HR editorial tries... team-building in the kitchen

We tested whether cooking together builds negotiation, decision-making, teamwork and meeting deadlines skills

How would you like to cook a meal for your boss? While that might cause you to shiver with horror, it is exactly what Oracle has invited its employees to do at team-building evenings at London’s Cookery School in Little Portland Street.

And it's maybe not as terrifying as it seems. Firstly, the team has a trio of experienced chefs by their side to help them prepare three delicious courses. Secondly, HCM strategy director at Oracle Andy Campbell will be rolling up his sleeves to help his team, and inviting them to share the meal over a bottle of wine afterwards.

Cookery School has been running corporate cookery events for more than 10 years, and offers a learning experience it claims will help to develop skills that can be taken back to the workplace. Skills such as negotiation, decision-making, teamwork and meeting deadlines will all be tested in the heat of the kitchen.

When I join them to try this team-building experience the menu is inspired by Spanish cuisine: salted cod balls, chorizo salad and chicken paella, finished with a dessert of sherry and raisin ice cream. We were sorted into teams, and Joey, Peter and I were tasked with making the dessert and the cod dish.

“We run events all the time, but they tend to be formal dinners,” Campbell explains. “However, something like this is a much more engaging environment. It allows you to have the sort of conversations you might not be able to have in a more serious setting.”

Straight away our group had a list of tasks we needed to delegate. Joey began stripping seeds from vanilla pods, while Peter shredded herbs for seasoning the fish balls. I cracked raw eggs into my hands, separating the yolks from the whites to make creamy custard for our dessert. On the other team Paul diligently pan-fried chicken thighs and Nancy tossed vegetables for the salad.

Finally, the last oven door closed, and we could hang up our aprons and scrub the garlic from our fingers. Settling at the table for a well-earned glass of wine and dinner was where the real conversation started, as we discussed the joys and disasters we faced when creating our meal.

Even though we’d hardly been able to chat during the preparation, having that shared experience instantly gave us something to discuss. Coming together to create something had helped us bond.

“There’s a nice feel to it,” says Campbell. “It’s not a posh night out, it’s just good food and a great experience.” Bon Appétit!