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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Digesting Technology

As an MBA student at a Boston based school of management, I was lucky enough to take a class with a field study component out to the West Coast. Prior to heading out of town, I'd read about how great the food is at Apple, Google and Microsoft. I visited these companies with high expectations for the food and the management and expectations were exceeded on every count. Given the top secret nature of most of the places we visited, I had to keep my camera in my bag, so we will both have to live through the written memories of the tasty meals in Seattle and Silicon Valley instead of photographed ones.

The first corporate cafeteria we went to was at Microsoft/XBox and it was fun and delicious. Turns out Monday is free cookie day. The headquarters was a very modern, airy campus in Seattle. There were so many food options to choose from including some of Seattle's finest from Pike's Place market. Yes, those homemade donuts made it to Microsoft's campus, but I resisted. Given the time constraints, I chose to make a salad. The salad bar was better than the Whole Foods salad bar, which I hold in the highest regard. While the food was about the same price as any other cafeteria, I appreciated that drinks and Monday cookies were free. I chose an oatmeal raisin cookie and saved it for later. It was outstanding. It tasted homemade and was perfectly crisp and gooey. One of my dining buddies had a chocolate chip cookie and claimed it was the best he'd ever tasted, high praise if I've ever heard it.

The next day we journeyed to Silicon Valley to spend time at Google. The headquarters is worth the hype. Between the large meeting bike to the kitchens every 150 feet, I was impressed. People work amazingly hard and it's great that they receive perks while doing it. The Google food was amazing. We went to Charlie's Cafe, a cafeteria inspired by the original Google chef for lunch. The food was free, thus disproving the theory that there's no such thing as a free lunch! I had some neat rice balls, seaweed salad, sweet potato soup, whole chicken pieces, the salad of the day and dessert. Let's just say that if I worked at Google, I'd have to rein it in as to keep my girlish figure. The dessert was spectacular, and I indulged. There was chocolate banana bread pudding, banana cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and cookies. The cookies were creative and exciting like Google. I had a cappuccino chocolate chip cookie and it was buttery and chewy and crunchy. I also indulged in a chocolate chip one. Banana is my favorite element of dessert, so it was a treat to have bread pudding and cupcakes, both banana themed. I loved that the sweet potato soup did not have cream or milk in it. The consistency was smooth and it just tasted like fall. Overall Google had the best cookies from any company on the trip.

A few days later, we went to One Infinite Loop to meet with Phil Schiller. Of course that meeting was the highlight of the visit to Apple, but the food was great too. We got to Apple really early, so they brought us to the cafeteria to get coffee and breakfast. I got an almond butter and avocado open faced sandwich. It sounded too unique not to get, so I got it and they held the pepper and just sprinkled some salt. It was the most filling sandwich I'd had in a while and I can't wait to reproduce it at home. Anything with avocado has my vote. After my sandwich we had a great discussion with some executives and then went on to lunch. I wish I could tell you what I learned, but we had to keep things confidential, so instead I will focus on the food!

Lunch at Apple was innovative. All of the produce was was fresh and delicious and the dishes seemed deliberately prepared. The cafeteria was subsidized so the prices were fair and far less than they would be for the high quality food elsewhere. I had a chopped salad with beets and avocado and artichokes and then I had spaghetti squash with turkey bolognese sauce. I loved that everything was so healthy. So I could make an apple to apple comparison (pun intended), I got a chocolate chip cookie to compare with Google and Microsoft. While the cookie was good, it was not great. I felt like I was eating food that a really great mom or grandma was making. I am going to make a variation of the spaghetti squash for dinner this weekend!

Overall, the field study could not be beat. My brain and body were both well nourished and we were shown such hospitality. After a trip out west, I will never look at the corporate cafeteria the same way

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