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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