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Calls for a Workplace Cookluck Club

9 June 2017 at 5:02 pm
Wendy Williams
A national volunteer-led organisation is calling on workplaces to pool their leftovers and create a potluck lunch in a bid to stop food wastage and encourage team bonding.

Wendy Williams | 9 June 2017 at 5:02 pm


Calls for a Workplace Cookluck Club
9 June 2017 at 5:02 pm

A national volunteer-led organisation is calling on workplaces to pool their leftovers and create a potluck lunch in a bid to stop food wastage and encourage team bonding.

Youth Food Movement Australia, which aims to build the skills, knowledge and experience that young people have around food, has launched a new Cookluck Club.

The initiative, sees employees bring whatever random ingredients that need using in their fridge, and cook up together in the work kitchen.

Youth Food Movement Australia national communications manager Zo Zhou told Pro Bono News there were lots of benefits to a workplace cooking and eating together.

“We talk about the ways that it practically helps because you are using those leftovers as opposed to them going in the bin, so every time you do one you are saving food from going to waste,” Zhou said.

“But I think there is also a much more important cultural narrative that we’re changing by doing this, which is that cooking doesn’t have to be really straight laced, where you have to have exactly these ingredients, you have to do it exactly the way the recipe tells you to.

“I think it changes the nature of how we even conceive of cooking a meal. Because all of a sudden it’s like: ‘Okay we’re actually basing it off what needs using or what is coming off the farm, or what is seasonal, and being okay with a bit of creativity and maybe even producing something that’s not very tasty and learning from that’.

“In changing the conversation generally you have a lot more longer term impact in terms of how we think about food and how we value food – whether you are talking about wonky veg or veg that you have left in your crisper a bit too long and now it’s gone a bit bendy, it’s like well that stills actually perfectly edible. And here what you can make with it.

“Having it in the workplace is really invaluable too because if you see other people being able to do it and you get to taste the fruits of that labour, then it is like, there is social proof as well as the proof in the pudding as it were, to make all of this happen.”

The Sydney arm of the organisation now eats like this every day with members taking it in turns to create interesting recipes.

Zhou said the idea came off the back of a previous SpoonLed campaign which aimed to turn young into leaders on food waste.

“One of the favorite parts of the workshop for them was getting a mystery box of random ingredients that were sort of on their way out and being like: ‘Okay, what can you make from this?’,” she said.

“Then they went on and ran their own dinner parties with ingredients that they encouraged their friends to bring that were on their way out as well and then they would make these beautiful dinners from them. And so we were thinking when we moved into our new office, you know what would be really cool would be if we did this in the office as well.

“We may as well practice what we preach and so we all brought in our leftovers and we also got a UniBox, which is like a veggie box of seasonal fruit and veg, whatever’s coming off the farm.

“So we would combine that with whatever dregs were in our fridge that we needed to use up. And it has turned into an ongoing thing.

“We have been doing it for over a year now, and it is such a nice way to get away from the screen, get back to what it’s all about.”

Zhou said it was “a bit of fun” for the office.

“It is just so great for team bonding, and actually doing something with your hands and connecting with people again in a face to face way. And we’ve learnt so much in terms of cooking skills as well,” she said.

“When you’re cooking with someone you get to pick up lots of different ways that they do things and they you are like: ‘I would never have thought to cook zucchini in that particular way’.

“Now we make rosti on our sandwich press at work and you start to get really creative and the cooking ends up being a lot more fun, rather than it being cool let’s sit down and make this recipe. Which often actually ends up creating a lot of waste in itself because if you only ever cook recipes then you are like, oh well I have all of these leftover ingredients and I have no idea what to do with them.

“Then they end up going off and you have to throw them away so it is a process of what do I actually need to use and start using that as a base point and having a bit of fun with it.”

She said it was easy for an office to start their own Cookluck Club, and they don’t even need to have a proper kitchen.

“It comes back to the narrative thing, you think to make a meal you have to have a proper kitchen,” Zhou said.

“In our office, we don’t have a hob, the only thing that maybe most offices might not have, or that might be a bit out of place is an electric wok, but other than that, all the other things like a microwave, most offices have a microwave, if they have a little kitchenette. Most offices have a toaster or a sandwich press, that’s not that unusual.

“So it is about changing what people conceive of as cooking as well and what it actually takes to create a meal from random bits that you have.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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