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Want to know the secret to restaurant-quality dumplings? “It’s all about the flavour in the mixture. It needs to be strong. We make all of our own dumplings, this way we can make sure the dumpling is flavour packed!” At least, that’s the way it’s done at Honkas Bar + Eats, a Pan Asian eatery in the backstreets of Potts Point that fuses Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese flavours.
Within 24 hours of walking into the venue that is now Honkas, owner Hamilton Kings had a clear vision of what he wanted to do. No stranger to the Sydney restaurant scene, for the past 15 years Hamilton has helmed Sydney dining institutions like Bondi Social and Pizza Authentico. His vision for Honkas however, was something different: an epic south east Asian dining experience inspired by the street vendors of Asia.
At the other end of the Cross City Tunnel, is family run Italian restaurant Casa Ristorante. Set in the heart of Darling Harbour, the inspiration for Casa comes from the cobbled streets of Napoli. From their waterfront venue, this one “big family” serve up a fusion of contemporary and traditional Italian dishes that are all inspired by seasonality. And as far as their pizza secrets go, it all comes down to cibo, amore, famiglia and amici: food, love, family and friends.
So what do these two Sydney restaurants have in common? Their menu secrets both comprise the key elements needed for a successful team, and coincidently enough, they both run cooking classes for team building in Sydney in their own signature style. We chatted to the two restaurant owners about why they think cooking classes for corporate teams are such a hit, and how they make the experience unique in their establishments.
In Casa’s eyes, it’s all about taking the chance to actually step away and get to know your fellow coworkers. Cooking classes help to break down barriers between colleagues by placing them in a comfortable environment and making people feel as though they are cooking in their own home.
“The working environment can be a busy place which means you don't always get a chance to sit down and chat. Team activities can be very daunting for some people, this method of team building allows everyone to enjoy themselves with no levels of hierarchies or culture. Everyone’s on the same level doing something enjoyable,” says the team at Casa.
At Casa, the classes are led by their pizza chef Michael who has been in the pizza making business for 45 years. “Casa is a large open plan restaurant, so we set up some long tables with Michael in the middle.” From there, it’s two hours of pizza making with complimentary drinks and nibbles on arrival, a pizza acrobatics session and some lighthearted competitions that culminate in a delicious feast.
“Our cooking class allows the team to sit down and get to know each other after they’ve finished cooking.” This group meal setting gives the team a final chance to bond over their shared experience and enjoy the delicious food they have worked together to create.
Honkas' cooking classes are led by their team of dumpling masters in a private dining room setting or in a larger space, both overlooking a central courtyard. Either head chef Rupert, or chief dumpling chef Sandi – whose hands can wrap the perfect dumpling in seconds – will run the group through the dumpling making basics. The team work to keep the atmosphere jovial and light-hearted. “An element of competitiveness comes through, but in a very light and fun way. As it is a task which is typically totally foreign to most people, the seriousness of the competition is fairly lax,” says Hamilton.
This competitive element can be really beneficial to groups looking for a team building cooking class as it allows everyone to adapt to different pressures, come up with creative solutions, and in doing so, build group confidence.
“We notice that typically classes have a huge amount of fun, joke together and enjoy eating what they have created,” says Hamilton.
For Casa it was something more unexpected, “a proposal to Michael the pizza chef. He must have stolen a-pizza-their-heart.”
Casa Ristorante’s pizza making classes are available for $75 per person for group bookings of 12-60 people
Honkas Bar + Eats host a dumpling and cocktail making class available for $85 per person for group bookings of 10-50 people. The private dumpling making class is $50 per person for groups of 10-50 people.