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Teambuilding with love and care (and turmeric)

Being fairly new to the event industry and getting my first taste of teambuilding via BBC One’s The Apprentice last week, I’m not going to lie… I felt slightly terrified when the reality of an away day was on the cards last Friday (7 June).

However, I could not have been more wrong about the experience – for one, there wasn’t an overly plucked Welsh “corporal” in sight.

Instead, the newly-formed Event team received a warm welcome from staff at Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 5. Guided up to the hotel’s first floor, we were taken through a corridor that instantly transported us to a vintage Indian setting, almost too perfect to touch. Antique trinkets and white benches adorned with a collection of delicate cushions made of fine, authentic silks decorated the interior of the restaurant’s entrance.

We stepped inside the light and airy surroundings of Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen – the latest restaurant from renowned chef Cyrus Todiwala, who has made numerous appearances on Saturday Kitchen. We were no longer in a hotel restaurant, which was probably the beauty of this teambuilding exercise. Instead we were in an immaculate eatery setting featuring a gargantuan timber elephant, also known as Roy, as its centerpiece.

After being greeted with champagne and Indian lemonade, we perched on the edge of the kitchen’s stainless steel surfaces ready to learn about the intricacies of Indian cuisine in an intimate masterclass.

I instantly felt at home and in awe of the whimsical approach of our teacher, head chef Arun Dev. He gave us an insight into the beauty of Indian cooking, while educating us on the medicinal properties of traditional ingredients, including turmeric’s wondrous antiseptic powers. Chef Arun also relayed stories from within his kitchen, saying that when any of his staff cut themselves they instantly grab some lime to stop the bleeding.

Onto the cooking, sleeves rolled up and it was time to dive into making a selection of Indian delicacies. We were first shown the simple steps of making an onion bhajjia, and our teacher made it look effortless. We split into our two teams, but I couldn’t seem to grasp Chef Arun’s same flair. He told us the most important ingredient was love and care… so I pour bucket loads of it in and hope for the best.

Next was a simple vegetable samosa – I left this in the trusting hands of Event‘s reporter Georgina, who carefully folded a sheet of spring roll pastry into a cone shape, filling every nook and cranny with a specially-prepared mixture, before cementing it down with a flour and water paste, which was then placed it into a deep fat fryer. “But how do we know when it is ready?” I asked. “You will see,” answered the composed chef moments before the said cooked pastry gracefully floated to the top of the hot oil as if it was a choreographed routine.

Our culinary afternoon continued as we move progressively further and further into the kitchen, meeting Chef Arun’s team of dedicated staff. They kindly show us the more fiddly bits (as it is technically known) of Indian cooking, including the construction of a shish kebab onto a heavy iron skewer – a task won by Davies Tanner’s Becca White.

The final challenge we participated in involved the preparation of an Indian bread, which involved various steps including rolling out the dough, applying a thin layer emulsified butter, folding the dough into an almost fan shape to create thin, flaky layers, and bringing it all together to be pressed down. All of which was under the watchful eye of none other than Cyrus Todiwala who turned up – I was quite happy to be an observer in this task.

Both the kebab and breads made their way into a blaring tandoor oven – a deep cylindrical drum, adding a slight smoky taste to the food. In seconds the naan dough bubbled as it was stuck onto the oven’s walls.

As we wrapped up our cookery tasks for the day, displaying our hard work in the form of flour on our clothes, we tucked into a beautifully created meal consisting of a leeli murghi ni curry – a creamy, chicken curry using coconut milk.

Event associate editor Rachel took the overall title as star performer, claiming a bottle of champers and a copy of Cafe Spice Namaste – the first book in Event‘s now new culinary library collection. We really felt at home and part of the Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen family. We couldn’t have been more blessed with our teacher, who we felt has a calling in teaching others in the art of India cuisine.

