The cooking Journal

Posts in 'Corporate Nutrition'

Team builds with a difference!
The feedback we get about our team building events, apart from being a hugely enjoyable experience, is often about the additional benefits the employees gain from the event.

The teams are thrown together in an unfamiliar setting and have a time limited task to achieve.  This calls for leadership, teamwork, communications, strategy and project planning even before they’ve lifted a pan.

It is an excellent way to observe how people work together, how they go about achieving the tasks they have been set.

Some teams just ‘go for it’ without much analysis of the task ahead, and quickly find they might have to regroup, read the recipes and ask for help.

Others can be taken over by a strong personality who might be a good at a particular task in the office or their profession, but the skills are not so transferrable to a multi-task project such as producing a Thai banquet.

The most successful groups are those that take some time to read the recipes, sort out who has the skills needed for the task, and thinks about timing.  These teams are often the most innovative and creative, and don’t lose the end objective from their sights.

The team skills they learn, or learn about by making mistakes, are all transferrable and sustainable skills that can be applied to the workplace.  In all cases, the teams go away with some learning and a sense of achievement.

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Resilience
For those of us in business and particularly retail, over the festive period things may not have slowed at all and we still need to keep focused on our business objectives and activities.  This time of year is always challenging, commuting through dark mornings and evenings, usually awful weather and we’re past the festivities with a long month ahead until payday.  We need a lot of resilience to get through the gloom!

I believe January is always a good time to take stock and look at our objectives and how we can make life better for ourselves. Resilience and mindfulness are not only for the new age types, some of the most successful business people in the world take time out for themselves, actually they MAKE time for themselves.

Resilience training is often part of a business’s HR plan to support the workforce, and in my experience it only touches the surface as resilience and mindfulness are a way of living.  It’s about making a decision to set aside time or an activity for you, and only you.

Think about including some balance relaxation into your life, it can be anything from taking a walk, to sitting quietly, reading a book or listening to music, pursuing a hobby – whatever helps you clear your head and relax…and don’t forget to switch off the mobile. During the work day, take a walk around the block, fresh air and a different perspective will help

Make time for your family and friends.  If you’ve got a lot on, it may be difficult to do this, however research shows that catching up with friends and spending time socially is hugely beneficial, it keeps you less isolated and part of a community where you can share ideas and issues.

Following on from this, try and be more assertive when it feels like you’re being heaped with more tasks or it’s not clear what your objectives are.  Try and get some clarity, this will help you manage your workload.

What we eat can help us with our resilience.  Skipping meals is not a good idea, as it reduces the energy we have and leads us to reach for the snacks.  It’s always a good idea to avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugary or salted products as they give an initial boost to the system but this doesn’t long and you feel flat again.  Try and eat regularly and with others.  Research has shown that the community element of eating is hugely beneficial to wellbeing.

Eating breakfast is a good way to build resilience and set you up for the day’s challenges.  By eating porridge, granola or muesli and fruit you will a good energy source to keep you going.   Other foods to think about during the day are protein rich such as eggs, fish and soya.  Try and eat lots of vegetables and fruit.  And remember to drink lots of water to keep hydrated.

So set yourself some resilience objectives and start 2019 with a positive attitude!
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Mental Health - What’s food got to do with it?

Mental Health - What’s food got to do with it?


Mental Health is finally on the agenda and not before time; yet I find myself slightly nervous about putting the word ‘Mental’ Health in the subject title!  Why is that, even though I am a food scientist and have studied brain physiology in detail.

So what is it about the term ‘mental’ health that makes us a little uneasy about things?  Historically the term ‘mental health’ has had negative connotations, conjuring up images of extreme depression and people who ‘can’t cope’.  Perhaps it’s also something that we think won’t happen to us.

Research from the Mental Health Foundation suggests that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem at some point in our lifetimes.  Mental health is a broad term covering a range of conditions and experiences, and can affect people at any age.  Just as we can have physical health problems – we can also suffer from a range of mental health problems and they don’t all necessarily look like depression.  Social anxiety, PTSD and stress,  work or family related is thought to be the most prevalent form of mental health and whilst some people thrive on the adrenaline of stress, for others it can be debilitating.

We are what we eat


The brain is essentially a chemical factory wired with neurotransmitters, the chemical messenger that relays thoughts and actions, so essentially that controls our behaviours. Research and experience prove without a doubt that there is a connection between how & what we eat and how we think and act. The bio-chemical basis of this ‘food-mood’ relationship lies in the neurotransmitters.  Since food directly affects neurotransmitter action, changes in neurotransmitters are thus responsible for changes in our brain chemistry, and therefore changes in moods, ergo food does affect mood.

Furthermore, it is proven that food affects some people's moods more than others; some people are simply more vulnerable than others due to the way in which their brains are wired and how they process chemicals in the brain.  Such people are equally more sensitive to junk foods in their diets, while others seem to breeze through fast-food with little or no effect on mood change.  These signs may be more easily identified in children, so we say that children who eat sweets may suffer a sugar rush and behave abnormally. Yet when adults have poor nutrition we don’t make the same correlations.

Junk in Junk out


Further research from the Mental Health Foundation demonstrates that people who report some level of mental health, also eat fewer healthy foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, meals made from scratch; relying instead on crisps and chips, chocolate, ready meals and takeaways.

