What better way to connect with your colleagues or clients than to spend time together creating something delectable to eat? Especially when those creations are freshly baked. We sifted through some small group experiences from around the state to come up with these five tasty gather-and-bake options.
Baking Arts | San Francisco
Baking was a later-in-life passion for Baking Arts owner Richard Festen. Starting his career in biochemistry, he later drifted into the kitchen to experiment with new compounds. “I love the chemistry of cooking, and our classes are based on that,” he says. “We all have access to the same flour, sugar, and eggs, but it really is about technique and what you do with that to make something truly extraordinary.”
The studio offers classes for private groups of up to 14 to create classic baked goods like sourdough bread and scones, candy favorites such as caramel and peanut brittle, and an assortment of pastries, cookies, and chocolates.
“We are trying to make this a great social experience where you can make great food, have a good time, and bond with one another over completing these particular tasks,” Festen says.
Cook and Bake with Laurie | Santa Barbara
With over 35 years of culinary experience, Laurie Zalk launched Cook and Bake with Laurie out of her love for creating food that’s both healthy and delicious. The former owner of Our Daily Bread in Santa Barbara, Zalk leads groups in creating easy and fun recipes made with familiar ingredients in the comfort of her own kitchen.
Zalk also leads two-hour classes in off-site kitchens and facilities—options include baking breads, pies, and pizzas, as well as crafting desserts and more. Groups are welcome to bring their own drinks to enjoy as they learn these culinary arts.
“My style of teaching is simple and very clear, and always with humor,” Zalk says. “For most of us, a hands-on experience is the best way to learn. We seem to remember better when our hands work alongside our brains.”
Cookies Are Everything | Santa Monica
Hilary Gudgel, owner of Cookies Are Everything, believes that the possibilities
are endless when it comes to decorating a sugar cookie. “There is a lot of opportunity
to get creative and take something that is simple to the next level,” she says.
Hosting in her kitchen, Gudgel leads groups of up to 10 students from baking sugar cookies to decorating them. Experiences can be tailored to include a company’s logo, colors, or customized shapes. In addition to at-home classes, Gudgel also offers her services at off-site venues to accommodate larger groups, and she has plans to open a new studio in Santa Monica in spring 2023 that will be available for private buyouts for groups of up to 14.
Eataly | Los Angeles
You will feel like you have been transported to Italy when you step into the sprawling Eataly marketplace in LA’s luxe Westfield Century City shopping mall. The Italian-inspired culinary venue offers a variety of hands-on and hands-off cooking and baking experiences. You can bring a group of up to 16 to create cannoli, panna cotta, or tiramisu, while enjoying those creations alongside a meal of freshly made pizza or handmade pasta. Or, your group may opt to sit back and relax while chefs prepare tasty morsels specially for your group. In either case, Eataly’s offerings inspire attendees to learn the necessary skills to replicate the same techniques at home.
“We really explore the fun behind Italian cooking and the tradition behind it,” says Jocelyn Segovia, Eataly’s education and events manager.
Eataly also offers a virtual option with ingredient kits shipped anywhere in the country, allowing larger, scattered groups to pick up some new cooking skills through a Zoom class.
Let Them Eat Cake | Various Locations
TeamBonding, a national organization (with coordinators in 18 California cities) that orchestrates events to engage and connect groups, created Let Them Eat Cake as a way for teams to tune into their creative sides.
TeamBonding facilitates the Let Them Eat Cake experience from start to finish; clients are only responsible for choosing a venue (no kitchen is necessary). The sheet cakes are already baked to perfection and a wide range of decorating supplies are provided. Attendees, broken into teams and led by a trained pastry chef, focus on decorating and presentation. They have two hours to execute their visions, which might incorporate a company logo or a team mantra.
“It is just a unique way of coming together,” says David Goldstein, chief operating officer at TeamBonding. “It brings different skills together and gives you a way to share and showcase them. Then they can translate these skillsets into the office.”
If cake isn’t your forte, TeamBonding also provides in-person and virtual options for other tasty activities, including making gingerbread houses, cookie decorating, chocolate truffle making, and more.