Honolulu, San Francisco & Google Food

Tasty tales from the Global Mission in San Francisco and the Bay Area

About to land in SFO, I look at the map and see Honolulu. In Spain, whenever we want to say we would love to go very far away, we say we’re going to Honolulu. Even so, I never met anyone who actually went there.

Well, San Francisco is the closest I’ll get for now.

We are spending 10 days here during the Global Mission. Our colleague Chiara Cecchini, Director of Future Food USA, has laid out a beautiful discovery mission for us in San Francisco and the Bay Area. We will be running a marathon from one tech hub to the other, taking some brakes in the coolest farms and working spaces.

Some corporate supporters of this year’s mission are with us! Our sponsors have the possibility of joining the trip at any stop to do and see for themselves what a food trend scouting tour feels like.

Landing in a city where where work has a profound impact in life, I am curious to understand the relationship of people with food and its role in the workplace. Using the word’s of the anthropologist Jan English-Lueck, “In Silicon Valley, work dominates every part of life. Work is a giant magnet that reorganizes life and networks and food is the glue that sticks them together.”

I’ve been told that many tech companies in Silicon Valley are starting to pamper employees by providing them with excellent food and health programs as a means to attract and retain talent. Let’s check Google out:

You enter Google and you think: do they also have offices or is this only about cool cafes? Google runs over 200 cafes and each one of them is highly unique. From the fresh French boulangerie to the Japanese rooftop and the specialty coffee-shop where you can keep your mug and get your matcha latte. This morning started with a full-global breakfast (with nachos¿?) and a tour around Google’s offices in Sunnyvale.

Having great food served daily for thousands of googlers is not by chance. There is a serious food program with a group for people led by Michiel Bakker thinking about what and how people eat. They are working with the Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard School for health studies, to favor a plant-forward diet that cares for the suppliers and farmers, is tasty and is sustainably friendly. “Meat as a condiment” and the “protein flip” are two very interesting concept which got me thinking on how we can make meat-lovers more sustainably friendly. Chefs should always be in the relentless pursuit of deliciousness; regardless if he is cooking a carrot or a piece of meat.

Food fuels the body, mind and soul (and keeps your engineers from quitting)

Google is investing in this strategy because they want to have the best at their best. Aside from their efforts to give workers a good work-life balance by welcoming families, wellness centers with massage rooms (how cool is that?!), the company believes feeding its employees with delicious food, giving cooking lessons and spreading micro-kitchens around filled with healthy snacks, is not only going to make the employees more efficient as they will feel and think better, but it will also make them feel happy about working there and will hopefully keep them from hoping on to the tech-giant next door. Michiel Bakker talks about creating intentional coalitions using food as a tool to connect workers from different departments by getting together over a meal and discuss challenges they might be facing and come up together with solutions out-of-the-box. “Gmail was born during a lunch between two engineers at our office.”

This doesn’t only happen during lunchtime, but also during the rest of the day in the micro-kitchens that spread around the office where employees go to grab a coffee or make a sandwich for themselves and their colleagues. The food in these spaces is not prepared: the company makes sure to stock up the pantry but wants to make employees interact and make food for each other.

Google has achieved creating a wrap-around experience for their employees to make perform and be better-than-well. The final aim is to have happy (better-than-well) employees who will bring the company to the next level.