It was an unseasonably warm Friday evening in March during the first week of lockdown. We had all been working from home for two weeks and had started having regular online social catch-ups to keep in touch.
Whilst everyone was chatting about what they were going to do that weekend, Dave Carter had decided that he was going to have his first BBQ of the year. ‘Well, how about we all get cooking and have a bit of a burger-off?’
And thus the LEAP Lockdown Cook-Off was created. Over 12 weeks, multiple members of the LEAP team, clients, former colleagues, and the local pub landlord came together to create some gastronomic delights (and a couple of disasters) whilst following a set brief. The rules were simple, submit your menu on Saturday, and ensure all photos and videos of your culinary creation were posted in our WhatsApp group on Sunday for judging by the previous week’s winner. Then at 7 pm we’d all hop on Zoom for a catch-up that would culminate in announcing the week’s winner.
It started with just a few pictures of burgers, but the creative ante soon got upped as the competition evolved week-by-week. Not only was there a plethora of dishes on show, but soon there were fully designed menus, video productions and the introduction of a whole host of characters with very involved storylines; from Jeremiah Wilson Pickett the 16th with his family cheesecake recipe, to Jakey Bullmanari and his Pizza Express on a shoestring, to a particularly boozy Russian aristocrat who did not like any of the food served. We even had a particularly harsh 11 year old food critic who pronounced her dad’s baking as tasting “minus 1 million”. Each week everyone really pulled it out of the bag and most of all… had fun!
The weekly challenges were:
The competition pushed us out of our comfort zones and inspired us to try some new dishes (gluten-free pastry is not a friend of ours). The best thing however was being able to stay in touch, and have a laugh and a joke. When we were more apart than ever, it was the closest thing to being back in the office. There were many people in the group who weren’t able to take part in the actual cookoff itself, however really enjoyed watching what everyone had done each week and the camaraderie it brought out in us all.
One member of the Cookoff created a satirical electronic newspaper, The Backward Times that reported on the week’s events and we created an Instagram account so we could keep the videos and photos all in one place for everyone to view and look back on, so go and take a look. MasterChef, here we come.