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Eric Dela Cruz: My Life As a Google Chef

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, it's a known fact that the employees at Google live a charmed life. Besides massages and Internet-wired shuttles, Googlers are invited to free breakfast, lunch, and dinner each and every day. The Google campus has 17 gourmet cafés, complete with 700 culinary staffers and 20 chefs. Last Friday I was lucky enough to check out some of the cafés — more on that later! — and speak with Eric Dela Cruz, a chef at Cafe 7. To see what his life as a Google chef is like read more.

Eric studied culinary arts at the City College of San Francisco. Before Google, Eric worked at Draeger's cooking school and as a chef for Bon Appétit magazine. After sampling some of his fresh, California cuisine, Eric and I sat down to chat. Here is what he had to say:

PartySugar: Why did you decide to work at Google?
Eric Dela Cruz:
Well, I work Monday through Friday. I get weekends and holidays off. I live the chef's dream. Not too many chefs have a schedule that allows them nights and weekends off. One of my old bosses called to tell me Google was hiring and I immediately knew it was right for me. I get to cook whatever I want with the best quality food around. It's really great because we purchase everything top quality and everything we buy has a positive effect on the environment. We buy 100-percent sustainable, local ingredients. There is no pressure to make money on each plate, I don't have to cook what sells. Food is art and Google is my playground.

PS: What is your day-to-day schedule like?
I get into the kitchen at 5:45 every morning and start to prep the day's meals. I write a lot of the menus, so I work on those. I answer emails, oversee the arrival of our ingredients. By 6 a.m., I make sure the cooks are prepping the food. The cooks are very important, they are everything. I make sure they know the menus and have decent knife skills. Service starts at 11:30, so we have a couple of hours to make everything. Each day we serve several amuse-bouches, salad and soup bars, a noodle station, two entrées, a veggie station, two pizzas, a sandwich station, and a pastry dessert station. After lunch, we prep for dinner service. I make sure that gets underway with the night cooks and leave around 4 in the afternoon. But we are always preparing, cooking, and serving. In the morning we set out a continental breakfast, lunch service is from 11:30-1:30. At 3 we set out a healthy snack like crudité platters and cheese plates. We have sushi on Thursdays and a full happy hour on Fridays.

PS: Is each café responsible for obtaining their own ingredients or does everyone get the food from some giant Google refrigerator?
Each cafe functions individually like its own restaurant. We all get our food from the same providers, but since the menus vary, what we order is an individual thing. In my café, there is a person — the receiver — whose job it is, each morning between 6 and 10, to make sure we receive all of our ingredients. There isn't really much competition between the cafés. Naturally you want yours to be the best café, but really what is special is the variety. You know we have 17 different cafés that make totally distinct types of food. You could eat at a new one for 17 days in a row, that's almost half the month tasting new foods.

PS: How do you feel about the chef who left Google to work for Facebook?
God bless the guy. Congratulations and good luck! You know when opportunity comes knocking, you have to answer the door.

PS: What did you eat for lunch today?
Nothing. I don't really sit down and have full meals while I am at work. I'm tasting things all day that by the end of the day I am full.

Be sure to check back tomorrow when I take you on a photo tour of the Google cafés!

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