A New Twist on an Old Tradition: Cooking Competition Transforms Wedding Rehearsal Dinner

By Paul McKeon

Mary Allred faced a common dilemma that most grooms’ mothers know all too well: where to hold a rehearsal dinner for her son’s Atlanta wedding? Ultimately, Mary did more than just come up with an interesting venue—she came up with a totally different experience that all members of the wedding party will remember for a long time.

Team Building With TasteThe Allreds had never met anyone from the bride’s family, the Echols. Mary and her relatives were all from the South, namely Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.  The bride, Sarah Echols, grew up New Mexico and was based in the Washington, D.C. area, and her family were spread all over the country—New Mexico, Oregon, Colorado and Virginia. 

Eschewing the traditional restaurant or event venue, Mary decided on a cooking competition, as seen on TV shows like Chopped or Iron Chef.  “Our wedding was already a bit unconventional,” she said. “The wedding was being held in my sister’s Atlanta home, not a church. So, I thought, why not have an unconventional rehearsal dinner as well? If we just had the standard dinner, there would be lots of polite small talk but nobody would really get to know each other. We love Sarah, so we wanted to do more than just ‘break the ice.’ Since none of the families knew each other, we wanted to create an event that accelerated the interaction and built bonds that would last.”

Helped by her sister, Lynn Stall, Mary found just what she was looking for in Team Building with Taste, an Atlanta culinary cooking and team-building challenge typically offered to businesses but easily adapted for other purposes.

“The goal of our program is to rapidly force collaboration, deliver a high level of interaction and therefore accelerate familiarity and trust among corporate team members,” said Jack Gerblick, of Team Building with Taste. When Mary asked if we could do the same for a wedding party, we said, ‘Of course!’”

Team Building With TasteTeam’s chefs divided the Allreds, Echols and friends into four teams, assuring that family members from both sides were spread evenly among all the teams. After reviewing the ground rules, the chefs started the clock and the families and friends had 60 minutes to cook an Italian meal that featured stuffed chicken with vodka marinara sauce, homemade pesto pasta and crostini with grilled asparagus in a sherry vinaigrette.

“If you really want to get to know someone, slice onions next to them while they’re chopping garlic and another person is yelling at you to pick up the pace,” noted Lynn Stall. 

As the contestants just beat the deadline, they moved to the plating and presentation phases, where they could show off their design talents and collectively “pitch” the judges on why they should win.

“The winning team was named ‘Team Bellissimo’ and it just narrowly edged out ‘The Bride Squad,’ noted Allred. “But, in reality our whole family won. The wedding was perfect and so was the rehearsal dinner. People are still talking about it.”

Carrying forward the inspiration of the rehearsal dinner, the bride and groom decided to continue the culinary journey in Italy for their honeymoon!

Team Building with Taste is based in Atlanta and Dallas. Contact them for more information about holding your rehearsal dinner or corporate event at one of their venues.



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