Lunch at Google

Lunch at Google

I’ve had a lot of interesting experiences on this book tour, from taking in all the gorgeous produce at farmers’ markets, from San Francisco to Washington D.C,, to having someone tell me that he was proud of “my people” for the book I wrote. Wasn’t too sure who “my people” are. At first I thought it was mes amis français, but then I realized it was likely you, my dear readers.

Lunch at Google

As I pack up, ready to head home shortly, it’ll be a relief to be back in my own bedroom (and bathroom), after four weeks of gently explaining to hotel housekeepers that there’s no need to knock on my door at 7:30am to see if I need any of the fourteen towels in the bathroom replaced. I can only imagine what they would think of me if they saw my own bathroom at home, with a mere two towels hanging from the towel bar.

Which makes me wonder: What on earth do people do with all those towels, piled and rolled up, in hotel rooms? If I had my druthers, I would like the option to be able to trade some for a few more electrical outlets. Heading to the finish line, though, perhaps I should have yielded to their queries about extra towels, because I’m about to throw one in.

Lunch at Google

Lunch at Google

If I’m not making sense, you’ll have to excuse me, like the person who was surprised when I mentioned that it was October. (It was, in fact, April.) But one experience that I can still recall as clear as a lens on Google Glass, was visiting Google, where I was invited to speak to a group of Googlers, as they’re called.

(And if using the word “Google,” and linking to it, that many times in one sentence doesn’t jack up my search engine juice, I don’t know what will.)

Lunch at Google

But I’m sure my people – which would be you (or vous) – would be proud of me for imposing myself on them, and coming before my talk, for lunch at one of their famed cafeterias.

Lunch at Google

Google is a long series of buildings, and as my friendly Google glass-clad Googler led me around, I couldn’t really follow exactly where we were going. Google is really a campus; a series of buildings connected by tree-lined pathways and open courtyards, with various activities taking place in them, including homages to favorite snacks.

Lunch at Google

But lest you think the Googlers are eating all day, there were exercise classes going on as we walked around. And colorful, Googly, free bikes to take, to get from place to place. But I was intrigued by the “conference” bike, which makes sense if you’ve ever been in one of those meetings where everything, and everyone, seems to be talking around in circles. Why not ride while you do it?

Lunch at Google

But because Google is known for innovation, they figured out a good solution for churning up ice cream, and burning up the calories; After a few punishing minutes of pedaling, your reward is a scoop of fresh-churned ice cream. I could likely check Google for the calculation, but I assume it’s calibrated to burn precisely the same calories as the scoop of ice cream. If it doesn’t, and Google is reading this, you’re welcome to crib my idea. (Or better yet, buy it from me. Let’s talk.)

Lunch at Google

Speaking of sweets, I got to meet the pastry team. And if the people-powered ice cream maker isn’t evidence enough that technology still hasn’t found a way to replace the pleasurable tasks of cooking and baking (and that written cookbooks will be replaced my some of the high-tech cookery innovations that keep popping up), when I went into the pastry kitchen, I saw the bakers still cooked from recipes saved and swapped the old-fashioned way.

Lunch at Google

It was a pretty overwhelming place, with food and snacks everywhere, all freshly prepared, using local ingredients as much as possible. The thirty-six cafes at Google feed one-third of the Google global workforce (about 15,000 people), who work at the campus here in Mountain View. But that’s barely enough, and a number of food trucks also operate on the campus, to make sure everyone gets well fed.

Lunch at Google

We all know, at least those of us that spend time in front of a computer, the value of popcorn. And if I worked here (hint, hint..), I’d be the first in line to taste the different flavors, which change daily, which rotate through white chocolate, bacon, five-spice powder, and wasabi, among others.

Lunch at Google

Each restaurant has a different theme, offering Asian foods, such as jook and Korean spiced chicken wings.

Lunch at Google

Continuing on to California cuisine, and foods from other lands, there are also pizzas, copious salads, Indian fare, and a long counter manned by a team rolling up sushi. And let me tell you, after traveling around the US for a month, sushi is close to becoming the national dish of America. And yes, that includes Canada.

Lunch at Google

In addition to getting to eat all the food served in the cafes and restaurants, Googlers are welcome to take complimentary cooking classes in the spacious test kitchen. And when I asked if the pastry team ever took on interns, they told me anyone who works there was welcome to spend time baking in the kitchen. And why not? Considering they make twenty thousand cookies a day, I am sure they are happy to use all the help they get. (Note: I slipped them my resumé.)

