Slice Café, Google
Elizabeth Schindler is changing hearts and minds about vegan cooking one lunch plate at a time. That may seem like a painfully slow process for most chefs, but when the plates are being doled out at the rate of 180 a day to the highly selective and discerning employees of Google, one midday meal could very well start a movement.
“There’s a huge misconception about vegan food — that you won’t get full, or that it will taste like cardboard,” says Schindler, a 41-year-old native of Long Island, who is the chef at Slice Café, one of 19 high-end eateries available to the employees who work at Google headquarters in Mountain View. “People here are so surprised that they like it so much. When I first opened, we were doing maybe 45 to 50 covers for lunch. A year and a half later, we’re averaging 180 covers. And it’s all word of mouth.”
Schindler, a classically trained chef with a degree from Johnson & Wales University, gives much of the credit for the café’s success to her team at Bon Appétit Management Company, whose sustainable “farm to fork” programs and healthy eating initiatives provide her with both unlimited access to local, organic producers and creative freedom to develop menus that have been a hit with both vegans and carnivores alike.
“When I came out here looking for a job as a vegan cook and Bon Appétit told me about the café concept at Google, I knew it was a match made in heaven,” Schindler says. “The company is all organic, it buys 75 percent of its produce from within 150 miles of Palo Alto and they have strict standards about social responsibility.”
Every day, Schindler offers Google employees a different fixed-plate lunch that features a protein, a whole grain and a green. Dishes range from Moroccan vegi-cakes made with creamy lima beans, quinoa and French lentils, to vegan lasagne crafted from nutritional yeast, tahini, white miso and cashew-nut ricotta cheese. Schindler makes sure each meal is nutritionally balanced and properly proportioned, and that the elements complement each other for maximum flavor.
“People rely on meat for their protein because that’s what they know. They haven’t been exposed to other sources of good, flavorful, tasty protein,” Schindler says. “One of biggest compliments I’ve heard is, ‘I’m not a vegetarian, but I eat here because I love your food so much.’ People are so excited and appreciative. For me, nothing gives me more pleasure than hearing that and knowing that we’re also contributing to people’s health in a big way.”
Slice Café, Building 40, Google
Elizabeth Schindler’s Cajun veggie cakes with sauce remoulade, pecan dirty rice and mixed baby greens with tomatoes. The New Orleans-inspired menu uses local ingredients from Alba Farm in Salinas.