Our day was rounded up with a selection of goodies, including a couple of Todiwala’s tasty chutneys and pickles – I highly recommend the minted mango and ginger relish – as well as musing over our new Indian recipe collection while sipping on a elderflower gin fizz cocktail in the hotel’s bar.

The Apprentice 2013 Episode Six: Corporate Away Days – Live Blog


The Apprentice hits our screens tonight with the candidates tackling corporate away days – what could possibly go wrong?

Event Magazine has kindly let the team at Chillisauce give live blogging a bash. Our team of experts will be blogging right from the heart of the action at Theobalds Park where tonight’s episode takes place.

The team will share insights into the episode, advising what we would do differently or what the wannabe business moguls have done well.

Follow the live blog during tonight’s episode of The Apprentice by refreshing this page for updates and join in the conversation with us on Twitter @EventMagazine & @chillisaucecorp using the hashtags #EventApprentice #eventprofs

Live Blogging (refresh page for updates):

10:00pm Well, we’ve made it through the hour without pressing the wrong button and wiping the entire Event Magazine website from existence. Many thanks for reading everybody, and best of luck to Archie Archer of Contraband in You’re Fired!

From Chillisauce and Theobalds Park – good night.

9:56pm Lord Sugar fires Rebecca.

9:54pm Our favourite tweets:

9:51pm What do you think went wrong?

We couldn’t agree more.

9:47pm Perhaps this will be the episode where Lord Sugar fires more than one candidate. So many mistakes across both teams.

9:40pm Our favourite moment of the episode. Just horrible:

Sumo Wrestling Leah

9:37pm Lord Sugar “Please don’t tell me you put sumo wrestlers in front of the biggest bank in the country”. Yes, they did.

9:35pm The boardroom.

9:34pm Never divert from the event objectives.

9:30pm Michael Robinson You should always make sure there is a plan B in place, even if that is a stock of extra activities or games in the van, although if you have a detailed and flexible itinerary then this situation should never arise.

9:25pm Cathy Atkins: It’s always important to have a plan B, especially if you are depending on the British weather. The great thing about a venue like Theobalds Park is that it gives you the option to be flexible, with plenty of space outdoors to embrace if the weather is nice, but enough alternatives indoors or with weather-proof garden facilities to ensure your event isn’t a wash-out if the skies open.

9:21pm Lord Sugar has selected Theobalds Park as the setting for the events.
Theobalds Park

MC: Torie, what do you think of Theobalds Park?

Torie White: For starters, Theobalds Park is a DeVere venue, a highly respected hospitality company, so you know you will get a high level of professionalism for events held here. It’s an inspiringly picturesque setting that seems a world away from city life, and yet is easily accessible by car and train from London. Lots of great space outdoors for team building or activities such as football or croquet, while dozens of meetings rooms and hi-tech facilities indoors mean it is ideal for adapting your plans to suit the weather.

9:18pm We couldn’t resist saving this.

9:15pm MC: What should you do when meeting a client?

Ali Price: Get as much information as possible as early as possible is key to planning successful events and making them as personal as possible. When we first meet a client, we make sure we get the general information nailed down straight away, such as how many people will be attending, their preferred date or dates, who is going to be in attendance and who the event is aimed at, for example whether it is company-wide or for a specific team.

We would never advise having a corporate day just for the sake of it, so we like to drill down to really understand what a client wants to get out of it, what it is in aid of and what they hope to achieve. It could be a reward for a sales team meeting its targets, a company-wide celebration, or a team-building day aimed at improving a specific skill set, all of which affects how the event should be planned.

It is important too to be upfront about expectations, so we find out what activities they may have done in the past and what they did or didn’t like about them, and also ask them about how they themselves would imagine this particular day running. The key aim is for both us and the client to have painted a clear picture of their event by the end of the first meeting.

9:12pm Never keep a client waiting.

Ali Price: If you want to give a professional impression then you should never keep a client waiting, this team broke a golden rule by being late for their first meeting.

9:11pm The teams have £5’000 to spend.

MC: What can be done with £5,000?