Lunch at Google

Interestingly, for a company filled with people who are all about connecting people, and information, not one person that I saw in the lunchroom was hunched over their his or her computer while eating, or was wrapped up in their smartphones. They were connecting the old-fashioned way: Over lunch.

Lunch at Google

After a terrific meal of maki rolls and fresh asparagus, we munched on cookies before my talk, which was a lot of fun. And I guess I should have expected that the Googlers would have some of the best queries that I’ve had on my book tour.

I don’t know if my results (ie: answers) were as swift, or as helpful, as those that you get from Google. However it was great to meet everyone there, nonetheless. Which means I’m not ready to be replaced by a computer. But just in case, they’ve got my resume on file. And that calorie calculator attachment for the ice cream churning bike is also up for grabs – and I’m accepting offers.

Lunch at Google

58 comments

  • Organic? GMOs?

  • What a fun place to work! Is everyone there under under 25 years old, or did you see a few gray headed souls walking around?

  • May I cast my vote – as one of your people – for you to immediately adopt that closing shot of you peering through the donut as your Fabulous Author Photo for all your future books? Great pic of you and it brought a smile to my face.

  • Next stop? Apple Inc. headquarters!!!!!

  • My husband was at Google once for a conference and although he saw many things, he couldn’t help talking about the food that was everywhere. He was told that most people that start working at Google gain “the Google 15″ because of the accessibility to food. That would totally be me. I love that you noticed they weren’t hunched over phones or computers while eating. That’s great. Calibrating that bike is a pretty fantastic idea! Now let’s come up with bike names :)

  • I’m so happy to see that recipe book, sic.
    Post-it notes and photo copies, some things never change.

    • In the test kitchen, they also use paper and pen to write things down when developing recipes. I was thinking the Google Glass might be great for recipe testers so you could dictate and take pictures while you’re cooking. I tried a pair on, but they made me give ‘em back before I left!

  • I love how fun the environment seems to be. The picture of the bicycles is everything!

  • I know people who work at Google now and just completely stopped buying groceries as they can get breakfast and lunch at the Google campus and then take home something for dinner too – all for free. Wonder if the quality of the food is ‘good’ or really actually quite good.

  • Honey-bunches, please tell me you were at Google for a TED talk…one of your very own. Please! If not, I must go, poste-haste, to enquire as to how they could have made such a faux pas.

    I’m so glad you are coming home. While it is fun to travel, it is always nice to return home side. I am so sorry to have missed an opportunity to meet you.

    I am a towel abuser. I lay the floor with ‘carpet’ before unrobing. I hate foot cooties. Yes. I am wasteful, but not unlike you, I use only two towels at home. I hate laundry and my cooties know to run for cover when I enter the bathroom.

  • This is what happens at a very successful Silicon Valley company. They do share profits with the employees, which is great. However, this all disappears if the profits do likewise or if the company is sold. My husband worked for a company over there that took employees to the movies for staff meetings. One time they went to a theme park on company time. I was kind of annoyed that there was a rather paternalistic attitude of the company, that reduced the employees to the level of children. Look at the lawn sculptures above, to see what I mean. The bikes don’t help. My brother-in-law worked for a company that had the Beach Boys playing at a company event. This all vaporizes if the company is taken over, or falls on hard times. It seems wonderful, so the employees should enjoy it while they can!

  • i second Julia’s comment about you in the donut. it really made me smile too.
    i am retired from cooking but maybe google would hire me to wash dishes? l’d love to work there! wow very cool.
    glad you are on the last leg of the tour and will be heading home soon.
    have a safe journey, let us know when you get back, after you have rested up of course.

  • No picture of those cookies who find away out of the campus in your pocket ?

  • I agree, that doughnut picture is too cute! I’ve no doubt it’s hard work but it looks like a fun place, when you can get the chance. . .love all the colors and bikes, the whimsy.

    Did you have a cartoon balloon app/ad following you around after you left? :)

  • So cool! Thanks for the behind-the-scenes look. As I sit here contemplating the really disappointing lunch options near my workplace, I am VERY jealous of the googlers that have so many delicious choices!

  • David – I’ve been a long-time reader of your blog (6+ years) and attended your talk at Google (I work there). You have such a magnetic personality, it was wonderful to see you in person after years of hearing your blogging voice. We were very fortunate to have you at the Googleplex!

