And Finally

Google’s gourmets

Is the best food in China served by a US firm?

The home of great food

Google has long been known for its generous perks. In the US, the company offers free dry cleaning, birthday massages and special parking spots for expectant moms. The search giant also has one of the most lavish company canteens, to which Google invites celebrity chefs to cook for its employees. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Google’s canteen in China has also become known for serving some of the most avant garde cuisine in the country.

Google encourages its staff to spend a portion of their time experimenting on new product ideas. And it seems that something similar has reached the company kitchens. According to Xue Rongsheng, Google China’s head chef, the kitchen staff at the tech firm are also obsessed with innovation, albeit of the culinary rather than technological variety.

Once a week there’s a Research-and-Development menu and all the team – 20 chefs in total – conjures up a new offering for the day. Some of the new dishes then make it onto the following week’s menu.

Creativity seems to be rewarded: recent successes included ‘snail roll with millet flour pancakes’; and ‘Cantonese-style steamed noodle roll stuffed with Japanese tempura’.

Xue, who used to head up food and beverage at a five-star hotel in Beijing, told the Economic Observer that all the chefs at Google are challenged to think creatively. To help with that, the company does not impose a strict budget for ingredients. The goal, enthused Xue, is “to submerge ourselves in the ocean of cuisine”.

Sounds like a dream kitchen for any chef. The stats are also revealing. Between 2007 and 2010, the team created more than 3,000 different kinds of dessert. For the main courses, they gave up counting. “We exhaust all our energy in researching new dishes,” Xue says.

The chefs also like to try their hands at fusion cuisine. “We make Western and Chinese bakers work together to invent new desserts, combining Beijing’s traditional bean cake with tiramisu filling. They are all very popular with the workers,” boasts the kitchen boss.

But work pressure in the kitchen is also high. Xue says he reports to Google HQ in Mountain View every week via video conference, usually to discuss his new recipes and other culinary experiments.

His secretary also uploads the day’s menu on Google+, the search giant’s social network, so that kitchen staff can get some immediate feedback on which of their radical new recipes was a hit.

“Traditional restaurants are slow to respond to the clients’ reactions to their food,” Xue said. “But at Google, we find out about their reactions instantly.”

Sadly, bookings are not accepted. The canteen’s for staff only…


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