Cooking competition to connect with staff during Covid19

by | Apr 20, 2020 | EA Staff News

Trying to come up with creative ways to stay in touch with my 15 employees, who are all sheltering-in-place at home for more than a month. My co-workers are creative and resourceful and they have amazing energy – all put to such good use when they are working with candidates considering a move to NE Ohio. My team is often the very first people these executives meet in Cleveland or Akron and I need to stay relevant to them so they are eager to return to work when the hiring freezes and travel restrictions are lifted.
So to go beyond the usual texts, email updates and Facebook photos to help us stay connected, I stopped at each of their homes last week and (from 6′ away) had 10 minute conversations with each, told them I missed them and handed them a bag from Trader Joes to challenge them to a cooking competition.
Using the three ingredients in the bag, I told them they could augment with whatever is in their pantry during week 5 of the stay at home decree, make a meal, take a photo and share it – and the recipe – to inspire the next Iron Chef amongst us.

3 ingredients to inspire cooking competition

This is how we will all “share a meal together” when we are so far apart. Here are the first responses that were so amazing it just made me love my co-workers even more:
Annie DePerro‘s amazing meal – added home made meatballs and fresh roses……don’t you want to go to this restaurant tonight? I do!

Margie Biggar‘s beautiful tablescape included lit candles and a jade plant. She added chicken sausage, fresh spices and mozzarella, a green salad with champagne vinagrette and a baguette from On the Rise Bakery along with olive oil for dipping sauce. Supporting local food shops!
From Cari Ross, whose kids inspired her to do a tomato alfredo VS white sauce alfredo (cream, butter, garlic, parmesan – how could that not ever taste good?) and added, chicken and broccoli and an arugula salad with champagne vinagrette. Extra points to have kids helping cook the meal!

Jeff Moreau made us all want to drop everything and go to his house for dinner with this photo. He made a chunky veggie penne pasta by adding zucchini, red and yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, onion and garlic and baby mozzarella. A poached egg on top was a brilliant touch. His wife Ellen now wants him to do a Chopped challenge every week!

Margy Judd’s version (me) – grilled chicken sausage filled with feta and spinach and added them to the marinara sauce along with sauteed mushrooms and garlic, fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese. Added roasted broccolini with shallots as a side.

Tonia Yard used her marinara sauce to make stuffed peppers using this recipe that included rice, ground beef and fresh herbs to share with her family.

Laura Uhle made a penne ala vodka “because whose global pandemic pantry doesn’t include vodka and bacon”! AMEN

Peg Furnas sauteed mushrooms, chickpeas and added rosemary bread with olive oil, a classic salad with olive oil and vinegar – her family played Qwirkle for dessert! And knowing Peg, those are flowers from her yard.

Caroline Weingart created a simple Bolagnese (Giada’s recipe) added ciabatta bread, olive oil and fresh parmasan cheese. “My kids favorite comfort food and who doesn’t need that right now? Now we are playing Settlers of Catan”. Beautiful tablescapes of my co-workers is inspiring me to make every meal feel special, it only takes a little effort!

Anu Ramakrishnan, ramping it up a notch (pun intended!)…she and son Neel foraged for ramps in their yard and created an additional pesto sauce to create this beautiful pasta dish. And nice touch adding our company initials to her dish. Impressive.

ramps from Anu’s yard!

Lynne Brenner, used the mariana sauce to create the base for minestrone soup. Her hubbie enjoyed the penne pasta we supplied while she used glueten free noodles in her dish. They enjoyed dinner with games of cribbage and Scrabble.

Caroline Merk turned her Italian themed ingredients into an Asian meal! She and her daughter Gigi added creatively to their pantry from Asia Plaza’s Park ‘n Shop grocery store.  “We sauteed honalogo mushrooms, adding some miso broth once they were browned. This went into the sauce. Our side dish was baby bok choy sauteed in garlic and sesame oil, then finished it off with some soy. No Chianti in the pics – I already drank it” – WE GET IT!


Caroline’s husband Michael and daughter Gigi enjoy their meal

Brad Withers created an East meets West dinner from his three ingredients. He added olives and peppers from Chile to create a tapanade appetizer to enjoy with crackers, then cooked a lamb chop and topped with a scallion and garlic Chianti reduction sauce, added vegetabels and an Asian peanut sauce to the penne. WOW, just wow. “My dining room has been converted into my research library for my book and training” (Brad is a leadership coach and facilitator in his life outside of EA).

Kristen Joyce used the ingredients and added turkey meatballs, a spinach salad, asparagus and garlic bread.  Gorgeous wood dining room table, I want it!

Suzanne Dannemiller has been in Florida for more than a month helping to take care of her father-in-law before driving him back to his home in CLE (hmmmm…’s still 40 degrees in May, you may reconsider coming back so soon). She called on her husband Dave and daughter Kate to use the ingredients dropped off to make themselves a meal. When you work for EA, your whole family is part of our family :). They added sausage, garlic, olives and herbs to the marinara sauce to pump it up then enjoyed it with garlic bread and a ceasar salad.

So proud of my creative fun competitive staff! What ingredients should the next Chopped Challenge bag have in it??