After the skin, the brain is the biggest organ in our bodies and requires good nutrition and hydration.  To ensure our brain is functioning and benefiting from the food we eat, our diet needs to include complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and of course lots of water to stay hydrated.

Good food and a nutritious diet is a path to improved mental and physical health, thus leading to improved wellbeing.  In our busy lives it may seem easier to reach for convenience foods and snacks however such foods contain higher amounts of chemicals that are harmful to the body, tricking the brain in the short term to feeling good but can quickly affect the brain bio-chemistry and negatively impact mood.

By eating a healthy diet with fresh ingredients, together with exercise and good sleep will benefit your mental health and general wellbeing.

Most importantly, just as we seek medical help for other illnesses and ailments, we should do so for mental health related issues. However, if mental health remains a taboo subject, then people will be inevitably be reluctant to seek help about their illness that will without doubt lead to a worsening of the condition.

Look out for the next blog on food and mental health.

The Cooking Academy provides a variety of courses specifically related to nutrition.  Our chef tutors provide advice and information on the nutritional benefits of ingredients and seasoning.  Our Wellness in the Workplace provides services to organisations to help develop health eating goals in the workplace to build a ‘Fit for Work – Fit for Life’ workforce.

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Spice Cookery Book - A Cupboard Full of Spices
My spice cookery book, “A Cupboard Full Of Spices”, has finally gone to press.  It has been a labour of love and 10 years in the making.

The book describes my journey in food, and all the influences I have had from childhood in a traditional Indian home in the UK to the present day.  It is a compendium of spices, explaining their uses and medicinal properties.   In the book I bring these together to create “The Alchemy of Food” which is at the heart of all the cookery classes we hold at The Cooking Academy and the corporate wellness programmes and team building events we run throughout the world.

Exploding the myth on Spices


Having taught many hundreds of people to cook both Asian and European cuisines over the years, the overwhelming evidence is that that the challenge has always been understanding the use of spices in recipes, of any genre. Furthermore, the medicinal value of cooking with herbs and spices has been lost over the generations.  I have therefore made it my life’s mission to explode the myths on spices, the correct way to use them so their health benefits and flavours are utilised. This book is about sharing this very useful knowledge to create great food and improve your health in the process.

I am a passionate believer that good nutrition is essential to a healthy working life as well as home life.  Good nutrition means our brains are being fed the right nutrients and vitamins to ensure it functions, making us more alert, more motivated and therefore more productive.

The Ultimate Spice Cookery Book


The book contains a wealth of information about spices and their qualities.  Each recipe has been annotated to show the nutritional benefits of the ingredients, alongside easy to follow instructions and fabulous photographs of the food.

The book will be published in mid October and you can pre-order it on the website today A Cupboard Full of Spices

 

Kumud Gandhi is Founder of The Cooking Academy in Rickmansworth, Herts.  She is a published author, food writer and broadcasts on TV and Radio commenting on food and nutrition.

 

 
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A recipe for training
What does a training course mean to you? Overheated conference rooms being talked through endless PowerPoint slides and the occasional role play?  Or perhaps online training, that you try and fit into a busy schedule?  Squeezed budgets have resulted in more and more training being delivered in this way.

Research has shown that most employees would rather have face-to-face and interactive training, and believe they learn more in this way. This is not only true in communications, strategy and project skills training but also in wider industry. In fact you can learn as much from interaction with other attendees and their experiences than just from the class.

A focused activity with active participation can be a more a productive, memorable and cost effective learning experience for employees.  By taking people out of their office space to a different ‘neutral’ environment can also enhance the learning experience.

Cookery based training and team building events offered by The Cooking Academy allow employees to practise skills – transferrable from the office to the kitchen in a unique ‘low-risk’ environment.  The Bake Off and Ready Steady Cook activities require time management, strategic planning, project planning, management and leadership skills as well as teamwork.  The activities allow require people to work in unfamiliar circumstances, i.e. training (industrial) kitchen.  There is exactly the right amount of equipment and ingredients, which means careful planning and execution of the strategy and plan is essential. One minor error and your recipe is compromised.

The feedback from both employers and participants on these types of training experience and the benefits people have gained has been extremely positive.  Many people cannot believe what they can achieve in 90 minutes!  How much fun they have had doing it, which also enhances the learning experienced and they get to eat the results!!

It resets the base line of the ‘art of the possible’ – i.e. what you can get done!

This type of training can be particularly effective for time management, streamlining, business efficiency and process management.

At The Cooking Academy we work with businesses large and small, using cooking to deliver more effective training programs (often as one part of a conference based training event)  to nurture more team engagement, recruit top staff and work with local communities as part of their social responsibility.

We host corporate cooking events in London, Oxford, Reading, Slough, Cambridge, Birmingham and the wider South East either at one of our partner venues, a location of your choice or even your office.

Our events are entirely managed by our team of chefs and event managers; we provide all necessary equipment, ingredients and even a mobile kitchen where required, so all you need to do is turn up, enjoy and benefit from the days activities.

Discover how cooking can help your business, download our corporate brochure or contact me on Kumud@thecookingacademy.co.uk or call me on 01923 778880.

 

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