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What is the Free Food at Google and Facebook Like?

Updated on June 27, 2011

It is no longer a secret that Google and Facebook serve free food to their employees -- yes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The media have reported on it. The secret has been leaked out to the Internet for a long time now. Some mentions of it probably were made by some potential job candidates who had interviewed with Google or Facebook where they had been told about the free food as part of the many perks of working at these Silicon Valley high-tech giants.

No doubt, part of the reason that Google and Facebook provide free food is to attract top talents. But many suspect that providing free foods from breakfast thru dinner allows their employees to stay on campus longer (and hence work more) instead of "having to go home for dinner".

Food Critic Samples Free Food at Google and Facebook

When we say free food at Google and Facebook, we are not talking about free soda and pizza. Although I'm sure there are some pizza available at times. The menu and food theme changes constantly to provide variety.

We are talking about gourmet food by top chefs. Google's founding chef was Charlie Ayers who had once served the band "Grateful Dead". Ayers left Google to run his Calafia Cafe in Palo Alto in the adjacent city. Another chef, Josef Desimone, had also left Google and now is head chef at Facebook. Reportedly, another couple of chefs and a pastry chef left Google to join Facebook as well.

Unless you work at Google or Facebook, it is not likely that you will be able to see what kind of foods they serve at their cafeterias. Well there might be a few ways... You could get a interview with them and perhaps by chance they might invite you to lunch at the cafeteria. You can make friends with a Google employee and hope that they bring you in as a guest. You can become a Google shareholder by just buying one share of Google stock which is currently valued above $480 would do it. And then get invited to their annual shareholder meeting where they give you also access to their free food just prior or after the meeting.

Another way is to do what restaurant critic Sheila Himmel did. She got permission from Google and Facebook to sample their cuisines and to write about them in her article in the June 2011 issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine.

Google Food

With access to the campus tightly controlled, Sheila Himmel's access to Google's cafes was limited to one hour there, in which she was able to sample four cafeterias at Google by packing the food to take home with her in takeout boxes.

The Google headquarter campus in Mountain View California, also known as the Googleplex, has 19 cafeterias -- including one for vegans, one for raw food only, one named "Charlies' Cafe" after Google's founding chef, and one called "No Mae Cafe". Only some of the cafeterias are open for all three meals. They have an organic garden on campus that supplies some of their foods.

The food is healthy too. Among some of the things they have are wheat grass shots (at Slice's Cafe), organic tofu, wakame seaweed, roasted beets, and gluten-free bread. And yes, they have broccoli too.

For those looking for something more hearty than couscous salad, they have Kobe burgers (at Chuck's Diner), curry chicken, grilled local mackerel, and rib eye steak. For those who don't care to be healthy, there is also a wide assortment of desserts.

They have international foods such as Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican. One of their Asian-theme cafe named "Jia" have tabletop "hot-pot" Wednesdays and "Dim Sum" -- at least according to Yelp. Yes, Google cafeterias are even being reviewed on Yelp.com.

Facebook Food

Sheila Himmel did get to sit down and eat at the Facebook cafeteria. Facebook, in its attempt to be competitive with Google, has a similarly tasty and healthy assortment of food.

How about roasted Brussels sprouts and quinoa? Some of the food she reported back includes pork ribs, hanger steak, salad bar, turkey carving, pasta, pizza, house-baked desserts, etc.

Chef Desimone creations at Facebook are about 75% organic and he mainly uses local suppliers. Only non-endangered sustainable fish are served.

Note:

Google and Facebook may not have all these foods all of the time; the menu changes. So don't go there expecting to find these and complain saying they were not there. The cafeterias are not open to the public anyway.

So there is such a thing as free lunch, if you work at Google or Facebook that is.

This article was written in June 2011 and is only opinion at the time of writing. Considering the pace of industry, this may be outdated by the time you are reading this. Information was based on the articles in the June 2011 issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine titled "Super Socialize Me" with additional information from Time's article on Mark Zuckerberg as Person of the Year 2010.

Although the IEEE Spectrum article did not actually say that food critic Sheila Himmel received free food. I'm assuming that she did get the food for free. After all, there would not be any cash register to collect her cash at the cafeterias. And I think Google and Facebook can afford it. Read about how much Google and Facebook makes and is worth.

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