Maxine Gordon meets the York cookery teacher who is taking lessons from the kitchen into the boardroom.

ANYONE who has ever cooked for a dinner party will know the meaning of stress. Trying to pull off a three-course menu while making sure the house is tidy, the drinks are on ice, and you are dressed more like Bridget Bardot than Bart Simpson demands a set of skills more associated with business than entertaining.

We’re talking about preparation, time-management, following instructions, creativity and achieving goals.

So perhaps it isn’t surprising that business leaders are now sending their staff to cookery classes to finesse their professional skills.

York cookery tutor Sharmini Thomas is taking things one step further by throwing team-building theory into the mix at her classes.

Sharmini has been teaching Indian cookery for a decade on the adult education programme in York. She also runs cookery workshops at the York Festival of Food and Drink. But the psychology graduate and mum of three, who has lived in York for 15 years, is also qualified in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), which seeks to ‘rewire’ our brains to think in a more positive way.

“In NLP you will learn essential skills for building rapport, setting effective outcomes, changing beliefs, finding out strategies behind someone’s thinking and how to achieve results more effectively,” says Sharmini.

All this, while also rustling up an onion bhaji.

Sharmini launched her new venture last month, with two taster sessions at Melton’s Restaurant, in Scarcroft Road, York. Clients from businesses across the city took part in the workshops, where Sharmini explained the basics of her NLP approach and then led them into the kitchen to get cooking.

They had to decide whether to cook a bhaji or make chutney. Whatever they decided would be the right choice.

“I taught them about being in a ‘win-win’ or ‘no-lose’ situation,” she says. “It’s about making the best of the decision you make. If you think it hasn’t worked, then think of what you could do next time. Try to think of the positives.”

This approach translates directly into professional life too, says Sharmini.

“Sometimes companies tell you that you have to do things you might not like to do. But if you can try to think of the positive things behind why they are asking you to do something, you will be more agreeable to the situation.”

It’s all about being more positive and flexible, she adds.

The feedback from her starter sessions, she says, has been very encouraging.

York business woman Tricia Sherriff, who runs She Loves York, said: “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for managers in particular to get to know their workforce in a short space of time.”

Andrew Walker, of White Kite Chartered Accountants, says lessons were already being applied at the office. “The whole team enjoyed the taster session. Not only did we learn to cook something but we are now applying the ‘no lose’ approach to everything we do,” he says.

Sharmini will be running two types of courses: team-building, incorporating some NLP coaching; and team-bonding. The latter is perfect for work colleagues as well as friends, she said.

Classes will run at York High School.

Sharmini says: “In team-bonding, we will be looking at different skills such as time management and communications skills. Often people in a company don’t know each other so this is an opportunity for them to come together, get to know each other and discover the skills they each have.”

• Find out more by contacting Sharmini on 07941 608487 or emailing or visit