    • Thanks! It was really fun, and I was really surprised by the interesting questions I was asked. Was happy to be invited and hope to come back someday.

  • Did you notice the community garden plots? They can even take fresh veggies and herbs home! It’s really quite a campus to visit … they even had a zipline at one time, but I think the lawyers got their knickers in a knot over that one!

  • Oh, David. You’re a Rock Star! Imagine being asked to speak at Google. Thank you for an inside look at a place few of “your people” will ever see. You look very handsome seen through a doughnut hole, I must say.

  • I’ve had the good fortune to eat lunch at Google and it is *amazing*. I thought the food was excellent.

    As for the hotel maids, keep in mind they probably have a list of things they are *required* to do and check off, including asking if someone needs a 15th towel at 7:30 a.m. If you want to head that off, you can talk to the front desk clerk when you check in and ask that the housekeeping manager put a note on the maid’s clipboard not to disturb you until 9 or whatever time you say. That has worked about 80% of the time for me, when I am going to be in a room for several days I don’t need fresh towels and sheets every single day – I don’t do that at home, why do it in a hotel? Every other day is sufficient.

    Love the donut picture and wow, why *haven’t* you done a TED talk, if you haven’t? I would SO watch that!

    • I stayed in a hotel that gave you a credit for the restaurant or cafe if you opted out of room cleaning. That way, they definitely don’t wheel their cart back-and-forth in front of your door until you finally leave, so they can clean it. (They knocked on the door of the 3 nice teenage girls across the hall from me in Miami at 7:45am, who had been out very late the night before, to clean the room. What a wake up call!)

      I sometimes feel bad about requesting they don’t clean my room (because I’m staying in to work), because the hotel maids need to work, too. But on the other hand, maybe they could put them to work making baked goods from scratch for the breakfast buffet, like the one at my current hotel, which is charging $20 for breakfast, with a selection of store-bought (and very sweet) muffins, and cubes of melon. : )

  • Nice GIG at Google.. wish other companies could have at least some healthy food choices…but not in the NOT FOR PROFIT world..it will never happen too much $$$

    • The problem is that good food costs more than junky and pre-processed food (which begs the never-ending question: How to provide good, healthy food at a reasonable price, while compensating the people who grow and produce it fairly?) So for a bunch of reasons, it’s hard for nonprofits and similar businesses to feed people. Fortunately organizations like School Lunch Initiative and The Garden Project, that are working to find solutions to close that gap.

  • I am in Paris until 31 may. Are you appearing for a book signing in Paris before I leave.
    I would be very happy to meet you

  • David,
    For lack of a better place I have to apologize to you. I am the nutso fan who accosted you at B.Patisserie. It was such a moment that my friend and I were there and you showed up. We have been longtime DL groupies!! She was in town only for a week and because of you I wanted to show her B. Certainly a stars aligning moment. I usually would not behave like that since I was reared in the South! I hope you will forgive me. Now I have to try the granola when I saw you got some.

  • David, I too wouldn’t mind volunteering at their pastry kitchen. I’m also interested in their bicycle ice cream churner. Google looks like a great place to work! By the way, meeting you at Dupont Circle’s farmer’s market for your book signing on May 18 was the highlight of my day. I have all of your books and wish I brought the others for you to sign too.

    I will try making your ice cream recipes using coconut milk this summer since I developed a problem with dairy products but love ice cream or gelato.

    I also took some photos from the book signing event, if you are interested, pls. provide an email address where I can send it. Thanks! Bon voyage! Please do return to DC on your next tour :).

  • Nothing to add to the comments on your terrific Google visit.
    Most hotels do not accommodate for several electronic devices that need recharging. Next time bring an extension cord (12 ft bec it often has to snake through the room)and/or a power strip. This works even on overseas trips. Just plug in one end of the extension cord to foreign adaptor ANC then plug into the wall. Voila!!!

    • A few hotels I stayed at how power ports on the desk, with USB ports, multiple outlets, etc. With so many people traveling with various devices, it’d be a nice addition to most hotel rooms. I travel with a Belkin outlet, which has 2 USB ports. But in some places (like my current hotel in Washington, DC, as well as the one I stayed in in NYC), there weren’t any outlets anywhere near the desk. The extension cord is also a good idea, too.

