Cooking up a Storm

I recently moved from Red Gate’s Finance team to The Agency, where the Marketing magic (And all the colouring in), happens.

Every year each Red Gate team is given a generous budget and a free day out of the office to go and spend having fun with each other however they please. 

In my four years at Red Gate, I have been lucky enough to do some amazing things with my old team. We visited two out-of-this-world Gordon Ramsey restaurants, played on a giant foosball table and even went to Paris for the day.

You would imagine that would be hard to top.

When I joined The Agency, I knew that there was a day out planned, but I wasn’t sure what it would entail. When I found out we would be doing a cooking class and wine tasting, I felt a certain sense of trepidation. I am not the greatest cook in the world and have been known to get a smidgen over-competitive. What chance did I have of winning when my lowly culinary skills were what I would be judged upon? And as for the wine tasting, my wine knowledge extends to “that’s nice” or “that tastes like cat’s pee”.

So, I arrived at the Cambridge Cookery School telling myself sternly not to get stressed and that it didn’t matter if my team won or not. The fact that I had biked there in the rain, running late, didn’t fill me with confidence that these orders would be obeyed by my simple, emotion-driven brain.

The cup of tea and cake I was offered as breakfast calmed me down and cleared my addled mind. We were briefed on the day ahead of us and my brain registered two words; ‘Prosecco,’ and ‘wine.’ My brain thought these words were good.


We put ourselves into groups and started deciding who would do what to make sure we created some culinary masterpieces. I chose to do some whisking, as I thought that would be within my meagre capabilities. Turns out I’m quite a good whisker, and I was quite pleased with myself and even more pleased when the Prosecco was brought out at 10.30am.

One thing that is bound to make any event a success is Prosecco, and this was no exception. By the time we had put the food in the oven and began to do the wine tasting (at midday), I for one was quite merry. After the wine (which no one chose to spit out), we devoured the food we’d made with the ravenous enthusiasm of those who have slaved away over a hot stove all morning and have drunk vast quantities of very good wine far too early in the day.

The dishes that we had created and were now tucking into included a mozzarella and tomato tart, followed by herb crusted lamb racks with boulangère potatoes and, to finish, a mint infused Crème Brulée. The dishes were met with a mixed response, with one group declaring that their Crème Brulée tasted like a toothpaste omelette. 

A little break in the sunshine with Andrew on the ukulele and Phil on his flute setting a delightful tone with a soothing rendition of ‘Greensleeves’ had us all very nearly comatose after the indulgence of the morning’s activities. We managed to rouse ourselves enough to go back inside for the results of the competition, which were based on the food we had produced and the wine tasting scores we had been given. I was so relaxed at this point that the fact that my team had come in last place had little effect on my mood. I was, in fact, quite pleased as I received a wooden spoon as my prize. The cookbooks that were given to the first place winners would have been wasted on me; a colleague not so long ago gave me his old copies of ‘A Students Cookbook’ and ‘Cooking for Blokes’, which should give you some idea of how much I cook. I haven’t used them yet.


The day was topped off with a trip over the road to do some bowling. Now, bowling is not something that I’m good at. I trot up to the edge, throw the ball sideways and fling my right leg in the air, which I don’t believe is the best tactic for this particular game. So bowling was always a bit of a traumatic experience when I was in the Finance team. There was always a competitive edge to pretty much anything we did and having scores involved just heightened the testosterone levels.

So, after embarrassing myself on the arcade dance game and playing air hockey, I put on the hideous bowling shoes with a slightly dejected sigh and prepared myself for a couple of hours of humiliation.

To my surprise, I actually had fun. Real, actual fun.  There was a great atmosphere as we laughed at Anthony’s 200 metre run ups and cheered each other for getting strikes. Or putting the ball in the gutter.

So, my first day out with my new team was infinitely better than I had hoped. And proved that winning isn’t actually everything. That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.

Post by: Hannah Jermy