Google Eats Local

Oh, the high times of the late-’90s dot-com wave, when the cosmos flowed and lunchtime meant in-office yoga and a round of foosball. The companies may have been one bridge loan away from tanking, but while it lasted, the perks—and the parties, with their tattooed fire-eaters and made-to-order sushi—were fabulous.

There’s just one place where those glory days still exist. Can you guess? Yep, it’s the lunchrooms at Google. The company has 15 at its Mountain View headquarters, with more in the works. The hippest one is the new Cafe 150. According to the Palo Alto Daily News, the name comes from its mandate to serve only produce and meats grown or raised in season within a 150-mile radius. That means no shrimp or scallops, and no tomatoes in winter (Chef Nate Keller substituted salted and grilled persimmons, a surprise hit with diners).

Since rising to the challenge, Keller has become a vocal advocate for the locavore approach, especially as it relates to large-scale food service. Earlier this year, he was part of a panel with the head chef of the Navy and a chef for the Park Service, discussing the possibilities of using locally grown foods on a grand scale.

Still, serving a few hundred people a day, as Cafe 150 does, is a far cry from serving thousands. The Google restaurants are also run as a benefit to employees rather than as freestanding businesses, which changes the cost-effectiveness model. As the News points out,

‘Google is doing a great job,’ said Rafi Taherian, executive director of dining at Stanford University. ‘But the Google program is heavily subsidized.’

And if free local leg of lamb wasn’t enough of a treat, the Googlites also have their very own custom-made ice cream sandwiches. According to the company blog, Chef Keller persuaded the Bay Area ice cream maker It’s It to create a trans-fat-free version of its eponymous treat using only natural and locally sourced ingredients. It even has a Google logo on the wrapper.

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