  • The lawn art is representations of the alphabetically named versions of the Android operating system, so you can say fun things like “What are you running? Kit Kat?” when passing around phones

  • I love the bicycle ice cream churner (not sure about the conference bike though…) , and the whole reportage, but most of all I am really envious and I would love to visit the Google kitchens and cafes… I have always been curious, I am sure that they would have plenty of vegetarian options too!

    Cool photos.

    Ciao
    Alessandra

    • I asked bout various options and they let people know which items contain wheat, alcohol, gluten, etc on monitors posted by the foods. There are plenty of vegetable-oriented foods, especially in the Indian and Asian cafés. There’s also an Indian restaurant which I was told is the only café at Google that is a more formal sit-down restaurant, that takes reservations.

  • I’m afraid I’m cynical about places like Google – do the employees actually get to go home and have any family life, or are they working from 07:00 to 24:00 7 days a week, with just a few hours off to shower and catch a nap? Providing lots of perks at the office is all very well, but I’d rather work in a place that encouraged me to go home when the clock strikes 5:00 pm.

  • Welcome back home! I’m curious, as you mentioned a few times the “interesting questions” you were asked at Google—-will you share some of them with us?

  • Looks like a blast! Love the photos of the kid snacks, and you in
    the donut hole! I imagine Google is an Amazing place to work / play!
    Food looks scrumptious! Hope you’ve enjoyed a wonderful book tour,
    and Happy Travels on your return to Paris! Wish I was still there!

  • Our son worked as a summer intern at the same campus you visited. (They gave him a fab apartment with a gorgeous villa-like feel and a pool with private cabanas. We had heard so much about it that we flew out from the east coast to see what all the hoo-ha was about. We saw the autonomous car driverlessly drive by. We also saw the conference bike and its long list of instructions for use. The food (which we, as guests were able to partake of) was fresh and plentiful. Morning coffee….just tell the barista how you like it and it’s made to order. We dined in a few different spots but only heard about the Indian restaurant.

    On the same trip, we made a point of driving up to Chez Panisse. I was secretly hoping that you’d given up on Paris and gone back there (so I could meet you). In any event, we’ll be in Paris this fall for a fabulous wedding and would love to meet you then. Even if you find us to be just charming Americans, you want to know Claudine (17ieme). Contact me privately, if you have <>.

  • Completely fascinating post! When I was in the area a couple of years ago I drove through the Valley gawking at all the giant headquarters (and the Android version figurines), but of course there’s no way to get inside to get a peek at the famous food, so thank you!

    As for the towels, I can happily explain what they’re for – I often have to ask for more! Long hair means towels-a-go-go, and also if you wash your own clothes rather than paying exorbitant hotel laundry prices, rolling them up in a towel is the way to go so they dry overnight. (Probably most people wouldn’t need this as they tend to take shorter trips and bring enough clothes. But if you’re travelling from New Zealand, it costs a fortune to get there so you stay long enough to make it worthwhile, hence the need for laundry.)

  • I can answer Annabel! Look I’m sure there are Googlers who work long hours but it isn’t required and it isn’t the norm. My husband is a Googler and his manager is always encouraging a work/life balance and leading by example. It is the most family friendly job he has ever had by a country mile!

  • I recently used several towels in my hotel as yoga mats so I could do yoga using my laptop in my room. The towels are a bit slippery, but ok in a pinch & there were plenty left for my shower!

  • Hi David,

    Loved this post and enjoyed following you on your trip via instagram. I was wondering if the talk perhaps was taped and it can be made available on your site?

    Safe Travels back to Paris!

    Dana-

  • I hope you’ll let us know when you’re up at Talks at Google.

  • ever since seeing the movie the internship, i’ve been itching to know if the google campus actually was like that! after reading this, it totally seems like it is! better, even, when you factor in that ice cream bike. i wonder if i could get one of those for my house…

  • I’d say three towels here, but I have longish, abundant hair (which is mostly silver now, with black streaks). There is of course only one electic outlook, and I’ve had many flats here where there were none, except for the light fixture.

    As for sushi, I’d say it is more a “national dish” in British Columbia than farther east. Of course there is sushi in Montréal, but I’d say that other than French-Québécois, generic North American and Italianish-Greekish food, the foods of the Middle East and North Africa are among the most mainstreamed here.

    It is difficult to provide quality food in non-profits (where often, the workers are paid less in relation to their educational level. Often it involves extra work for staffers.

  • I don’t live far from Google and have friends who’ve worked there. Looks like a fun and innovative place to work. Must be nice!

