I had read this online somewhere prior to coming down, and it came up as a funny little quip during our day one orientation as well: you will come to fear weekends.
Wha? Is this some kind of Stockholm syndrome inducing propaganda to get Silicon Valley tech workers to put in more hours at the office? A horrid glimpse at my willingly chosen future? Or worse yet … the truth?
They were referring to food.
You see, some of the larger employers in this area (Google, Facebook, etc.) are well known for providing top quality eats to their employees – and I’m not just talking about snacks. I mean, full meals. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. And yes, snacks. The joke, is that you will fear weekends because you won’t know what to eat I chuckled … and carried on with my life. And then the weekend hit.
Now, I explain this away by virtue of the fact that I’m in a temporary apartment with none of my usual culinary implements, spices or staples for practicing the art of cooking – but I’m not actually chuckling anymore. I have so little here to work with (why stock a kitchen when it’s just me here, temporarily?) that I honestly found myself wishing the office was open today and I could go in and put in a few hours just to justify stopping by the cafeteria.
LinkedIn has, what I would describe as, no ordinary cafeteria. A relatively recent addition to the campus, this place is huge. And has it all. A full salad bar, selection of breads and rolls, soup station with 2-3 soup options, and about 5 major food stations that focus on preparing dedicated weekly menu choices – one of which is a pizza/flatbread section and one of which is a dedicated Indian food kitchen with 2 authentic tandoor ovens that churn out some pretty awesome naan.
For breakfast, the salad bar is loaded with fresh local fruits. The soups trade places with giant pots of oatmeal and cream of wheat. And the other stations transform into snazzy options like an omelette bar, pancakes, french toast, sausage, bacon, etc.
Above are a couple samples of the types of meals that are cranked out of the LinkedIn kitchens. There’s roasted chicken, with a roasted cauliflower salad, peppers and jerusalem artichokes. In the middle, a pork posole soup, amazingly tender ribs (like eating candy), roasted garlic butter corn and potatoes. On the right, Thai coconut chicken wings and braised cabbage. Of course, there’s more standard fare like a make-your-own sandwich station, and the requisite burger/fries/onion rings type food as well.
Despite all this wonderful food, one of my favourite aspects of this culinary experience, is the refreshments. Contrary to popular stereotypical American practices, there actually isn’t a lot of pop (ahem, “soda”) around. Even though there are a few decidedly less health eating options available, there is a strong undertone of healthy, non-processed, eating – and that extends heavily into the available drink options. While there are a few fresh juice options for breakfast, lunch and dinner feature a selection of 3-4 flavoured waters rather than pop. In fact, unless I’m completely missing it, there’s no pop machine to be found in the caf at all. You have to hunt further afield into the kitchenettes in the other office buildings to find one. The waters are inspired and delicious! I’ve had blackerry w/ rosemarry, mango, carrot, cucumber w/ mint. Very tasty, and very unsweetened. And if you want something with a bit more kick, there’s a kombucha bar with 4 different flavours of the fermented fizzy stuff quite literally “on tap”.
There’s generally a nice little portion of some sort of sweet bite to finish off your lunch (for instance, the forbidden purple sticky rice pudding w/ coconut milk and luscious chunks of fresh mango I had the other day), and the perennial frozen yogurt machines (4 flavours to choose from), but otherwise, the health kick extends to not having a giant selection of sugary options constantly in front of your face too (he says, blindly ignoring “take all you want” peanut M&M dispenser and other available froyo toppings
And if you don’t have time to get to the cafeteria during their serving hours and are feeling peckish, every floor of every building on the LinkedIn campus has a kitchenette that is stocked with about 3+ drink coolers with a wide variety of available liquid options, prepared sandwiches and snacks, milk, an espresso machine with steamer and syrups, sandwich fixings, cereal options, fruits, salts snacks and a couple cookie & chocolate type options.
The cooking staff really do an amazing job focusing on locally sourced ingredients, providing a “foodie” but not pretentious-foodie selection of menu options that cater to almost everyone, openly invite feedback and suggestions for foods to feature (I think they see it as a fun challenge to try and recreate meals people have had that they’ve loved), and try and stick to healthy balanced options for the thousands of people that eat in their halls all week long.
And as if that wasn’t all good enough, we’ve been told that it’s totally fine to bring guests – so if you’re down in the area and want to come visit, just let me know!
P.S. The TV’s & sound system in the actual dining hall section are hooked up to a cool social jukebox app called Rockbot where you can sign in from your devices and request the tunes you want to hear to be played. Very cool!