Forget about ropes courses and trust falls—these days, companies are sending employees into the kitchen to chop and sauté their way to team unity.

“Cooking is the new wave in corporate team-building exercises,” claims an article in The New York Times titled “Wielding Kitchen Knives and Honing Office Skills” (registration required). The success of Food Network shows such as Iron Chef have brought new focus on cooking as a team or competitive activity.

According to the article, “Cooking schools across the country are expanding to meet demand. Last year, Hands On Gourmet, a company in San Francisco, tripled the number of chefs it has on call, to 32. Cooking by the Book, a company based in New York, did 178 team-building events, a 24 percent increase over 2005.”

As the article explains, participants “might spend a leisurely hour assembling a meal together or split up and go cleaver to cleaver in a race against the clock.” Just better hope your boss is a graceful loser when your amuse-bouche beats his.

Bibby Gignilliat, the owner of Parties That Cook … said the change of scenery makes people see their colleagues in a different light. ‘It breaks down your stereotype of people in the office,’ Ms. Gignilliat said. ‘You might not especially like someone you work with, but suddenly you’re working on a recipe with them and you see they’re a really good cook.”

In the words of another organizer of these team-building cooking challenges, “Food is a universal language and nothing brings people together better than creating a meal.”

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