  • David,

    I live in Mountain View, have friends who work at Google, and have been invited twice to eat at “The Googleplex.” What a blast! There is, admittedly, something rather Orwellian about the place and how they aim to keep their workers happy and working all the time. But my friends seem to genuinely enjoy working there.

    I was wondering what some of the excellent questions were that you got asked by the Google employees? Also, what were the best questions you were asked over the length of your tour?

    Thanks for your great posts. I’ve been enjoying reading your posts and newsletters for a few years now. And The Perfect Scoop has been my ice cream bible for even longer!

    John

    • Interestingly, the main questions I was asked where about my travels, where to eat in Paris, and – curiously – when I was leaving. I’m going to do a post with some of the questions I was asked at an event, and Google said that they might put the talk up on YouTube in the future. If so, I’ll add a note about it.

  • Thanks for posting this. I’ve heard that Microsoft has a similar experience, but I’m guessing Google’s dining experience is much broader. However, living in the shadow of Microsoft as I do, I dream of the day I might get be there to experience the food. Dream on. Sigh.

  • I’d love to work for Google!! But, have to say that I love reading your posts! They’re witty, smart and funny with the use of puns intertwined with the topic du jour. A great cook, photographer and writer! Don’t give up blogging!

  • It was fun seeing you at the Dupont Circle farmer’s market in DC this Sunday! We didn’t line up (we were with our 13 month old boy whose lack of patience is already legendary) but were wowed by the huge lines and when I saw you in the distance I knew who it was immediately! So cool!

  • This is the first chance I’ve had to comment on your visit to NYC last week and your talk at the 92nd St. Y – a terrific interview! I’m so glad I attended and, because I couldn’t find anyone else to go with me, I asked my husband to do so. I did not expect him to enjoy it, but he found the evening to be as interesting and enjoyable as I did. I’ve been a fan of your blog for about two years and looked forward to your “in person” session – you are so genuine a person – you converse just as you write and we spent a delightful hour with you. Thank you for a well-spent evening. Bless you with continued successful writings!

  • David, I forgot to thank you for choosing Dupont Circle farmer’s market in DC as one of your book signing tour stops because it introduced me to a great market in the area. The other markets I’ve been to in Northern Virginia only sold non-organic produce by local formers so I was thrilled to find delicious organic produce at Next Step Produce, pasture-raised pork, and organic eggs in this market. I tried raw kohlrabi for the first time! The almond croissants by Bonaparte bakery were the best I’ve had in the DC/VA/MD area.

    Please visit us in the DC area again on your next tour. Safe travels home!

  • That doughnut is huge! I bet I can feed on that for a month.

  • I think you will find that the garden sculptures are the code names for vaious releases of the Android operating system. Which says a lot about Google.

  • When i was doing a summer internship at Google a few years back, they were offering googlers a mini “kitchen” internship for a day. I did it in the pastry kitchen and boy, what a day THAT was!

    First of all, i was shocked to see that they actually use recipes from Martha Stewart or Gourmet magazine and just make 40x batches. so hilarious. this was also the day i got sick after eating about a pound of raw peanut butter cookie dough (which was delicious, to say the least). I snuck in a camera, as well, and snapped a few pics (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.428508243211.234071.280870213211&type=3).

    After three months of trying out many desserts on campus, daily, my personal faves (to which i got the recipe for, from Pauline the pastry chef) were Banana sandwich cookies (adapted from the King Arthur Flour website) and Dulce de Leche bread pudding. Needless to say, i gained 6 pounds that summer. totally worth it.

  • I’m sorry to say I’d avoid that popcorn after seeing the tongs completely in the food. Kind of misses the point.

  • Google is definitely it’s little ecosystem of food, tech, and creativity. People work so hard, but they get rewarded for it with great food and camaraderie. I’ve eaten at the Facebook office and the Google office in SF, and it’s definitely overwhelming, but a fun day trip!

  • and to think my son turned down the opportunity to work there! He prefers his solitude and his piano, I guess. Sounds like such an interesting place! Thanks!

  • What a cool experience! I love that they actually interact over lunch. Were there treadmill desks?

  • I have a friend that worked and ate at Google back in the day. David I just bought your “Perfect Scoop” and LOVE it. I was wondering where the popsicle mold in the book came from? I hope to be making some of the Vessels in this book soon. I have three kids, 2 that surf and have to have real food on the table 3x a day so I am always on meal ER. Glad I found your book and your blog!