Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Only at Google -- I cooked Feijoada for my entire office :)

On December 10th, we had our yearly Christmas party here in Zurich: most of the employees get together for that. At the party, I had the opportunity to have a chat with Nelson Mattos, a Brazilian from Porto Alegre, who nowadays is the VP of Engineering for EMEA, at Google.

In that occasion, we were talking how nice it would be to have a Brazil Day at the restaurant in Zurich, and that it would be nice to have all those people, from all over the world (Zurich office is *very* multicultural) to experience Brazilian food. Nelson agreed with me, and said we should try that.

Well, he is a busy guy, and I never really thought it would happen, but then I got suprised by an email from him, around 3 weeks ago, saying he spoke to the restaurant manager, and the executive chef, and they agreed to make it happen.

We then started collecting recipes among the 9 Brazilians that work here in Zurich, and agreed on a menu. As usual, Milliways (the restaurant at Google Zurich) prepares 3 different meals: one meat based -- being porc, beef or chicken, one fish based, and one vegetarian option. Besides that, we usually have 2 or 3 different appetizers. So the agreed menu was: Feijoada and all the proper side dishes, Moqueca also accompanied by the proper side dishes and a palm heart cake for vegetarians. The starters were Coxinhas, Pão de Queijo and Casquinha de Siri. The dessert was Coconut Cake.

In total, I dedicated around 10 hours of work to this meal. So did Nelson. He was the "chef" responsible for the Moqueca, and I was responsible for the Feijoada. We shared the appetizers between us and the other kitchen staff members.

The big day was today, lunch time. I got to the restaurant yesterday to prepare the ingredients, and make sure there was nothing missing. So did Nelson.

Today I was there around 6:30am to start cooking, after having a nightmare which made me wake up at 5:30am: a huge line of people, complaining and hungry, and I was desperate at the kitchen cooking, cooking...and the meal wasn't ready in time. When I got there, I saw all over the place banners saying "Fernanda and Nelson are cooking for you today! Brazil Day at Milliways!".

I put the Feijoada to cook at 7am, and then moved on to the Coxinhas, which is a lot of manual labor. The dough for the Coxinhas was taking F O R E V E R to get right, and I started to get scared by the fact that I had to hand make 250 of those. But in the end, everything worked fine and we managed.

I also brought some yellow-green stuff to decorate the restaurant, and asked the Brazilians working here in Zurich to send me pictures of their hometown or state: I printed those, and their pictures, and with help of one of them and the restaurant manager, they spread all the flags, hats, pictures, Carmem Miranda banners, around Milliways. It looked like a little piece of Brazil for today. I also found a DVD which displays images from Rio de Janeiro, and we kept playing it in loop using one of the projectors.

Unlike in my dream, everything was ready in time for lunch to be served at 12. I never cooked for so many people. The Google Zurich office has a few hundred people, the most I've done in the past was for 50!

Samba playing, food on the counter, everything ready, me and Nelson started serving all Google employees. And so we did until 1pm, when exhausted, I went to my desk and slept for 1,5 hours. I had meetings nearly until 7pm today, and wanted to be awake -- in the end, I am still an Engineer, even though I was playing the Guest Chef for a day.

Lessons learned today:
Cooking is a very tiring activity, but lots of fun. The staff working on our restaurants deserve a big thank you for doing that every single day of the week, 3 times per day.

Even though Google Zurich is not as small as it was 4 years ago when I started, I still love it. Where in the whole earth, have you seen a VP of a big corporation serving meals to his/her employees? Only at Google. Where on earth would you see a company simply allow 2 employees (from Engineering department) play "Chef for a Day" and cook for an entire office? Only at Google!

This is why I work for this company, because like Google, only Google.