Four Kitchens

Web Chef retreat trip report

3 Min. ReadOffice news

On a Sunday in February, tens of Web Chefs gathered together in sunny New Mexico at Sunrise Springs Spa Resort outside of Santa Fe, arriving by plane, train and automobile. Four Kitchens, originally based in Austin, Texas, now employs 41 Web Chefs from varying parts of the country. As a distributed company, it has been our annual tradition to hold a company-wide retreat. Setting aside this time together to be in person each year allows us to learn more about ourselves, each other and the company, all while strengthening our interpersonal relationships with each other.

We set aside the day for arrivals and had dinner together on Sunday night. Many of us met some of our newer additions to the team, who had joined the company since the last retreat, for the first time, including two who started that very day! After dinner, we gathered together for The World Famous Web Chef White Elephant Gift Extravaganza. Even with a limit of $25, this game can get a little heated. There’s nothing like a little friendly competition over a coveted drone or some trolling of the CEO with a loathed Kokopelli pie plate from the old office to break the ice!

After a potentially good night’s sleep, we dived into a full day workshop with Zach Montroy of Navigate the Journey. Leading us through “The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team” workshop, Zach provided data-driven insights into the team’s varying communication styles via sessions, followed by our own much-anticipated results of DiSC assessments we had taken a few weeks prior. We stood in the four corners of the room that indicated our individual DiSC results, and characterized our groups to better understand each other’s communication styles.

Tuesday’s schedule opened up with our annual Highs and Lows activity, which consists of everyone posting their best and worst successes and struggles of the year along a makeshift Post-It timeline. After that, each table was given 100 pennies to represent the full percentage of the business’ cash flow and asked to allocate them appropriately in different spending buckets. A financial forecasting exercise followed, shedding some light on the heavy balances and tough decisions that leaders have to make and what few levers they have to pull at times. Each Web Chef filled out a Work Wheel, showing the level of contentment with their job in several different areas and then discussing it with a partner who is not on their usual team. A less structured afternoon provided the opportunity for team photos and working sessions with teams before our IRL Town Hall Meeting, where we had an opportunity to discuss company-wide issues as a group.

We filled our time with a balance of company planned and employee-led activities.

Following dinner on Monday and Tuesday, Flip Stewart, our Senior JavaScript Engineer, hosted rousing sessions of Lightning Talks. Web Chefs presented in ten-minute intervals, taking questions afterward, on topics like the Bechdel and DuVernay film tests, the correct way to prepare scrambled eggs (apparently creme fraiche is necessary to success), and general aviation.

In the evenings, we could be spotted playing lively games of Monikers in the hospitality suite, an extra hotel suite that we rented as a common hangout space. Some participated in role-playing games up in Sunrise Springs’ Moonhouse. Others headed back to our rooms to recharge, or broke into smaller groups for heart to heart chats and tarot readings.

Wednesday morning incorporated more working sessions with our teams and opportunities to take advantage of some of the resort activities, like Puppy Playtime (yes, with real puppies!) and Archery. We really value the time we have together in person and we certainly make the most of it! After that, we headed off on a company field trip to Meow Wolf, a must-see “immersive experience,” located next to the mountains and, conveniently, a handful of local breweries. That night we convened for our annual award ceremony followed by a new tradition of 4Karaoke with our very own in-house KJ, Allan Chappell, our Senior Support lead.

Two Web Chefs karaoke

Travel home the following day posed some weather-related challenges, causing some staggered and storied returns to our families and home offices. Our Operations team did not shy away from brainstorming potential solutions for next year even while the problems were occurring. Parting ways at terminals in DFW, Denver, and at pickup areas in Austin, Web Chefs could be overheard saying, “See you on the internet!”