"The homemade bratwurst were fantastic," says Ros Rathouse, who designed a completely German menu to illustrate the staff’s relationship with Qype’s German parent company. "We were all very impressed at how much the team came together instinctively to get things done."
To recap: Qype engaged the services of the Cookery School as a bonding exercise and to test the staff’s ability to work as a team. "The social networking space is extremely competitive and the guys are under a lot of pressure," says Rathouse. "In a kitchen environment, all of these issues come to the fore."
These issues centred around communication and isolation. "The team really enjoyed working together," says the chef-cum-entrepreneur. "In the office they are very much on their own."
As a result, the Qype CEO has agreed to allow far more interaction between the London satellite and other Qype offices across the world, with regular catch up meetings and team events to make the company feel like a more cohesive whole.
So how does Rathouse do it” "Well, I worked in children’s education for 40 years," she says. That would certainly prepare one for working with most business executives! But Rathouse has also had five years working with big corporates like Investec on their senior training programmes. And then there’s Rathouse’s entrepreneurial credentials. She self-funded her startup, overcoming tough obstacles to build a business.
"I couldn’t raise any money when I decided to start a business," she says. "I used up all my shop accounts and credit cards, everything I had, to start Cookery School. I started with a small school upstairs, which could accomodate a maximum of 20 people. It was small, but my client list read like a Who’s Who: BP, Shell, banks, lawyers, management consutants, food companies, you name it. I had them pouring through the doors for team building or more serious training events.
"Then, in October 2007, I opened a second kitchen downstairs for classes up to 48 people," continues the entrepreneur. "Cookery School was instantly successful because no one else does quite what we do. There’s no formula, it’s all bespoke events, tailor-made with business psychologists."
However, last year Rathouse had an accident that nearly put her out of business for good: "I had whiplash in July," she says, "and a needle was accidentally put into my spinal cord. I was completely paralysed. Out for six months. I had to spend £100,000 on replacement staff to keep the business ticking over."
Cookery School turned over £360,000 last year. But "it should have been more than £400,000" says Rathouse. Nevertheless, the cooking entrepreneur has made a full recovery and is now back in the kitchen. Turnover this year will hit £0.5m. Rathouse is currently conducting four corporate training sessions a month and business has never been better.
"Sometimes the outcomes are breathtaking," says Rathouse. "There’s nowhere quite like a kitchen for bringing out people’s true selves."
Want to put your team though its paces” Contact Rathouse through the Cookery School website. Classes start at £5,000 for a day’s workshop with 12 people.