August 31, 2022

Life and Knife: Entrepreneurs learn business lessons in the kitchen

Life and Knife is an entrepreneurship training for startups from different sectors that simulates the best-loved TV cooking competition shows. TTi, SPARK’s partner, is a Jordanian non-profit organisation with a mission to spread entrepreneurship among youth and women. Their innovative training prepares entrepreneurs for common business challenges in the kitchen, whilst helping them to manage their time and resources, as well as promote teamwork, critical thinking and stress management. 

Sharpened knives, local produce and motivated young entrepreneurs fill the spacious, well-equipped kitchen of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts in Amman. Today’s head chefs are also training mentors for the participants of the Life and Knife entrepreneurship training, which will throw live cooking challenges and unexpected circumstances at them to simulate the daily life of startups. 

Appetizers: Chicken and Chocolate 

In the first round, participants are divided into two groups. With just 10 minutes to get to know each other and decide on a group name, the coach then quickly explains the kitchen items and safety guidelines. The mentors distribute groceries suitable to create an appetizer and ask the groups to come up with an innovative and unusual dish – today, that involves chicken and chocolate! – within 15 minutes. 

 “We’re really trying to focus on innovation and practical techniques that can help support these startups and really have a positive impact on their capacity and skills,” says Belal Raslan, TTi Director and trainer. 

Later, a tasting committee samples the final dish of the two groups listens to the participants’ experience and evaluates their performance in terms of time and resource management, team spirit, decision-making and innovation. 

Life and Knife: Entrepreneurs learn business lessons in the kitchen

Main Course: Chicken Tikka Masala

For the second round, the committee and coaches redefine the groups and give the new teams 40 minutes to prepare a main course with the available ingredients.

Once their time is up, a reflection session starts. Participants and mentors discuss their main take aways from the training. One team points out their learning more about ‘customer orientation’ by simulating the restaurant setting, listening to their assigned customer and creating a dish to suit them.  The reflection session also leads to a discussion on the way each section deals with time and deadlines, and how that has taught them more about planning and resource management. Similarly,the innovative recipes the teams needed to collaborate on is equated to challenges within product innovation at their startups. 

A reflection session with the participants after the appetizer round of the Life and Knife training competition ©2022, SPARK
A group of entrepreneurs prepares their main course during the Life and Knife training competition ©2022, SPARK
The Life and Knife tasting committee samples the groups’ appetizers ©2022, SPARK
Networking session after the Life and Knife training ©2022, SPARK

“The Life and Knife experience is remarkable. It’s a real example of  learning-by-doing and I believe it’s the best approach for long-lasting knowledge,” Zana Nesheiwat, an entrepreneur and participant of the training. 

The Life and Knife training by SPARK’s partner, TTi, is part of the startup component of the Economic Resilience through COVID-19 programme funded by the Qatar Fund for Development. So far, five rounds of Life and Knife have been conducted (around 50 hours) of capacity-building training has been delivered to 100 entrepreneurs in Jordan. The participants of the Life and Knife training have a range of startup ideas and existing businesses including financial technology, green entrepreneurship, wellbeing, edutech, and agritech.