Six People Walked into a Kitchen and Walked out a Company with Values

Bill Cooper
, Chief Operating Partner


Kitchens are a powerful place. Much of the family bond is born in the kitchen and it is in the kitchen, through the generous preparation of food and drinks, that the ember of hospitality is lit.

The kitchen is also a strong source of values as family members gradually accept shared roles and responsibilities and come to the early understanding of how many hands can make light work.

These traditional lessons and corresponding images of steaming pots, fresh bread and sometimes burnt toast are relatively easy to conjure up. But what is less evident is how the kitchen can act as a laboratory and learning ground for lessons profoundly important to professional and corporate success.

And so with Thanksgiving around the corner I wanted to share a view of how kitchens can be called upon in the effective building and assessment of teams. My hope is that it might add an extra layer of texture to contemplate as you wander in and out of the kitchen over and over again this Thanksgiving.

You see, our company was born in a kitchen. It was born in the kitchen of our founder – Andrea Shaw – and we operated out of that kitchen for the first few months of our company’s early history.

And those roots made us better. They gave us values and attributes akin to family whereby we learned to collectively roll up our sleeves and prepare, serve and enjoy memorable meals. Whether preparing and eating actual meals together or simply benefiting from the figurative influence of conducting discussions in the warmth and humility of a kitchen setting – the attributes of the kitchen molded our approach.

Because in a kitchen every little gesture contributes to a better meal and you can’t hide any lack of participation or contribution to the collective good. The person who sits in the corner and doesn’t help with the dishes is obvious. The person who doesn’t compliment the chef or sous-chefs is obvious. The person who doesn’t offer to light the candles or toss the salad is obvious. And so the kitchen breeds better behavior (or in the worst case scenarios it allows you to identify bad eggs that need addressing).

So while the genesis of corporate creation can’t always happen on a bread board, we can remind ourselves of the values and attributes we would want corporate decisions and direction to be born from. And there are few better testing grounds than a kitchen, and the shared labor of love that is preparing and consuming a group meal, through which to qualify the caliber of company you are keeping and by extension – the company you are building.

This truism has helped our company tremendously in the creating and nurturing of team values we all take pride in. In view of this I’d encourage you to figure out a way to host a team meal that starts with some time together in the kitchen. Failing that, at least periodically remind yourself to look in the mirror and ask yourself whether you have adequately contributed to the meal under preparation and whether the table is well set. Because if collective good will goes into the meal, I can assure you the nap on the couch thereafter is eminently more satisfying.