Sometime last January, I was locked in a room for one of those 10 hour corporate offsite strategy days. Except this time the working day extended into the night with a mystery activity and location that not even the PA would spill the beans on. I still hadn’t figured out what we were doing until a friendly man opened the door, kitted out in full chef regalia and behind him, a glimpse of the stunning backdrop of the Sydney skyline bordering on dusk.
Eyeing off all the cooking equipment I realised I was to be part of a team building event with my work colleagues that involved us running our own restaurant for the night. The friendly face that welcomed us was that of Victor Pisapia, former head chef of acclaimed Rattlesnake Grill in Neutral Bay, Sydney.
From the get go, his American east coast ‘Nue Yorker’ style accent had us all enthralled. He was extremely knowledgeable and could answer any obscure culinary question thrown at him. This guy was pumped and you could see the people who’s definition of cooking is ‘microwaving macaroni and cheese’ come around to the idea of having to… ahh.. that scary word .. cook!
It was obvious a lot of preparation had gone into this prior, as Victor knew all our names (so the named chef hats might have helped a little) but he also knew little bits about all of us, for example that I wasn’t an overly talkative person, so he kept involving me in conversation. I even got reprimanded for the perplexed wtf look I had on my face when I arrived, (I was really just trying to figure out what was going on!!)
It was clear this was going to be more than just one of those forced ‘we’re all happy work colleagues’ team building events. This was an educational experience.
After being split into groups, we were taken through food preparation skills, safe knife handling and rocking chopping techniques. I showed off a little too much with my Furi knife and answering questions about mincing garlic with rock salt and the difference between Cilantro and Coriander (there is none).
For my efforts, I ended up getting lumped with the most challenging dish, BBQ Pepita Crusted Salmon wrapped in banana leaves. I was paired up with our team’s new personal assistant who had only started the week earlier. Cooking with her gave me the opportunity to know her that I wouldn’t have got at work because our paths didn’t cross very often. We divided up the tasks of preparing the paste and the deboning and portioning the salmon. With all our work mates dishes finished, they kicked back with a glass of wine and soaked up the beautiful night skyline view. We were busy tying pretty little twine bows on our bamboo leaf parcels and hovering over the beast of the BBQ that was on the veranda.
The night was a blast, disco classics pumping in the background and the finished spread of food was banquet-like. We all enjoyed the meals that we’d prepared from scratch.
Even though it had been an exhausting day leading up to the cooking team building, the energy Victor and his chef assistant had motivated us all to the next level.
Team building events, I’ve previously survived a few. Building the tallest tower from bits of toilet rolls and newspaper. Climbing up trees and then leaping into thin air, proving somehow, that the people you work with are relieved you didn’t die and now have a greater appreciation for you.
This wasn’t about survival, it was about enjoyment.
That night all 11 of us shared a lot of things, utensils, ingredients, benchspace and a lot of laughs. Back in the office we talked fondly of the experience for weeks after and felt like we knew each other just that little bit more
At the end of the night I took one of his business cards, as I do with most new businesses I come across for pure purposes of spying on their existing website. So that’s how I came to meet Victor Pisapia, who is now, through VictorsFood one of my web development and SEO clients.
In the next instalment, I’ll take you through a case study of VictorsFood as a client. From the suggestion of redesigning an outdated website that not even Google could find, to the piece de resistance a few months later, a newly created website fit for the web 2.0 world.