Steve Perkins: The budget is, of course, one of the most important things to keep in mind when planning any scale of event as it has a bearing on what can be achieved at every level, from the venue right up to the details such as what food is provided. Firstly, we would establish with the clients what their priorities are and what the most important aspects are to them, for example the catering and drinks, the activities they want to take part in, or the theme they want to adopt. We would then tailor the budget planning around that and prioritise how the £5,000 is spent.

9:10pm Theming ideas

MC: So Kate, the candidates have to come up with a theme, do you have any suggestions or advice?

Kate Corser: As you would expect, some themes prove particularly popular and we see them coming up again and again so it is important to always keep them fresh and exciting. Circus themes always add some fun and are great for hands-on activities, people love the glitz and glamour of an Oscars party, or the relaxed atmosphere of a beach party.

We also see trends in line with what is big in popular culture at the time too, so The Great Gatsby is a big hitter at the moment, and James Bond’s Skyfall is still proving popular as well. People still love classics that are great for fancy dress as well, such as an Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

9:06pm Teams will be judged on profit and customer satisfaction.

9:05pm The task is to organise a corporate away day for two major clients.

9:04pm 6:00am call.

Lord Sugar meets the candidates at Guildhall.

Guildhall

If you’ve never been, Guildhall is a breath-taking venue both inside and out, the sense of history is all around you and if you want to add a touch of grandeur and prestige to your corporate events then it is hard to picture anywhere better. This is where the Lord Mayor of London held court with the ruling classes, hosted banquets for visiting heads of state and staged glittering balls way back in the 12th century and more than 800 years on it has lost none of its power to impress. With a high-flying location in the heart of the City of London and a spectacular great hall which can cater for up to 900 guests, this is the place for lavish indoor events that really mean business.

9:00pm And we’re off.

8.30pm Only thirty minutes.

Michael Chidzey: This week, the candidates have to organise a corporate away day. Lauren Gough has planned thousands of team building events for Chillisauce. So Lauren, what makes a great corporate day?

Lauren Gough: Well, first things first, a great corporate day needs to be fun. This is a break from the norm and you want your team to enjoy themselves and look back on it fondly, so you want something unique and memorable. But fun doesn’t have to mean a free-for-all and it is crucial for the success of the event that it is well-organised. This starts before the event too, making sure people wear appropriate clothing or bring anything they need to make the most of the day, while the itinerary needs to be properly planned out so everybody knows what they are doing hour by hour.

For the activities themselves it is important to bring in professionals, experts in their field who can really offer value and ensure everything takes place properly and safely. That might be a professional chef for cookery classes, an expert mixologist for cocktail making or a certified instructor for clay pigeon shooting.

A dedicated event manager is also essential to ensure the smooth running of the day, planning it meticulously in advance but also being with you from start to finish on the day itself to see that it all goes to plan. It is important when planning a corporate day that you have a good idea of why you are doing it, that way the event planner can have a clear brief to work to with clear goals, and you can judge the success of the day by how well it has achieved those goals.

7.00pm Only three hours until kick off.

Military matters: event managers in their past lives

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Who should replace Savile?

According to the Evening Standard, one of our favourite events venues Madame Tussauds has melted down its waxwork of Jimmy Savile.

Lament for London Pleasure Gardens

Two months have passed since Bloc Weekend festival was closed down at London Pleasure Gardens, a brand new festival venue in east London.

Events – an art or a science?

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Let’s champion the street party

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Twenty Twelve: not so fictional after all?

The BBC’s spoof documentary following a fictitious London 2012 organising committee gives us a good chuckle on the Event team. The show’s ridiculous scenarios sometimes seem only a small step away from the Olympic news we write about – legacy and sustainability jargon, plans that may have been a little too ambitious and zealous branding guidelines.

Industry pin-ups

It’s the buzzword in digital. The fastest growing social network on the web. As Zoolander would say if he could fathom the internet, Pinterest is so hot right now.