San Diego Business Journal

Serving a Purpose

HUMAN RESOURCES: Cooking Uses Ingredients of Team Building By Julie Gallant Monday, May 14, 2012
Karin Eastham, after a long and highly successful corporate career, has developed a unique teambuilding program that brings people together in her kitchen to prepare a team dinner that captures workplace dynamics.

Karin Eastham, after a long and highly successful corporate career, has developed a unique teambuilding program that brings people together in her kitchen to prepare a team dinner that captures workplace dynamics. Photo by Stephen Whalen.

The kitchen can be a great gathering place for parties and is often the hub of family socializing, but who would have ever thought the warm and relaxing setting would be a venue for human resources activities.

As it turns out, two local companies and an author have devised creative ways of putting the kitchen to work for teambuilding exercises that can help employees work together harmoniously, or, at the very least, generate camaraderie that fosters an improved work environment.

Inspiration for corporate teambuilding in a social setting can be found in Karin Eastham’s book, “Cook the Part: Delicious, Interactive and Fun Team Cooking,” published by Crosswalk Press. The book features eight themed menus with complete plans to prepare a team dinner in the comfort of a kitchen and home.

The premise behind the book is that when co-workers gather to cook and dine for an evening, they will experience a fun event that captures workplace dynamics. To begin with, the participants set a goal of creating a fabulous meal. There will be time constraints for completion of that meal. Everyone will have tasks to complete; therefore, each role is critical to success of the team.

Eastham, a Rancho Santa Fe resident, suggests bringing work teams of eight to 12 people into the kitchen where they can learn about interacting with others, role flexibility, and authenticity and vulnerability as they help each other prepare a meal. Results can range from developing better relationships, to gaining a better understanding of co-workers, to learning about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, she says.

Cooking for Camaraderie

“It’s a great bonding experience,” she said. “After one of these events you go back to the workplace with new appreciation for members of your team.”

Eastham can speak with confidence having served as a director for Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc., Illumina Inc., Geron Corp. and Trius Therapeutics Inc. During her long career in life sciences, the certified public accountant has held positions as executive vice president and chief operating officer and trustee of the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute; senior vice president, finance, chief financial officer and secretary of Diversa Corp.; and vice president, finance of Boehringer Mannheim Diagnostics.

Eastham said she left Sanford-Burnham in September 2008 to devote herself to writing “Cook the Part” over the following three years. Inspiration for the book came from spreadsheets she used to coordinate work teams of fellow board members and friends who gathered in her own kitchen over the years.

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