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by Michael C. Lowe | April 01, 2012

CHEF CHALLENGE Boca Beach Club
Boca Raton, Fla.
bocabeachclub.com

At the 212-room Boca Beach Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, teams are tasked with putting on their own banquet, including creating the main entrée, setting the table, making or selecting the centerpiece, and mixing an original team cocktail.

"It's up to the team to communicate and assign tasks quickly so they can get started on the actual cooking," says Andrew Roenbeck, executive chef at the property. All teams are given the same ingredients, and the entire banquet kitchen is at their disposal. The menu can be as elaborate as the budget allows, though Roenbeck says a typical banquet includes cocktails, salad, entrée and dessert. Awards are given for the best in each category, and the judging panel is made up of one representative from each team.

The Boca Beach Club offers 10,000 square feet of meeting space, and is part of the Boca Raton Beach Club, which offers 146,000 square feet of function space, including the 128,000-square-foot Mizner Conference Center.

CULINARY COMBATCasa Del Mar
Santa Monica, Calif.
hotelcasadelmar.com

At the 129-room Casa Del Mar, another Iron Chef-inspired activity has teams assigned to stations stocked with ingredients and cooking tools. The challenge is to create one part of a multicourse meal (chefs are on hand to help but cannot take charge). 

At the end of the contest, groups must come up with a team name and present a team sound (either a cheer or song) that depicts their experience. "It might sound hokey, but it winds up being one of the highlights of the event," says Richard Cooper, founder of Recipe for Success, a culinary team-building company and the event's facilitator for Casa Del Mar.

Judges -- perhaps a chef, the hotel's manager or the organization's senior staff -- grade dishes according to taste, presentation, leadership, teamwork and cleanliness. As Cooper notes, "Ultimately, if you ask people to be creative and then step out of their way, it's amazing how creative they can be."

Casa Del Mar features more than 8,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 4,800-square-foot ballroom.