The team that cooks and eats together, works better together. From firehouses to offices across the U.S., research consistently shows that when people eat together, they become a tighter-knit group. In today’s competitive markets, a cohesive, productive team is more vital than ever—and the way to get there can be as simple as a corporate cooking class.
No matter our differences, there is something we all have in common: Everybody eats. Eating together encourages a range of healthy activities, including
- Group interaction
- Team cohesion
- Airing of problems
- Discussion of solutions, successes, and challenges
When an office combines cooking a meal with sitting down to eat together, the organization can build strong bonds between employees. Those bonds can carry over from the kitchen to the conference room, enabling problem-solving, improved collaboration, and increased productivity. By engaging your employees in a cooking class, you can build more productive teams and a stronger organization.
Encouraging team work
Corporate cooking classes often work on a similar model as the arrangement in a commercial kitchen, with hierarchies of cooks who specialize in particular tasks. That builds on the brigade-style kitchen model pioneered by 19th-century French chef Georges-Auguste Escoffier, who laid the groundwork for much of modern cuisine, restaurants, and kitchens as we understand them today. (His book Le Guide Culinaire is still considered an essential reference for professional chefs.)
Escoffier believed that a kitchen needed to work in a similar fashion to a military unit, which is the ultimate example of teamwork and effective communication. Having your employees work together in a kitchen encourages teamwork and builds strong interpersonal bonds. After all, just as creating and deploying a massive project can be a multi-person, -team, and -department effort, so is creating and serving a large, multi-course meal.
Connecting on-site workers with remote workers in a fun way
In today’s decentralized workspaces, team members can collaborate on a regular basis without ever meeting in person. While remote work has benefits, meeting face-to-face is another way to grow trust across team members and departments.
Since cooking and eating are such essential parts of human life, even strangers can meet up and bond while preparing a meal together. By bringing together remote and in-house personnel, you can help your team get to know each other, work side-by-side instead of just screen-to-screen, and connect not just online but personally. The end result can grow trust, collaboration, and productivity once everyone returns to their keyboards.
Learning new skills
Not everyone cooks. In 2014 alone, fewer than 60 percent of dinners served at home were cooked at home. A lack of cooking skills could make a cooking event or class feel intimidating to your employees. However, like any other skill, anyone can learn to cook. Just as employees have had to learn how to use computers, productivity suites, new software, smartphones, and more, employees of any skill level can be taught the basics of cooking, such as:
- Reading and understanding recipes
- Preparing and measuring ingredients
- Knife skills
- Essential equipment
- Basics of different types of foods or cuisines
A good cooking class not only introduces people to new ways or thinking about food and preparing food, it can also demonstrate that cooking is approachable. And when people can learn to work with knives and stoves, they may be more open to learning new skills at work too.
Social interaction about something other than work
When we’re on the job, it can be hard to talk about anything other than work. However, our interactions and relationships can benefit from talking about non-work topics such as sports, family, friends, and hobbies. When employees get out of their comfort zones, they can engage not only as colleagues, but as one person to another.
Improving camaraderie outside of the office environment can have benefits in the office too. After all, members of a solid team understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They can work together to shore up weaker areas while augmenting each other’s strengths. Interacting outside of the office or the regular daily grind can help employees understand each other better—and even enjoy each other’s company more. A team that gets along can work well together, which boosts the team’s effectiveness, productivity, and overall value to the greater organization.
Inspiring creativity and innovation
Innovation is a part of any trade or profession. Employees at all levels and roles want a sense of creativity, agency, empowerment, and excitement. When they do, they are more capable of bringing stronger work and better ideas to the table.
Creativity and innovation can be fostered in many ways—especially in a kitchen. Cooking can boost creativity. (There’s a reason we say an idea-in-progress is “cooking,” after all.) When someone is in the kitchen, they focus on prepping and cooking food—but the mind can be freed to think about other ideas in the background. Have you ever mentioned that you had an idea “percolating” in the back of your mind? Like coffee percolating in the pot, ideas can take time to fully develop in the mind. The kitchen can provide creative space for both.
Employees who cook together will have different conversations—about themselves, work, and ideas. The act of cooking doesn’t just produce meals, it could cook up a new project or innovation that helps move the organization forward.
Trying new things (including new foods and food trends)
Cooking together isn’t just a chance to learn a new skill. It’s also an opportunity to try out new foods, push culinary horizons, and literally get a taste of what’s trending and popular. A cooking class can be set up to balance employee tastes and dietary needs as well as what’s current and interesting.
Have you or your employees wondered about:
- How to set up a DIY taco bar
- Vegan or vegetarian food beyond salads
- Cuisines from other cultures or countries, such as Thai, Senegalese, Indian, or German
- How to bake
If you want to learn about it (and taste it!), then odds are you can find a culinary class that can customize its offerings to your organization and employees.
No matter the event, class, or theme, cooking together can cook up far more than good food. When employees work together to prepare food, they can generate new ideas and build stronger bonds with their colleagues. A good corporate cooking class can cook up not only a great meal but good ideas, stronger teams, and more innovation throughout your organization.