by Andrea Doyle | February 24, 2014
Cooking competitions make for excellent teambuilding opportunities, and Atlanta-based culinary and event company The Food Movement has seen the results with its own cooking-show inspired activities. The company has created culinary challenges reminiscent of the Food Network TV show Chopped, which pits four chefs against each other in a race to turn mystery ingredients into amazing meals.
The Food Movement built a sprawling commissary food kitchen in 2012 to support its two food trucks, Hail Caesar and Pressed for Time. Today, there are 10 other food trucks that also use the kitchen.

Paul McKeon, a Food Movement partner, amateur chef, and former partner at Ketchum, one of the world’s largest public relations agencies, saw potential in the 1,800-square-foot commercial kitchen. “I did a lot of teambuilding when I was in the PR world and thought we could easily marry a teambuilding component to our business with food,” says McKeon.

And marry they did. Companies, including Adobe, Pfizer, Deloitte, and Aflac have used Food Movement’s culinary challenges to build higher performing teams.

A group of 35 from Wells Fargo Multifamily Capital division, coming in from all over the country, had a meeting in Atlanta last year. McLean, VA-based Beth Schaeffer, a Wells Fargo administrative assistant who planned the meeting, wanted to include an activity that also combined dinner. The Food Movement’s Culinary Challenge was ideal, according to Schaeffer.

As the group enjoyed appetizers, wine, and beer, the challenge was explained. Then the group broke into teams, tied on their Wells Fargo aprons, and got cooking. “Everybody had a lot of fun but it was definitely a team- building experience as well,” says Schaeffer. “Each team had to effectively manage their time, choose a leader, assign tasks, and make a great tasting dish as this was dinner.”

Susan E. Dean, business intelligence and enterprise performance management lead at NCR Corporation, also recently planned an event at The Food Movement, and she lauds it for incorporating all the ingredients to bring a group together and work toward a goal.

“Everyone came out with nothing but great things to say about the experience,” says Dean. “They were also surprised how delicious the food they created actually tasted. Everyone was impressed with themselves and each other for what they achieved.”

Inspiring Teams

Typically, each group is divided into teams that compete against each other. While Food Movement chefs provide menus as guides, there are plenty of opportunities for creativ- ity by adding ingredients, varying techniques, or being as innovative as each team likes. In the end, teams are judged in three categories: time, presentation and plating, and taste. A few curve balls are thrown in along the way to see how each group handles a challenge. Dishes are presented and winners are announced in the Food Movement’s new event space that was built next to the kitchen. It can accommodate up to 80 and features state-of-the-art A/V equipment and first-rate furnishing and lighting. After awards are presented it’s time to enjoy each team’s labors.

“Everyone gets very engaged. They have a great time,” says McKeon. “It sure beats having the group hang out at the bar.”