By Lee Howard
STERLING, Va. — At Cookology in Sterling, groups get competitive in the kitchen. Luckily, there’s a tasty result.
Owner Maria Kopsidas runs hands-on recreational culinary classes and boot camps. She took her cue from the Food Network’s TV show Chopped in creating Cookology’s most popular group activity: a mystery basket cook-off.
Depending on the number of people, teams are split into groups of two to four, and choose a leader, someone who knows their way around a kitchen. Leaders should feel confident with most proteins — chicken, beef or seafood — and how they will taste when served with available vegetables and starches selected in a 15-minute menu planning stage. A mystery ingredient is then added as teams spend 45 minutes cooking.
It can get hot in the kitchen, with plenty of frantic activity happening against the clock, making it essential for the group to pull together for the best outcome.
Chefs are on hand to count down the clock, critique and answer questions with expertise.
“We’ve had groups cook Indian, Asian and Greek food; some of our chefs have those backgrounds,” said Deb Claybrook, events sales manager. “It’s amazing how creative groups can be. They’re judged on how they plate — they make it look pretty — as well as judged on taste. They are making a plate for the judges and a plate for each person on the team to sit down in the dining room and enjoy their meal together.”
Groups can decide beforehand whether to include appetizers and desserts, or to throw a glass or two of wine into the mix to add to the fun. Then it’s up to the team to make the most of an hour in the kitchen.
“Just don’t hold us responsible if it’s not flavorful,” said Claybrook.
Cookology is located in the Dulles Town Center shopping mall, which has plenty of nearby free parking for motorcoaches.S
For more information about Cookology, call 703-433-1909 or visit cookologyonline.com.