It was not even 08h00, and the Quad at the Lodox office was already a hive of activity: four teams had gathered to set up their work spaces to prepare their specialty meals. This quarter’s brief for the team-building event had been for a curry cook-off.
Team Spring Curry decided on a very light, breezy and colourful theme with their décor to coincide with spring in South Africa. The table had crisp white linen, neat and simple lines, and there were flowers in a vase. The team delighted the judges with a delicate fish and vegetable curry, served with chilled drinks or wine. Even though neither the delicious food, nor the elegant décor won the judges over in the end (competition was fierce at this cook-off), this team secured the “Best team spirit” award for all team members participating with enthusiasm and co-operation.
Next up was Team Scary Curry, which had gone with a Halloween theme. The Joker invited the guests into a cosy spider web-engulfed gazebo and then called on the Children of the Night to serve the meal. With Black Sabbath creating the ambiance, ghouls wearing masks reminiscent of Munch’s “The Scream” lumbered to the table one by one, bearing the delicious chicken curry and rice in hollowed out pumpkins. Every soul present at the cook-off was spellbound by the spectacle. The only sound was the salivating of the ghouls, and hysterical laughter from the judges. The food was accompanied by freshly made rotis and freshly prepared chutney, along with a wide selection of sambals.
Third up was Team Hot Stuff which had gone to a lot of trouble to cook an authentic Thai beef curry using hard-to-come-by exotic ingredients and spices. So serious about the cooking was the chief chef that it was impossible to chat to him during the preparation because he was concentrating so much. At least he became only a little grumpy by such intrusions – real celebrity chefs seem to lose their hair completely. A lot of attention had been paid to detail and décor, and the meal was rounded off with some Thai dancing girls, albeit on a small laptop screen.
The final stop for the judges was with Team Banana Boys which served a Durban lamb curry as a bunny chow. The Indian music and the décor in the gazebo were reminiscent of a small family-run restaurant in an Indian market. The judges seemed way too familiar with the contestants and went so far as to award bonus points for the bunches of bananas that were hanging under the gazebo. Amid accusations of attempts – no fewer than FOUR!! – to exert undue influence on the judges, and with a top-heavy presence of senior managers on the team, the Banana Boys were then given two demerits, placing them a tied second withTeam Scary Curry. That left the way open for Team Hot Stuff to take top honours for this year’s final quarterly team-building master chef event.
It was refreshing to see the variety of ways in which the brief was interpreted. Team members worked well together to produce an experience that was well-rounded, with colourful décor, tasty food and a fun day. Who would have thought that a company made up largely of engineers and technical people would produce such splendid meals which were not just a braai (barbeque). The incidental spying on other teams to see what they were planning, the good-natured rivalry and the ribbing and teasing during the event simply added to the fun of the day, and ensured that the bar for the next quarterly event would be set even higher.