Want to get your group fired up for a training session or sales meeting? Do what Chicago-based professional services firm BDO Seidman LLP did and add a little heat — to the food, that is. Last December, a group of 150 BDO employees kicked off their management training meeting at The Woodlands Resort & Conference Center in The Woodlands, Texas, with a competitive chili cookoff.
The group broke into teams of 10 and began to “shop” for ingredients to use in their original recipes. “We put out tables with every ingredient you could imagine,” says Katie Widmeyer, meeting planner for BDO and organizer of the event. “We had spices, vegetables, pork, beef, venison, buffalo — you name it.”
Donning chefs' hats and aprons, the teams worked together to come up with the best chili recipe they could and then began cooking up their creations. Each group's offering was then judged by the resort's executive chef to keep the competition unbiased.
“We judged them on the quality of their chili, the name they picked for their team, and the overall presentation,” says Widmeyer.
But the event was more than just an “Iron Chef”-style battle; it was an opportunity for the new managers to work together with their teammates toward a common goal. “They really put their all into it,” recalls Widmeyer. “In the office, they often work by themselves on projects for clients, so this gives them a chance to work together to formulate relationships and network with each other.”
And what about all that chili? “We put out all the different variations so everyone could taste each other's creations and enjoy the food.”