Virtual cooking classes serve as a winning recipe for AlphaGroup’s inclusive workplaceJULY 7, 2021
Creating an inclusive corporate culture is the bedrock of AlphaGroup’s foundation. In our ongoing efforts to build and maintain a workplace that is reflective of our diverse community and clients, we are pleased to have found a common denominator in our employees’ appreciation of fine food and French flair.
Thanks to Chef Laurent Leveque, executive chef of La Fava Bistro and founder of Fleur de Lys Catering, who shares his culinary expertise and dynamic cooking demonstrations with us monthly, we have found a creative way to bring together our team of writers, scientists, designers, and account executives on projects outside of medical communications. The recipes we followed in our most recent virtual cooking event with Chef Leveque were for a stuffed pork chop and a chimichurri sauce. And while we were provided the ingredients in advance, we learned that diversity and equity are as important to cooking as they are to our company mission.
AlphaGroup’s Iesha Lewis-Crofoot and her daughter share their culinary creation as Stephen Douthwaite cooks in the background.
For example, cooking is about understanding the flavor you want to achieve so that you may source the ingredients needed to meet that goal. However, not all grocery markets carry the ingredients listed in the recipe. This is why having a varied palette in the culinary world or a diverse team in the corporate world is important. At AlphaGroup, our “flavor” for success is rooted in diversity and inclusion. And like a recipe, it is not defined by following an exact formula, but rather by celebrating each member’s personal contribution to our shared vision for unity and acceptance.
So, when it comes to cooking, here are a few of Chef Leveque’s secret ingredients and methods we learned for preparing a great dish that also apply to how we may join together to build a diverse and inclusive workplace.
- The Importance of Viscosity. The viscosity of a fluid is a measure of its resistance to deformation at a given rate. For liquids, it corresponds to the informal concept of “thickness” that in our preparation of the pork chop indicates when the olive oil is ready for cooking. For working teams, viscosity is also important. A team that is more fluid is more malleable to change. And change enables us to work under all conditions. This is clearly a secret ingredient for functioning at peak performance during “work from home.”
- The Danger Zone: Food contamination is most likely when it is kept between 70°F and 135°F, making it dangerous for consumption. Having this simple temperature policy is a good example of how guidelines are also critical for safety in the workplace. While we may not measure our “danger zones” by temperature, we clearly have necessary guidelines for protecting our colleagues from other forms of danger such as discrimination or inequality. This is why we are so grateful for the hard work of our DEI Task Force—called TIDE—that is continuing to teach us how to maintain a safe workplace of belonging and acceptance.
- Tricks of the Trade: How you lift your knife is important for when you are chopping herbs and vegetables. It allows the chef to speed up or slow down the chopping process so as to not cut the tips of their fingers. The same applies to the techniques we use at work to achieve the best results for our staff and clients. We must acknowledge that our success is only as good as how carefully we guide our colleagues. By balancing our personal knowledge of and professional growth for each team member, we have the ability to yield a positive work-life balance where nobody loses a metaphorical “tip” along the way.
- Sense of Smell: Chef tip—if you have it on the nose, you have it on the palette. This refers to the fact that if you smell an ingredient in preparation, then you are sure to taste it when the food is prepared. We can parlay this to that innate wisdom we all possess that shares with us when something doesn’t quite “smell right.” If our internal voice is signaling a strong sense, it is important we address it before it is permanent. This is a time for discussion, reflection, teamwork, and perhaps change … always striving for the better.
- Keep Your Skin: In the kitchen, sous chefs are directed to keep the skin on the onion when chopping it so that the fumes are covered and do not create tears. The same applies to people. The best way to truly celebrate the beauty of each person is to allow them to maintain their skin. We can best do this in the workplace by better understanding how each person identifies themself through the use of pronouns and other inclusive language. The truth is, if anyone loses their skin, it creates tears for everyone on our team.
- Be Flexible: Because of COVID, a lot of ingredients are still not available in the market. So when a recipe calls for red pepper, the chef might need to use jalapeño peppers instead. Hint—remove seeds of the pepper and please wash your hands when handling peppers at home! Flexibility is also critical in our workplace as there will never be a “one size fits all” approach to a project. This is why when we share a job description, we use it as a guideline for the position. A key factor for filling any role is based on the person’s applicable contributions and not their appearance!
- Have an Ally: Chefs rely heavily on their sous chefs to keep the ingredients at hand and the recipe requirements on track. Without a strong team in the kitchen, it is easy for the chef to lose their way. Keep this in mind when in the workplace. It is always good to have an ally that helps to keep you in line with your goal. In the chance that something or someone is misunderstood, it makes things easier to address when we have someone who we trust to partner with along the way.
- Fun Along the Way: Chef Leveque shares that cooking is a creative expression and if you aren’t having fun, it’s likely that your recipe is not going to taste very good. This holds true to most aspects of life. At AlphaGroup, while we are dedicated to providing the highest quality medical communications in the industry, we are also focused on building a welcoming workplace and a fun community. This perhaps is the AlphaGroup’s secret sauce!
So now that we have explored the various ways in which Leveque’s cooking tips and AlphaGroup’s culture building are similar, let’s eat! Leveque led us all on a tasty exploration of how best to prepare his signature stuffed pork chop and complementary chimichurri sauce. And while the methodology and ingredients that follow serve as good guidelines, remember Leveque’s tricks of the trade that will help you to bring his recipes to your light.
Olive oil 1/2 cup
Red wine vinegar 2 tablespoons
Chopped parsley 1/2 cup
Cloves of garlic 3
Red chilies 2 small
Dried oregano 3/4 teaspoon
Coarse salt 1 teaspoon
Pepper 1/2 teaspoon
- Mix all ingredients together in a bowl
- Allow to sit for 5–10 minutes to release all of the flavors into the oil before using
- Ideally, let it sit for more than 2 hours, if time allows
- Use to baste meats when grilling or barbecuing. It can also be used as a marinade
Stuffed Pork Chop
Bone-in or boneless pork chop 1 per person
Fresh mozzarella 1 log
Fresh spinach 1 bag
Prosciutto 1 slice per chop
Garlic 2 cloves
Olive oil, vegetable oil, or cooking spray
Oregano, Italian seasoning, or Provencal herbs
- In a bowl, mix the oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and selected Provencal herb/Italian seasoning
- Sauté the spinach with the minced garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper; remove from the pan and transfer to a plate
- Cut the mozzarella log in thick slices
- Slice a pocket into each chop, being careful not to cut all the way through
- Stuff each pork chop with prosciutto, spinach, and mozzarella and seal them with a toothpick
- Rub the chop with the oil mix
- Preheat your oven to 400°F or put the chops on the BBQ for 2–3 minutes on each side. Finish in the oven for 10–12 minutes or until the meat is cooked through and no longer pink in the middle
- Note: If you insert a thermometer in the thickest part of the chops, the temperature must be at 150°F
- Let chops rest for a good 5 minutes to allow the juices to recirculate back into the meat before serving