Tag corporate event

Parties That Cook Runs with the Best: Nike Corporate Kitchen Challenge

Nike fun!It’s been a while since we heard from our Portland team, so let’s check in with them, shall we? There’s been a flurry of exciting activity up there, but luckily Carolyn was able to give us the scoop on a recent Kitchen Challenge! As you may recall from the blog a couple weeks ago, the Parties That Cook Kitchen Challenge is a distinctive mix of The Apprentice and Iron Chef. Fast-paced and competitive, the event never fails to get the creative juices flowing while bringing out the fun inner chefs of our guests. Our latest international corporate group from Nike was no exception!

In Portland, there’s no better place to host a Kitchen Challenge than at one of our favorite venues, Jeld-Wen Field, home of the MLS Portland Timbers Soccer Team. You can’t escape the competitive spirit! Before revealing the secret protein, starch and vegetable, Portland Lead Chef Laura began this cooking competition by presenting entertaining cooking tips and tricks. Teams would be working with flank steak, orzo pasta, and green beans. Preparation, techniques, and additional ingredients would be up to the team members. As usual, the only recipe we provided was for dessert: Boston Cream Pie Trifle with Strawberries. Yum! As Laura counted down to the start of the timed hour of cooking, anticipation built, and then the hustle and bustle began!

Nike Kitchen Challenge Team 1Both teams came up with dishes that represented its members – one team had an Asian influence from four of their teammates, and the other team added an Italian flair to their orzo pasta by making it orzo “risotto”. All the food was very creative and delicious!

Nike cooking competition team 2Ruby, our Nike host, graciously told Laura that the Kitchen Challenge was “fun and engaging because it offered both structure and the opportunity to think creatively and play.” High compliments indeed! Seeing as the food was delicious and the guests had a marvelous time, I’d say our PDX team scored a perfect 10 on providing the framework for another great event. Good job team!

The Kitchen Challenge: A Mix Between Iron Chef and The Apprentice

Being a part of the Parties That Cook family means seeing and participating in the entire event process. Though I will primarily be working in the office this summer, I need to understand exactly what our fabulous chefs, sous chefs, servers, and dishwashers experience every day during our events.

On my second day at PTC, I was the server at a Kitchen Challenge corporate event. What is a Kitchen Challenge, you say? This high energy culinary battle walks the line between Iron Chef and The Apprentice. And let me tell you, if you haven’t yet been to a Parties That Cook event, get to one. STAT.

Let’s break it down.

The Set Up: We loaded the van and headed off along the Coastal Highway (quite the treat for a girl from the middle of the country) to one of the most gorgeous spaces I have ever seen. Our venue was Cypress Meadows, a modern building with stunning views and superior facilities. The patio looks off into a sweeping view of flowers and provides an enticing glimpse of the ocean just beyond the meadow. If this isn’t bliss, I’m not sure what could possibly measure up. It was soon time to stop smelling the roses, however, as we had a job to do. In the efficient manner of a well-oiled machine, we unloaded and set up for the incoming corporate group with no mishaps beyond a few missing napkins. Even the mystery of the misplaced napkins was quickly resolved by a hasty call to headquarters. Crisis averted. Then the real fun began.

As our guests trickled in, it was obvious who was friends with whom and who didn’t know the others as well. Clearly, this was a group that would benefit from being forced out of their comfort zones and into some team building activities. After everyone “aproned up”, they listened to Heather (our Lead Chef) go over the basics. No throwing knives (this isn’t a Ninja exercise), watch out for hot objects, these are the rules… Ready… Set… Go!

The Game: Teams are given sixty minutes to create a delicious meal that includes a specific protein, starch, and a vegetable. (Not to worry, there was a dessert, too. But unlike the other courses, we provide a recipe for the sweet finale.) The real challenge is that teams must work together, utilizing skills, ideas, and ingredients from the pantry to concoct something award-worthy. Final dishes are judged on creativity, taste, and the teamwork observed during the cooking process. With secret ingredients of chicken, green beans, and quinoa, I watched teams play on their favorite tastes and skills to come up with an appetizing menu.

I spent my time floating between stations, mingling, playing my hand at paparazzi, and helping keep the surfaces clear. What impressed me most was how even the shyest members of the group were soon smiling and laughing over mistakes while simultaneously trying to figure out solutions. The rice is boiling over?! You turn down the heat while I remove the pot until the water simmers down a bit. You love bacon?!? Ok, if you cook it up, we’ll figure out a way to work it into the dish as garnish! These are only some of the ways I watched these teams bond and listen to each other.

Both teams made our delectable Forbidden Rice Pudding with Mango and Toasted Sesame Praline for dessert. Guests did a spectacular job making sure the Praline was thin and gloriously crispy while the rice pudding’s deep purple colors and muted sweetness complimented the tart, yellow mango. Team 1 came up with an impressive meal: Quinoa with chopped vegetables (carrots, bell peppers, onions, green beans), which reminded me of fried rice, and grilled chicken with a flavorful rub. Team 2 was not to be outdone: Quinoa with nuts and green onions, chicken cooked in wine with mushrooms and onions, and steamed carrots and green beans.

The Finale: As the two teams sat down to enjoy their meal together, PTC chefs judged the submissions. Guests swelled with pride upon first bite, and there was no shortage of playful teasing. This is exactly what Parties That Cook is all about. So much of positive interaction occurs in and around the kitchen, and by helping companies connect into that space we help them draw out the best of their employees. It was amazing to see PTC in action, and I cannot wait to experience more events!