Back in high school, the cafeteria’s role as a road map for social status was limited to the seating arrangements of the people eating in it, but now it’s the room itself that holds all the power. From in-house sushi chefs to onsite sustainable farms, companies around the country pull out all the stops when it comes to creating a state-of-the-art culinary haven for their workers. Here’s a roundup of some of the most enviable examples.
(Hearst’s Cafe 57, Photo Credit: Tom Moscardo/Flickr)
Hearst’s Cafe 57 is arguably the culinary powerhouse of the publishing industry. Located on the second floor of the Lord Norman Foster-designed 46-story glass and steel skyscraper on Manhattan’s West 57th Street, the cafeteria, which has its own executive chef and feeds as many as 1,200 people a day, boasts weekly online menus, grass-fed beef from the company’s own California-based cattle ranch, a pair of in-house sushi chefs who prepare on-demand rolls and sashimi, seasonal “Green Market Wednesdays,” where employees can purchase local organic produce, and regular notable guest chefs, who have included the Food Network’s Ina Garten (otherwise known as the “Barefoot Contessa”), James Vellano of Bouchon Bakery, and Katie Lee Joel of The Comfort Table cookbook fame. The cafe is certified by the Green Restaurant Association, and even has its own marketing manager and Instagram and Twitter accounts.
Given the company’s worldwide reputation for outstanding employee perks, it’s no surprise that Google cafeterias are state-of-the-art. Most of the company’s dozens of offices around the world have unique food programs, but a priority for most is that the food is healthy and free. Google childcare centers company-wide also boast organic gardens so that Google offspring can grow their own vegetables, and most Google dining establishments offer daily changing menus. Google’s Venice Beach outpost serves its hundreds of workers breakfast, lunch, and dinner at no cost, and employees can also grab a healthy organic snack from any of the eight “micro kitchens” scattered around the office. Sample menu offerings from Google’s Port Authority cafeteria include: braised Magalore salmon in coconut milk, hanger steak with sauce bordelaise, and beet-marinated tofu with chile scallion glaze. At the Googleplex (Google’s corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California) one of more than a dozen options is Badaal Cafe, a healthy Indian restaurant where employees nibble naan atop plush pillows and are treated to a full service wait staff. The restaurant even accepts reservations so that employees can schedule meals with clients and coworkers in advance.
3. Conde Nast
For Conde Nast employees, style is not only an occupation, it’s a lifestyle, and that includes the way the corporation’s workers eat. The company recently moved to its new location in the Freedom Tower, but its former headquarters at 4 Times Square boasted an eatery, sometimes said to resemble an aquarium, designed by internationally celebrated architect Frank Gehry. The cafeteria featured a variety of unique food stations with an abundance of vegetarian options, which included salad-by-the-pound, (and which did not include a hot wing bar with multiple glaze options including Buffalo, Sweet Chili, Teriyaki, and BBQ). Menus include listings such as duck confit and organic Utah lamb T-bone. One thing you would not have found on the menu was garlic, the result of Conde Nast publisher Si Newhouse’s curious company-wide ban of the plant. Hearst Employee food perks have included visits from a Wellness Concepts nutritionist named Willow, who, according to the cafe’s Twitter feed, was brought in to speak to employees about “fats.” Conde’s new cafeteria is slated to open in early 2015.
Facebook has a reputation for a fun and innovative office culture and the tech company’s food offerings are no different. Meals have not only prepared by gifted chefs including the late Josef Desimone, they revolve around cultural or international themes that rotate on a meal-by-meal basis. In addition to a longstanding Nacho Thursday menu, some of the cafeteria’s mind-blowing menu examples have included a “Willy Wonka Menu” that consisted of mole, chocolate ravioli with pepper ricotta, and chocolate-rubbed lamb, and a Simpsons-themed menu of deep-fried pork chops paired with brown rice. Regular staples also include organic soft serve ice cream, Friday Happy Hours, and a massive outdoor grill and smoker, which have been receptacles for impressive meat-based meals that have included an entire pig, 300 pounds of brisket, and bacon-wrapped meatloaf.
Household name corporations are not the only workplaces with jaw-dropping food cultures. The Cary, North Carolina-based software company SAS Institute houses both a greenhouse and a one-acre, entirely sustainable farm. Each season, the company’s farmer meets with the company’s four cafeteria chefs to decide which crops to plant for the upcoming season’s menus. At the end of each day, SAS workers can place orders to take home leftovers that range from steaks and soups to deli trays, and personalized cookies.
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