Nearly everyone can relate to food. This relatability makes preparing food as part of a cooking class an excellent medium for fostering personal connections across cultures, religions, families, and health goals. So much can be learned through being curious and paying attention.
Frequently, cooking classes help participants know themselves and others in new ways. Given the right prompts, stories of personal food and cooking experiences get shared. Laughter and fun happen. New appreciation for the humans underneath the work roles emerge.
Through the lens of being used as team-building exercises, cooking classes provide participants with ample opportunity to gain additional skills and bolster health knowledge while working together to create a dish or meal that everyone can enjoy.
During the pandemic, companies began requesting virtual cooking classes as cooking team building activities. The goal was simple: help employees feel more connected to each other by sharing in a common activity outside work. With years of experience designing and teaching in-person cooking classes, I adjusted my mindset from creating live cooking classes to virtual cooking classes.
While I had not previously considered it, I quickly recognized that the benefits of cooking as a virtual team building activity were just as strong as for a live team building activity.
With virtual team building activities like cooking, it’s important to know how to set up for, market, and host them successfully. Read on as I share my top tips for achieving maximum value through using cooking classes, particularly virtual ones, as a team building activity.
Tips for Using a Cooking Class as a Team Building Activity
The purpose of team building is to strengthen trust, communication, collaboration, and motivation among a group of people. For these objectives to be met, it’s important to plan and communicate.
1. Know your desired outcomes
Whether your outcome is to increase fun, health consciousness, confidence, collaboration, and/or communication, it’s important to be clear ahead of time. Your outcomes will help you find the right facilitator with the right class.
2. Know your budget for time and materials
- Time: Knowing that classes are usually 1-3 hours, will the class be during work or non-work hours? Participation tends to increase if team building events are during work hours.
- Ingredients: In an in-person class, the instructor provides the space, the tools, and the ingredients. For a virtual class, participants generally provide their own tools and space. When considering ingredients for a virtual class, there are several ways employees can be supported in obtaining their ingredients.
- Arrange for participants to receive ingredients in a package mailed to their house.
- Provide an ingredient list and monetary vouchers for employees to buy their own ingredients.
- Provide an ingredient list and instruct employees to purchase ingredients with their own resources
3. Communicate with the cooking class instructor
Share your thoughts about what you’d like your team to gain from the cooking class. Ask the instructor how they and their class can help facilitate your outcomes. A few details to keep in mind are as follows.
- Two facilitators: While it’s obvious the cooking instructor is a necessary facilitator, it’s also helpful to have a support facilitator or an assistant. The support facilitator helps manage technology while also noticing who needs extra help, fielding questions, and encouraging additional interactions. In my classes, the support facilitator was often the event coordinator.
- Ice-breaker: Whether the class is virtual or in-person, an icebreaker is a great way to start a class. A simple question that relates to the class content can encourage people to share and interact with ease. For example, if the class is about noodles, asking each person to share about their favorite kind of noodle is an easy way to begin.
- Prep materials provided to students: What do students need for class? For my virtual cooking classes, two weeks before the event, I email an information packet to the class coordinator who then shares it with all registered participants. The packet includes four documents: the recipe, the shopping list, the pre-class prep list, and the equipment list.
- Teamwork activities: How will teamwork be encouraged? Even virtually, teamwork in a cooking class environment is possible. For example, if the class is about how to make a marinara sauce, students can be led through an activity that helps them collaborate to choose seasonings based on scent.
4. Be observant of your employees’ food cultures and dietary preferences
To support all people in feeling welcome, it’s important to be conscious of health issues, dietary preferences, and religious/cultural traditions. Intolerance of food staples such as gluten and dairy are becoming more common. Vegan and vegetarianism are on the rise. Workforces have more international cultural representation than ever before.
Here are some ways to ensure you are prepared to accommodate your employees:
- Surveys: To gain the maximum amount of participation in your cooking class, consider surveying your workforce to learn about dietary needs, preferences, and health goals.
- Request Recipe Adaptability: Based on the information you receive, ask your cooking class instructor to choose recipes that can be adapted to accommodate as many people as possible. Remind them to talk about substitutions and adaptations as part of the class.
- Advertise Adaptability: Let your workforce know their needs have been heard and accounted for. If the class is gluten-free friendly or vegan-friendly, remember to include these details in your promotional materials.
5. Document the Occasion
Whether your cooking class is live or virtual, take photos. In my classes, it was always fun to take a screenshot of everybody with their finished dishes.
6. Solicit Feedback
Ask your participants what they liked and didn’t like about the class! Knowing what worked and what didn’t will aid in planning your next event.
I assure you that keeping these tips in mind when planning your next cooking class team building activity will enhance your employee experience and your company’s desired outcomes.
If you are interested in setting up a virtual cooking class as a cooking team building activity, please reach out and we’ll help you get one scheduled.
To read more about the benefits of cooking read this article.
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