This past weekend Tanya and I created what I’ve dubbed our Business Experiments in the Test Kitchen of Life Challenge in which we gave ourselves $50 each to buy food in secret which we would then combine to cook up a menu and meal together.

Tanya bought: I bought:
Morbier cheese Chocolate with pink peppercorns
Mussels Oatmeal crisps
Red chilli peppers French country farm sausage
Frisée lettuce Cashews
Speck bacon Dates
Papaya Dried pineapple
Dried big ear mushrooms Mango ginger Stilton
tomatillos Green onions
Blood oranges
Pink grapefruit
Papaya raisin chutney


I share the ingredient list simply to show you the choices we made and what we had to work with.  It was like Christmas morning as we unveiled our lot; we were both impressed by the diversity of choices and the potential for the meal. Interestingly, our first take at a menu was a very safe pass. It was easy and predictable to group the oranges, grapefruit and limes as a great light dessert  to accompany a bite of chocolate and to decide that the dates could be stuffed with the Stilton etc.

Quickly though, we realized we weren’t actually integrating our two sets of ingredients at all.  So in the true spirit of the challenge, we threw out the idea of “safe and proven” and moved to true innovation. It was really hard to let go of the idea of making a great tasting meal to focus instead on creating something new. Yikes, did we really have to risk good taste and use $100 worth of groceries just to prove our creativity? Yes, we did. The result of our more wild/ less safe meal was delight and pride:

  • Dates stuffed with Morbier, cashews and speck bacon
  •  Frisee with Mango ginger Stilton, blood oranges, and curry vinaigrette
  • Farmer sausage with pink peppercorn chocolate sauce and mushroom chilli slaw
  • Mussels with papaya chutney, lemon grass, cilantro, and speck bacon
  • Citrus chutney salad with oatmeal crisps

While we aren’t likely to be invited to Iron Chef anytime soon, I think we were punching above our weight this time around.

Before I get all heavy about what I learned from the challenge, let me state emphatically that the day was a blast…fun, fun, fun from start to Fimo finish.  That’s right. As if we hadn’t made enough food in our five courses, we then moved to creating miniature Fimo quesadillas and PEI strawberry shortcake with Tanya’s daughter while Greg did the dishes.

And so, the learnings (according to me):

  • We are most creative when we aren’t attached to a specific outcome
  • When you think you are being creative already, step back, turn up the volume even more and take another pass; there is always room for more innovation
  • When stuck, it is a great time to take an entirely different perspective/ approach that may seem totally unrelated to the problem at hand (i.e. this food challenge for a Coach Buffet problem)
  • In a business partnership, making playing together as important as working together
  • Have a support team; in our case, one husband (procurer of wine, food critique and dishwasher) one five-year old (who is fascinated by food made from Fimo) and two coaches (Tanya and me) who would have driven you crazy with all our “noticing” throughout the day!

And about that espionage….while shopping earlier in the day, one of us had a huge urge to look into the other’s bag while she had stepped away for a few minutes.  If you do this challenge, don’t be suprized if it happens to you too. And if it does: stop yourself, get curious about what is going on for you, and tell on yourself the minute your partner is back. Your trust in each other will grow and you’ll have a good laugh too.


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