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The PA Collective recently held a candidate event at the Cookery School at Little Portland Street, one of our PA Collective partners. The Cookery School is a sustainable cooking school that focuses on educating and encouraging people to get back to good old-fashioned cooking. They host cooking classes of all sizes, from private lessons to classes of over 50 people. On a particularly rainy summer night, they were kind enough to host a pasta-making class to showcase the benefits of a cooking class as a team-building activity for our PA Collective members!
Arrival and brief
When we stepped into the wonderfully organised kitchen space, we knew we had braved the weather for good reason. Stefan, our enigmatic and bubbly teacher, greeted each guest with a glass of wine and left us to nibble artichoke-topped bread while chatting to our PA Collective members.
After a short while, it was time to begin. Stefan instructed us to don our personalised aprons and began briefing us on the menu for the night. We were going to make ourselves ricotta and lemon-filled tortellini with a crispy mint butter sauce, followed by a gooey chocolate fondant. A complete Italian experience, made by those with very little experience!
Two volunteers were pulled from the crowd to mix a batch of pasta dough by finger. That’s right, they had a finger each in the pile of egg, flour and semolina on the bench to imitate a dough hook – a true bonding experience. We all watched on in awe as the mess slowly became a perfect dough ball.
To be able to do get everything finished in the two-hour time slot, we were split into filling and dessert teams. On the filling team, we were instructed to season the ricotta mixture to taste. Following a bit of debate over how much lemon juice, salt and pepper should be added, we took a spoon to the ricotta mix and agreed that our team had superior seasoning skills. Fortunately, Stefan concurred that our mixture was indeed as delicious as we thought it was.
It was finally time to face the Kitchen Aid with its scary mechanical roller – would we conquer it, or would our dough stick to the machine and result in a sticky mess? We took turns feeding dough balls into the machine until they became extremely long and thin – a two-person job quickly turned into four strangers carefully holding and threading the dough together to ensure it was kept at the perfect thickness at all times. We set up a production line where we transferred these long sheets very carefully over to the semolina powdered surface to be folded by the other half of the team.
Stefan’s mantra of ‘less is more’ when stuffing the tortellini was proven true as some of us tried and failed to create the perfect pieces. He jokingly explained there were all different skill levels on the tray, but it was extremely therapeutic to fold and shape the pasta pieces – even if they weren’t perfect in the end!
The delicious result
There were undoubtedly a few casualties in the pot when it came to boiling them, but Stefan was very good to us and only served up the best. With the lights turned down and the kitchen transformed into a dining room before our very eyes, we sat down with another glass of wine and chatted as plates of delicious pasta were served up. It was hard to believe that we were responsible for these little pillows of delight, accompanied by the decadent butter sauce. Throughout the meal, the mood was high as we rode on the wave of our combined effort and success, knowing how well we had worked together to get each element on the plate.
Soon afterwards, the warm and rich chocolate fondant, made by the other half of the team, was served with thickened cream and was the perfect end to a delicious Italian meal.
Once dessert was served, Stefan also joined us and was a fantastic host. Before we knew it, it was well past 9pm, and no one really wanted to leave the lovely, relaxing atmosphere that had been created by working together and sharing stories.
A cooking class is a wonderful option for a team-building activity, with the act of working together towards a common (and delicious) goal encouraging interaction and rapport-building. As most of us were outside our comfort zone, the learning experience itself allowed us to build a closer relationship and bond. It helped that all our aprons were personalised so we could skip the awkwardness of asking someone to repeat their name if we’d forgotten it! The whole experience is set up to get everyone working together as a team, and the opportunity to sit down after the class and eat the meal together was a fantastic way to finish the night.
This is a recap of the first of several events the PA Collective are hosting. If you’re a PA, EA or lifestyle manager and would like to apply to the Collective, please send you CV and LinkedIn profile to firstname.lastname@example.org