Tarrytown House Estate Blog

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Culinary Competitions! Great Teambuilding Activities For Groups

Thank you for taking a moment out of your busy day to read my 1st blog, I am very excited! My name is Stephanie Zapata and I am the National Sales Manager at the Tarrytown House Estate & Conference Center. I’ve focused and specialized in the Insurance and Finance market for over a decade, and in 2005 I became a member of FICP which has deepened my relationships in the industry!

When I was told that I would be adding blogging to my resume it was both exciting and intimidating – why I brought so much angst into this is beyond me.  Truthfully, I knew that all of you, being friends of our group, would enjoy this journey with me and several of you I am sure can relate….Not to mention, I selected something that we all enjoy very much – Food!

I decided to interview our chef regarding a teambuilding activity that is a huge success for us, culinary competitions!  While our Executive Chef, Chris Hettinger has been with us for 11 years now, he was just promoted to Executive Chef 2 years ago and he has brought a wonderful progression! A few years back with the trend in growing culinary awareness Chris was challenged with bringing to the table (no pun intended) a teambuilding program based around cooking. What he brought back has been a tremendous success and has since spurred off additional competitions! Our Estate has several different dining rooms to choose from, which lend themselves to a unique environment as opposed to doing something in a meeting room. We currently offer 5 culinary events with our Executive Chef and they are as follows:

  • Iron Chef – based on the food network reality show, and the fact that so many people enjoy cooking, the idea of being a chef, plus the special attention they get from the folks in the whites!
  • Restaurant Wars – offers participants the chance to create their own restaurant to include decorating, menus, serving, centerpieces and a bit of cooking.
  • Confectionary decorating – Led by pastry chef, Stephanie Kolnick who came to us from WE Networks Amazing Wedding Cakes where she was regularly seen making some pretty incredible confections.
  • Mozzarella cheese making – self explanatory! As a part of our efforts to constantly increase our local/sustainable initiatives, we are always looking to not just source products locally, but to create many of the ingredients on property - from homemade cheeses to our Estate grown collection of herbs. This led to launching this interactive “hands on “clinic.
  • Marinades/Rubs/Chutneys and Salsa – This is an outdoor option for guests to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of our Estates.

In the past I have sold these events but having the chance to interview our chef I learned so much more about the events. Our resident leaders have given us very positive feedback stating not only do they get the teambuilding program but they also have a meal with these activities which adds great value to the event.

We are seeing a comeback in teambuilding and for one of our groups that holds their new-hire orientations a few times per year; they find that it works great for the attendees to learn to work together and open clean lines of communication. Another client had such success the first time that they decided to bring a second group of their executives to the Estate as it was extremely helpful for the group to build interacting relationships and learn each other’s personalities.

The participants love it, they get to ask a lot of questions about cooking, the event is competitive, and it helps build drive for each group to succeed and provides a direct correlation to problem solving, delegating skills, interpersonal skills and creativity! For the resident leaders, they love taking pictures, take notes for their newsletters, see everything come together and they enjoy the judging. Yes, our Chef judges and selects a group to win, one of the key determining factors is participation so if someone does not like teambuilding, it effects their ranking and you can imagine how the rest of the folks feel about that so yes, everyone participates.  In the end the group that wins also gets a prize and that may be a drink coupon in our bar, a recipe book or everyone gets a bottle of wine – Chef Choice :)

When I asked the chef what’s the most crazy, creative or emotional result he witnessed he said, “People have a hidden talent for creativity and plate presentation and surprise themselves; he has even had ties within events because some things are done so well!” He also has seen funny antics such as groups sabotaging another group by stealing items from their pantry table and hiding it but overall it is a lot of fun and the Crème Brûlée torching is always a favorite!

Well, I must say that I am inspired to request this activity as our next managers meeting event, it’s definitely different then a scavenger hunt or regular dinner! I hope you all enjoyed reading my blog as much as I had fun writing it – keep coming back to our site, we are all participating and look to bring you more topics – if you have any suggestions feel free to reach out to any of us, we would love to get your feedback! All the best for a successful 2011!

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