The knives are out for corporate away-days

Worried that your team bungee-jumping could end in tears? Get them bonding over a nice soufflé instead...

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Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Apparently the team-building exercise of choice is no longer an adrenaline-fuelled activity like white-water rafting or parachute-jumping – today’s corporate giants are opting instead for the more sedate charms of cookery courses. So instead of tramping through muddy fields looking embarrassed, employees are relaxing in a cosy kitchen with a nice Chianti and a bit of pork tenderloin. You can see why it’s catching on...

One reason for the growing popularity of cooking courses is that the more adventurous team-building options are about to get a lot more risky. The imminent Corporate Manslaughter Act, due to come into force in April, will mean companies become liable for any injuries suffered by their employees while they’re throwing themselves across a rope bridge on a work away-day. And then of course there's the attitudinal shift. Things like paintballing are probably considered a bit macho and passive-aggressive for our metrosexual day and age – but a creative, people-focused activity like cooking is much more in tune with modern mores.

According to cookery school Venturi’s Table, a leading beneficiary of this trend, there are two major reasons why cooking has exploded (as it were). The first is that celebrity chefs and the rise in consumerism have combined to glamorise it as an activity – it’s now the preserve of TV stars, not dowdy housewives. And apparently, it also reflects the new impetus for companies – particularly CEOs – to present a more human face to their staff. ‘There is no quicker way to help staff realise their boss is 'one of them' by allowing them to see him/ her get flour in their hair,’ the school suggests. ‘Company hierarchies dissolve once the CEO is kneading dough or keeping an eye on melting chocolate’.

Venturi’s Table certainly seems to be getting the recipe right – 22 of MT’s Britain’s Most Admired Companies have already signed up for sessions in its corporate cookery centre, which is decorated to look like a posh Chelsea home. Run by an Italian mother and daughter duo, Venturi’s piles in up to 60 stiffs in suits and helps them to prepare a gourmet feast for themselves – while working their way through a selection of fine wines.

Sounds terrific to us – although a word of warning: if you’re looking to resolve the tensions within your sales team, it’s probably unwise to pay for a team-building day where the warring factions are equipped with a full set of Sabatier cooking knives...

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