The Perfect Recipe: Cooking with Coworkers

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Warm quinoa with asparagus, goat-cheese and black olives recipe made at Team Building with Taste

The staff at My Home Improvement and fellow industry insiders embraced their inner chef at Team Building with Taste. An opportunity to cultivate relationships, be creative with recipes, and cook in a commercial kitchen with top-notch appliances made for a food lover’s paradise.

By Annie Paschal

Love to watch “Chopped,” Food Network’s culinary showdown series? Feel a competitive edge when you’re in the kitchen? Want to connect more with your co-workers? If you answered yes to any of these questions, visit Team Building with Taste (TBWT).

My Home Improvement, one of Atlanta Best Media’s flagship publications, joined forces with its sister publication, Best Self Atlanta, and its friends in the home improvement industry to take on a cooking challenge.

Started by chef Paul McKeon and Jack Gerblick in 2012, TBWT invites businesses to strengthen their teamwork through collaborative cooking in its 1,800-square-foot commercial kitchen. During the culinary challenge, teams have 55 minutes to prepare a three-dish meal while handling the occasional curveball.

Our 20-person group was strategically split into four teams. This allowed people in departments (and at other companies) that don’t interact on a regular basis an opportunity to get to know each other better. Once the clock started, we were off to make the “healthy” menu (seven other menu options are also available, including Bistro, Italian, South of the Border and more).

We got organized to make the kale salad, poached salmon, and warm quinoa. Someone in each group immediately took charge by assigning roles, brainstorming ways to enhance the recipe and more.

With a fully stocked pantry at our disposal, written recipes in hand, and a TBWT-designated chef at each station, the groups worked together to create a meal that would impress the judges. When the timer sounded, everyone put down their bowls and added finishing touches to their plate for the judges. Then it was time to present our dishes to fellow competitors and convince the judges to choose their group as the winner. Some chose catchy sayings and others went with creative music and dances. Mark Galey, president of Master Home Remodelers, Inc., led an energetic “Kale Yeah!” chant for Team Two. Getting the audience involved definitely scored them extra points. Ultimately, it was Team Four that smoked the competition with their Asian-inspired spin on the salmon and the off-recipe spontaneity (think flavorful touches and creative takes on technique) of Antonette Copeland, the design director at Construction Resources, LLC. After the judges made their decision based on presentation, plating, and taste, we enjoyed the fruits of everyone’s labor by digging into each team’s dishes. As we ate, we reflected on what we learned about our coworkers and our newfound trust, respect and dependence on each other.

Overall, this unique team-building experience, which more than 25,000 people have participated in, received rave reviews from our group. Now we know why 80 percent of other participants said this was the best team-building activity they have ever done.

Recipes with a Twist

1. Kale Salad with Almonds and Sherry Vinaigrette

Kale salad with almonds and sherry vinaigrette

Sherry Vinaigrette
2 oranges
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of honey
kosher salt and freshly
cracked black pepper
a squeeze of lemon juice
Kale Salad:
1 bunch fresh kale (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped


  • For the sherry vinaigrette: Peel the oranges with a sharp knife. Remove the segments by cutting between the white membranes of each segment. Squeeze out 2 tablespoons of juice and reserve.
  • Combine the olive oil, sherry vinegar, juice, and mustard together. Season with salt and pepper and whisk vigorously. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.
  • For the kale salad: Remove the tough stems from the kale and discard. Finely slice the leaves into thin ribbons and toss together with the cranberries and vinaigrette. Serve on a platter scattered with orange segments and sprinkled with almonds

Warm Quinoa with Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Black Olives

Warm quinoa with asparagus, goat-cheese and black olives recipe made at Team Building with Taste

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 cups quinoa
16 spears asparagus, trimmed
olive oil, for brushing
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup pitted Nicoise olives
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves


  • For the vinaigrette: Combine the vinegar, honey and mustard in a small bowl and blend until smooth. While whisking slowly, add the olive oil and whisk until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • For the quinoa salad: Bring the water to a boil and add the thyme. Stir in the quinoa, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  • Preheat the grill. Brush the asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill on all sides until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove from the grill and cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
  • Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl, fold in the asparagus, olives, goat cheese, basil and parsley. Add just enough vinaigrette to moisten the salad; don’t make it too wet. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with more of the vinaigrette.

Poached Salmon with Creamy Piccata Sauce

Poached salmon with creamy Piccata sauce recipe


5 salmon fillets
1 cup dry white wine, divided
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 teaspoons capers, rinsed up to 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill


  • Shallow poach the salmon: Place one salmon in a large skillet. Add 1/2 cup wine and enough water to come halfway up the salmon.  Remove the salmon and bring the water to a slow simmer—not a boil. Place all salmon back in pan, cover pan and poach for 5-8 minutes. Do not boil the salmon.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining 1/2 cup wine; boil until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and capers; cook 1 minute more. Stir in sour cream and salt and cook to nappe.
  • To serve, top the salmon with the sauce and garnish with dill.


What are your tips for creating an efficient kitchen?
“To generate an efficient work triangle, analyze how you move and cook. Ensure that items and materials you need to prep, cook, and clean are readily available in their areas.”
—Jesse Morado, CR, UDCP

What did you like most about cooking in a professional kitchen?
“I liked having everything we needed at our fingertips. The use of the warming drawer to finish the meal helped us time everything perfectly without having to stress about it.”
—Jennifer Prins, residential marketing representative for Cambria

What is your favorite kitchen appliance?
“The Thermador 48” Pro Grand®Steam Range. This item looks really sleek in the kitchen and the built-in steam feature makes it easy to prepare fresh, healthy options.”
—Antonette Copeland, design director at Construction Resources, LLC

What would you like to change about your kitchen?
“I would love to have wider aisles so people can work side by side without getting in each other’s way. I love to cook with friends and this would make that so much easier!”
—Mark Galey, president of Master Home Remodelers, Inc.

What would you like to change about your kitchen?
“I’m redoing my whole kitchen and plan to add a steam oven, vacuum-sealing drawer, modular cooking tops, a Rohl faucet and a sink by The Galley.”
—Paul Castell president/owner of Dove Studio Kitchen & Bath

What would you like to change about your kitchen?
“I currently have a small galley kitchen with Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances in it. If I had more space, I would love to add a convection steam oven.”
—Diane Coker, marketing representative for Sub Zero Group, SE

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