My Lunch At Google

Cucumber-seaweed salad, assorted vegetable kimchee, and chrysanthemum greens with tofu.

If you’ve been wondering what happened to that wonderful San Francisco Chronicle food writer, Olivia Wu, she didn’t go far in miles, but she did do quite the about-face in her career.

Wu put down her pen and notepad to free her hands for some bonafide cooking. Since early this year, she’s been an executive chef at one of Google’s famed cafes in Mountain View. At her Oasis Cafe, she oversees a staff of 26, who turn out more than 600 meals a day for hungry Googlers.

A former caterer, private chef, newspaper reporter, music teacher, and yoga instructor, Wu says one reason she took the job was for the challenge to expand the palates and horizons of this young, techie crowd. As one of her wholesale distributors said of her in awe, “She’s cooking Chinese food. Real Chinese food!”

Forget visions of chow mein and egg rolls. Think steamed fresh fish, pork hash with pungent salted fish, homemade lemongrass tea, and fresh juice from young coconuts cracked to order. Or the menu the day she graciously invited me to come for lunch last week: cold salads of chrysanthemum greens and tofu, cucumber-seaweed, cranberry shelling beans flavored with shiso, assorted vegetable kimchee, and 5-spice beef cut from the succulent shin bone. The hot selections that day included: spicy ma po tofu, melt-in-your-mouth crystal pork (steamed pork shoulder drizzled with a soy-garlic-sugar sauce), and stir-fried broccoli. If that wasn’t enough, there was also house-made bubble tea with fresh, peeled lychees bobbing in it.

Ma po tofu, crystal pork, fried rice, and stir-fried broccoli.

Wu uses as many organic ingredients as possible (including the tofu), and only serves sustainable seafood. She’s even added a few traditional big round tables with lazy-susans to the seating area to encourage more synergy among Googlers as they dine.

There’s also a vibrating massage chair in the lobby for those who need a little more TLC. And if that weren’t enough, when you freshen up in the restrooms, toasty commode seats will await your tush. Yes, they are heated, and come with a whole host of other options only a push-button away.

Even four-star restaurants don’t boast all of that. And the Oasis Cafe, like the other Google ones, might just be the hardest ticket in town. Yup, you can only enjoy those comforts if you work there, or are invited by someone who does.

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Date: Thursday, 10. July 2008 5:12
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Chefs, General, Going Green and Sustainable, Google/Tech/Corporate Cafes, Restaurants

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4 comments

  1. 1

    For those of us not lucky enough to work at Google or know someone who does, will Olivia be coming out with a cookbook?

  2. 2

    I’m not sure she has time to write one at the moment, but she definitely should do one in the future. She’s a wonderful cook, and a true expert on regional Chinese cuisines. I know I’d be first in line to buy a copy if she ever does write one.

  3. 3

    Carolyn, you forgot to mention among Olivia’s copious accomplishments that she is a certified master gardener as well. When she came to my farm to interview me, she didn’t just talk, she lent me a much-needed expert hand that day.

  4. 4

    My bad! Thank you, Cynthia, for mentioning Olivia’s magical green thumb. She is indeed a skilled gardener. In fact, I wish I had one smidgen of the gardening skills that both you and she possess. I take it as a great accomplishment if my plants don’t die on me. ;)

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