by Matt Alderton | October 27, 2016
More than 75 percent of travelers have been motivated to visit a destination because of a food or beverage activity. That's according to California State University, which recently surveyed more than 2,500 travelers from 10 countries. More than 80 percent, meanwhile, say they learn about food and drink when they visit a destination, which helps them understand the local culture.
With so many people interested in food tourism, it's no surprise that meeting venues are capitalizing on consumers' growing appetite for all things epicurean. In addition to chef-driven restaurants and onsite gardens, they're offering food-themed teambuilding activities for groups. Here are five that are particularly delicious.

Sushi Making Classes

Sushi isn't just a food -- it's also an art form. That makes sushi chefs artists. One of the masters is Chef Jin Hosono, sushi chef at Japengo, an award-winning Japanese restaurant located at Hawaii's Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa. Hosono offers "sushi school" to small or large groups who want to learn the secrets to rolling their own sushi. The hands-on class takes place in Japengo's chic sushi lounge overlooking the Pacific Ocean, where participants are instructed in how to select the right ingredients (including the freshest fish and the correct type of rice), how to prepare those ingredients (hint: a sharp knife and a rice cooker are key), and, ultimately, how to assemble and roll them into beautiful handmade sushi rolls (such as the 50/50 roll with crab, salmon, cucumber, avocado, Hamachi, green onion, ponzu, and lemon; and the Honolulu roll with tuna, avocado, cucumber, and sweet chili, rolled inside-out with tempura "crunchies"). Participants are encouraged to taste their ingredients and rolls throughout, and even leave with recipes they can consult when they're making their own sushi at home.

Competitive Chili Cook-Offs

If you want to add a little heat to your meeting -- both literally and figuratively -- Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, VA, has just the thing: a competitive cast-iron chili cook-off that promises to add spice to your event. Designed in the style of a competitive cooking TV show, teams of three to five people each receive a basket of fresh seasonal mystery ingredients that they must chop, baste, blend, and boil into their own championship chili as they race against the clock. At the end, teams must face an esteemed panel of judges that will score their concoctions based on quality, teamwork, neatness, plate presentation, use of ingredients, and flavor. Winners are chosen in three categories -- originality/presentation, teamwork, and best use of ingredients/flavor -- and are served to the group as part of a post-competition dinner buffet. Victory has never tasted so sweet -- or so spicy.

'Line-to-Table' Fishing

Trying to decide between a food- or sports-based activity for your attendees? At the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa, and Casino in Incline Village, NV, groups can enjoy a "line-to-table" activity that gives them both. Through a partnership with local boat rental company Action Watersports, groups of up to 75 can book a fishing charter during which they fish the clear blue waters of Lake Tahoe for species such as kokanne, salmon, and brown, rainbow, and lake trout. After the afternoon excursion, the group's bounty is cleaned on the boat, then hand-delivered to the resort's Lone Eagle Grille restaurant, where Chef Shane Hammett uses it to prepare a custom meal based on the group's tastes and the type of fish caught. It's fun, flavorful, and sustainable.

Cupcake Decorating

Attendees with a sweet tooth will give your meeting rave reviews when it takes place at Historic Kent Manor Inn in Stevensville, MD. That's because the hotel offers a Cupcake Challenge activity that can take place either before or after a meal. Available for groups of eight to 20, the premise is simple: Teams receive a batch of plain cupcakes that they are subsequently challenged to decorate in a way that symbolizes the team, the company, the theme of the meeting, their positions at the company, or any other theme the meeting planner can envision. The venue provides a variety of cupcake design supplies, tools, and assorted decorating materials to help teams turn their concepts into reality. In addition, each team receives materials to create a display of their finished cupcakes, the best of which will receive a prize. Finally, participants enjoy their icing-capped creations. A gingerbread house building challenge also is available.

Pizza Making

Nothing says "New York" quite like New York-style pizza. At Pizza a Casa Pizza School, groups can learn to make their very own. Hands-on workshops take participants step-by-step through the pizza-making process, including making the perfect dough from scratch, simmering the perfect sauce, and stretching, topping, and baking the all-around perfect pie. At the end of the class, participants eat the fruits of their labor and receive pizza boxes for taking home leftovers. They also get extra dough to take home with them and receive an exclusive instruction booklet to help them prepare a mouthwatering, mozzarella-covered snack for their friends and family at home. Finally, all workshops include a festive welcome reception, and drinks are served throughout.