Mystery Basket Challenge

Mystery Basket Challenge, a fun, engaging cooking experience

Here are a few pics from previous events:

This is a 2-hour food competition and mingling event. This team building experience is very quick, and engaging, making fast decisions, creating a product (appetizers).

Within each team the working relationships, i.e. collaborations, are immediate: ideas exchanged and decisions made in minutes. Between the teams, competition shows up after the buzzer sounds. At that point, each team will assess/compare their own product with the other teams’ products (appetizers) to see who qualifies for specific kudos. All of this producing laughter and camaraderie.

Add this event to a Cooking Party for an icebreaker fun-filled first half hour. Once the 20-minute challenge is finished, you will eat the savory item(s) and the sweet item(s) will be waiting to be eaten at the end of the meal.

How it works:

1) The first 10 minutes is introducing/explaining the challenge, and then the group is divided into teams of 2 to 5 people.

2) The timer starts and they have 20 minutes to make their product (appetizer).

3) When the 20 minutes is up everyone becomes a gawker –checking out what the other teams have made. Each team will give a brief description of their product. The time needed for this is based on the number of teams, about 10 minutes.

4) The last 20 minutes you eat and mingle, talk about how it was for each group to work as a team and acknowledge the differences between each team. We will give kudos/accolades to each group, see the qualifiers, below.


So far, 6 people is the smallest group, and 100 people is the largest group I have facilitated (at the General’s Mansion, Fort Mason, San Francisco). An average-size is a group of 16 people, which would be 4 teams of 4 people.

Here’s a challenge at a tech company with 6 people, 2 teams of 3 people each…

Here’s a challenge with 3 couples, the gals vs guys…

All food that requires cooking is done ahead of time, and is chilled until just before the event (no cooking needed during the challenge). They will make finger-food appetizers, meaning that there is no need for plates or forks.

Each mystery basket contains: 5 food ingredients, scissors, paper towels and serving platters.

This event happens quickly, because within 10 minutes of arriving, your group will be divided into teams of 2 to 5 people, the timer will start and they will have 20 minutes to:

  • remove the items from the basket
  • decide what to do with the items
  • make 20 identical appetizer bites with the items

If you have a large group, then there will be multiple mystery baskets with the same ingredients, and it is always fun and interesting to see how the different teams use the same ingredients to come up with their version of the appetizer.

Each team will strive for, and we will give accolades to:

  • the team who finishes first
  • the team who shows the best collaborative teamwork
  • ingenuity / creativity
  • presentation / composition
  • best use of ingredients
  • most unique use of ingredients
  • taste/texture

Group size and venue:

This event can easily scale to whatever size group you have: 4 people, or 40 people, or more! The location/venue can be anywhere, even outdoors, because it does not require a kitchen, plates or forks, …only tables and napkins are needed.

Cooking class, hands on, food competition

Ideas for the appetizers:

I can come up with more ideas based on your preferences. The appetizers can be all savory, or all sweet, or a combination of the two. All food items will be ready to use, except tasks that can be done with a scissors.

Savory #1 (this is stacked, as a Canapé)

  • Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips
  • Mustard
  • Mango
  • Baby shrimp (cooked/chilled)
  • Scallions

Savory #2 (this is served in Asian appetizer spoons)

  • Smoked Mackerel
  • Sour Cream
  • Arugula
  • Capers
  • Black Pepper

Sweet (dessert) #1 (this can be a sandwich, or stuffed dates)

  • French Toast (pre-made, from TJs)
  • Nutella
  • Medjool Dates
  • Bacon (let me know: pork bacon? or turkey bacon?)
  • Banana

Sweet (dessert) #2 (this is a mini kabob, with toothpicks)

  • Smoked Gouda
  • Salted Marcona Almond Butter
  • Granny Smith Apple
  • Cranberry
  • Dried lemon (powder)

See photos here, of a Mystery Basket Challenge event in 2014 with 9 people.