Drive home key company messages by cooking and eating together.

STORY BY LEONA WATSON

It’s hard to imagine, but 10 years ago, cooking as a team building idea didn’t exist. Then in 2001, Cheeky Food Group started an industry in itself and now runs over 300 interactive cooking events each year across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
And whilst there seems to be a few similar offerings, Cheeky has developed a reputation as a leader in delivering an ‘event’, not just a cooking class. In fact, think fun and lively chefs, music, staging, drinks and theming and you start to see the Cheeky difference.
Being part of the events industry they understand the need to be entertaining and engaging, rather than just teach someone how to cook. The cooking itself isn’t even
top of the priority list, but the food is always sensational.
The chef/presenters are entertainers in their own right, ego-free, and unlike many, they do very little demonstration. Instead they entice the colleagues to get in and have a go, as they play the latest music, with teams enjoying a glass of wine as
they cook, flambé, chop, sizzle and bond together.
And then of course their reward is to eat and enjoy their creations together.
After 10 years and with nearly 60,000 people having cooked with them, they’re the recognised world-wide leaders in their field – whether the event is for a chief executive officer and their senior management team or for 1000 people on a conference.
Located in Sydney and Melbourne, but totally portable, Cheeky is highly sought after for inbound tours, conferences and larger groups looking for exciting meal and team building options.

Team building

Anyone appointed to the co-ordination of conferences and team-building activities will understand that sourcing an activity that is fresh, fun and innovative can be a real challenge. Especially when the group is larger and you need an alternative to traditional ‘high-five’ bonding activities.
Cheeky run interactive Welcome Cooking Dinners, to workshop lunches to inspire people for an afternoon of serious conference content, or Cocktail Cooking Parties to get everyone chatting and talking together before a gala event.

Key messages & conference themes

Cheeky delivers more than just a fun event; they’re also strategic, in terms of driving home key company messages. Director Leona Watson says, “We tailor the events to ensure they are relevant to each client. For example if they’re in sales, we focus on food presentation. If they’re research scientists, we focus on attention to detail and use it as a winning element in following recipe instructions. By providing an experience that has relevance to their own work situations, people can absorb more of the key messages briefed to us by the organiser. It’s the difference between a standard cooking class and a team-building event.”

Locations

Cheeky Food Group regularly travels to conference venues of all sizes and locations. “We love the challenge of setting up in a new environment; whether it’s a huge marquee with barely a tap in it, a beach or the country-side,” says Leona.
The underlying goal is to create a fun atmosphere where people can talk, cook and learn new skills together, absorb key client messages and make genuine connections with their colleagues, free from the constraints of the rigid corporate environment.
“Cheeky recently held an event for 550 colleagues at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre” Leona tells. “It was amazing to see over 500 people all cooking together, at the same time, and in such an unlikely venue as a convention centre. It was incredible to watch and a really great choice for this client’s quarterly staff activity,” Watson explains.
This event was actually one of five held for each office across Australia.
There is increasingly popular demand for larger scale events that anyone can participate in. “Finding a team activity for 1000 employees of varying age and fitness level across five states is not easy. Cooking really hits the mark. But it can’t be just a cooking class, or it will fall flat. So it’s important to have many fun and lively options, running from one to four hours that are 100% interactive.”

Venues & trends

In Australia, the trend for these team cooking events seems to be heading towards chic and unusual venues, unique locations, theming and also creating linkage to the company’s corporate objectives. “Our clients are demanding events that show results and that can be tailored and relevant to their group. It’s not so much about the cooking as it is the ‘show’. The entertainment, staging, lights, music and the venue,” Leona shares.
Venues that Cheeky Food Group have used recently include convention centres in each city, and most Crowne Plazas, Sofitels, Sebels, Mantra, Mercure, Hyatt Regency’s and Novotels across Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. “We don’t even need a kitchen,” Watson tells. “We bring our cooking equipment with us and set up by swimming pools, in grand ballrooms & even roof top bars”.
For the conference market, these large scale events are also popular due to the savings on cost and time moving large groups offsite for team building events and meals. “We know the pain of moving a group of several hundred people from one venue to another,” Watson says. “So the fact that we can come on site is a sigh of relief to PCOs and event managers. They can also save by combining their meal and team activity budgets”.

Engaging the youth of our industry

Cheeky has been an avid member of the Australian Conference and Events Industry with Leona judging the Meeting & Events Association Awards (MEA) several times, and being a mentor and presenter to members of Young MEA, an exciting initiative focussed on developing events industry professionals under the age of 30.
Recently Leona and the Cheeky Food Group were involved in MEA’s Annual Conference which hosted a half day seminar specifically for our younger industry members to network and learn tips on how to become even more valuable employees and contributors to their industry.
The group were then treated to a speedy half hour cooking event, held onsite at the Star room level six of IMAX Theatre, at Sydney’s famous Darling Harbour. Not a location you’d expect for a fun cook-up!