April 30, 2005

Crusing Corporate Cuisine

Ah yes, the eternal dilemma, where to eat lunch during the work week. In Silicon Valley the answer has been cleared up, sort of. Read this article or settle for my excerpts to understand this.

``Apple's the best,'' said Joseph Ruff, a programmer at Mountain View start-up TellMe Networks. ``The egg burritos, they make them nice and spicy. Network Appliance -- that had a pretty good salad bar, but it was smaller than Apple's.''

Want navrattan korma with raita, chutney and naan? $5.29 at Cisco Systems. Need something to drink? Sun Microsystems stocks 20 flavors of Odwalla juices alone. Feeling guilty? Yahoo boasts sustainably harvested seafood and antibiotic-free chicken.

Marc Marelich, eBay's general manager of food services, often sees outsiders slipping in to eat at the new cafe. And no wonder -- they can get ahi tuna salad tossed on the spot, spicy Tunisian chili with lamb and beef, or Yucatan fish tacos with pico de gallo.

At San Jose semiconductor maker Atmel, which a few years ago decided not to construct its own cafe, employees have found a prized alternative to brown-bagging it. Sales reps, engineers and even the chief financial officer cross the street to eat at BEA Systems' Tuxedo Junction Cafe. One Atmel engineer dines there so often -- three or four times a week -- that a cashier mistakenly gives him the 10 percent discount for BEA employees.

John Lawn, editor in chief of Food Management magazine, said Silicon Valley's corporate cafe scene serves some of the best food in the country. ``You'll find a cafe that's as nice as any commercial restaurant in Chicago or San Francisco, maybe better,'' he said.

Of course, you'll also find some that are worse.

Amy Flores, spokeswoman for Agilent Technologies, offered this opinion of Agilent's cafe: ``All I know is it's sometimes good, and it's sometimes bad.''

And last year, Intel decided that too many employees were avoiding lunch at the company's dining hall, which facilities planning manager Mike Dowd described as ``battleship gray'' with menu offerings ``maybe a notch above hospital and school cafeterias.''

So the cafe splashed its ceiling with paint the color of nacho cheese and revamped the menu to include inari and ebi sushi. It also lowered prices.

Now, Dowd said, ``We have more employees who are willing to have their friends come over to our house to eat, rather than go to theirs.''

Google, by far, has become Silicon Valley's most sizzling lunch site -- as elusive as French Laundry, the Wine Country restaurant where would-be patrons must call two months in advance to get a seat. Ruff, the 39-year-old TellMe programmer, has been begging a college buddy who works at Google to bring him as a lunch guest for the past year.

Pretty cool stuff.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I am laughing so hard that was a great story about your son. My sister has stories like that about her son too. Kids are wonderful aren't they?