Pizza” (you would not believe the toppings that are provided), and “Sushi, Sushi.” If the company chooses not to be competitive, they also have the option to come together in our lab, select a dinner theme such as “Julia Child” or “Night in Havana” and watch the chef prepare and explain the various steps and then dine. We are very accustomed to meeting any individual dietary challenge group members may have including lactose, vegetarian, gluten or nut-free and can customize a class around any theme/cuisine you select.
The success of most companies relies on the ability for the team to work together effectively. A cooking team building exercise is a delicious way to not only promote each team member’s self-confidence and self-esteem, but also enhance how well these members work together as a team. With cooking team building exercises, each team member has a role to perform during the meal preparation. This helps everyone learn new skills and practice working on a single project. Another benefit of culinary team building exercises is that it can help foster cultural awareness and diversity by learning how to cook a variety of international/ethnic dishes, ideal for offices that are comprised of people from different backgrounds.
I have had the wonderful opportunity to observe all the activity in the kitchen, and just like in the real world, teams that start with a plan are normally very organized and are often the winners. For others, the effort starts out with total chaos and usually ends in failure. Luckily, this is a safe learning environment. Throughout the experience, Chef Sean (or guest chef), and our culinary student assistants encourage, instruct on various cooking techniques, and provide guidance. Of course, the best part of the program is when everyone gets to dine while we do all the dishes. For more information on our team building program visit www.llcc.edu/culinary-team-building or email me at email@example.com.
Chef Sean provided us the following recipe from the Team Tapas Challenge.
24 Medjool dates (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup soft goat cheese or blue cheese
12 strips thin bacon, sliced crosswise
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. With a small sharp knife, make a slit in one side of each date and remove the pit.
3. Stuff about 1 teaspoon of cheese into the cavity.
4. Wrap 1/2 slice of bacon around each date. Secure with a toothpick.
5. Place on a rimmed baking tray (lined with parchment paper) and bake for 10 min.
6. Remove from oven, turn each one over and bake for a further 6-8 minutes. Repeat this step one more time, or until bacon is cooked. Cook longer if you prefer crispier bacon.
Drain on paper towel. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat. Guy Fieri