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LA STAMPA

Italian Execs Cook Their Way To Corporate Cohesion

In keeping with their country’s world famous culinary heritage, Italy’s top corporations have abandoned standard team-building activities in favor of group cooking classes.

Chef for a day (IFSE)
Chef for a day (IFSE)
Grazia Longo

TORINO - Pinstripe trousers and smart skirts poke out from underneath aprons. Unruly tufts of hair escape chef hats. But nobody notices. Instead, everyone is totally focused on making the perfect pot roast, all the time keeping an eye on their teammates' movements and the progress of the rival squads.

No, we're not at a cooking competition for aspiring master chefs. The people gathered around the marble counters of the hi-tech kitchens of the Italian Food Style Education organization (IFSE) just outside of the northern city of Turin, are managers from some of Italy's most prestigious companies.

They come to the IFSE, hosted in the charming Piobesi Castle, to learn the art of working well with others. The cooking sessions are a team-building exercise aimed at teaching corporate managers how to improve their ability to collaborate, compete and manage. They are chaperoned at the ovens by star chefs and assistants recruited by IFSE's director, Raffaele Trovato, and its president, Piero Boffà.

The 46-year-old Trovato, a veteran chef, has a penchant for connecting psychology to economics. "Creating a team is hard work. These sorts of events help to teach lessons in collaboration that can be applied to the work environment."

These kinds of team-building classes are increasingly popular in Italy, where retreats amidst pots and pans and egg timers are replacing the whitewater rafting and paragliding outings that had long been popular with corporations.

"The kitchen is a microcosm that mirrors the reality of the office," says Trovato. "If you are not well organized, if you do not know how to coordinate your teammates and how to balance the cooking times with the various instructions, the final result will be a failure. Cooking a dish of prawns or a Sacher cake is an easier and more fun way to learn."

Team building in the kitchen helps develop essential managerial skills. Whether the participants are architects or engineers from construction companies, managers of certification agencies or consultancy firms, or executives as manufacturing groups, the exercise is always the same. The kitchen enables them to work in small groups, to better communicate, to delegate and understand people in the work place.

At IFSE, food is also used as a vehicle to improve communication, and to help managers mature emotionally and develop leadership skills. Participants are also encouraged to have fun. The mangers all get caught up in the act of chopping, frying, and baking.

Each cooking session -- involving some 30 managers, divided into groups of five to eight members – ends with a dinner, giving the participants a chance to appreciate the fruits of their time labor. The sit-down meals also give the amateur chefs a chance to practice some of their newly-honed interpersonal skills.

Read the original article in Italian

Photo-IFSE

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Geopolitics

With The Chechen War Veterans Fighting For Ukraine — And For Revenge

They came to fight Russia, and to avenge the deaths of their loved ones and friends killed in Chechnya. Not wanting to sit in the trenches, they've found work in intelligence and sabotage.

Photo of members of the pro-Ukrainian Chechen group "Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion" posing with weapons

Members of the pro-Ukrainian Chechen group "Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion"

Lydia Mikhalchenko

At least five Chechen units are fighting for Ukraine, with more than 1,000 troops in each unit — and their number is growing.

Most of these Chechen fighters took part in the first and second Chechen wars with Russia, and were forced to flee to Ukraine or elsewhere in Europe after their defeat. Vazhnyye Istorii correspondent Lydia Mikhalchenko met with some of these fighters.

Four of the five Chechen battalions are part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and are paid the standard wages (about €4,000 per month for those on the front line) and receive equipment and supplies.

Chechen fighters say they appreciate that Ukrainian commanders don't order them to take unnecessary risks and attack objectives just to line up with an unrealistic schedule or important dates — something Russian generals are fond of doing.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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The experienced Chechen fighters have taken fewer losses than many other units. Unhappy sitting in trenches, they mostly engage in reconnaissance and sabotage, moving along the front lines. "The Russians wake up, and the commander is gone. Or he's dead," one of the fighters explains.

Some of the fighters say that the Ukrainian war is easier than their previous battles in Chechnya, when they had to sit in the mountains for weeks without supplies and make do with small stocks of arms and ammunition. Some call this a "five-star war."

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