Like most offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, software giant Oracle’s Redwood Shores headquarters and nearby satellite locations have been closed since the pandemic started in March. Thousands of its employees are working from home, and many of the Bon Appétit team members who usually feed them are as well. And while they may not be cooking their fresh from-scratch meals for thousands daily, they are keeping quite busy with frequent virtual culinary experiences!
Resident Marketing Director Cara Brechler, Culinary Director Tim Hilt, and Director of Operations Heather Lee are driving the effort, which they have dubbed “comm-UNITY”: a reimagined way of staying connected, through sharing favorite recipes, kitchen hacks, local secrets, home inspiration, and family activities.
Here’s just a few of their activities:
- Café 300 Chef de Cuisine Jose Luis Ugalde shared the recipes in a live demo of his very popular baba ganoush and flatbread — usually sold out at the Mezze Station during “normal” lunch service
- A weeklong spotlight on Filipino food, including a live cooking demo with Café 600 Chef/Manager Joe Roldan, who walked guests through making his chicken-pork adobo recipe
- To help out one of their Farm to Fork vendors, Triple Delight Blueberries, Tim went out to the farm for a (socially distanced) video interview that was edited together and then shown before a livestream session showing how to make a blueberry-centric smoothie and blueberry-lavender fauxjito. (Tim also purchased a considerable amount of blueberries and froze them for use when business resumes.)
- Local San Francisco Chef and Restaurateur Nikki Cooper, who is also the author of Chocolate Covered Gratitude With Blessings On Top, read her book on a Zoom broadcast to a rapt audience of children of Oracle employees
- The kids (and many grownups) also delighted in a virtual visit to ShangriLlama, a llama ranch in Texas, through which they got to meet Prince Barack O’Llama, King Dalai Llama, Baron Drama Llama and many others, learning what llamas eat, what llama milk can be used for, what sort of jobs they might do on a ranch, and other fun topics
To let the community know about these events, Cara started a weekly newsletter that goes out every Monday, featuring recipes — including a weekly Zero-Proof Cocktail by Conference Center Catering Manager Karly Miller — cooking and wellness tips, registration links for the live sessions, and pre-recorded videos (such as a sweet Father’s Day tribute video to many dads on the Bon Appétit team!). They’re also getting help from Oracle via the company’s fitness group, which shares them in the fitness weekly newsletter, and internal message boards.
The most hotly anticipated comm-UNITY session to date has been the unveiling of the Oracle 300 Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookie. Executive Chef Terri Wu and Sous Chef Janeth Estrada donned masks in the Oracle Kitchen to take almost 100 Oracle viewers through a step-by-step cookie-making demonstration. (The secret to the cookies? Cake flour instead of all-purpose!) Cara, Tim, and Heather ran the show on the back end, asking the questions that viewers typed in, such as “How do you freeze the dough?” and “What is the key for making the cookie thick vs. flat?”
The thank-yous and compliments also flowed in via chat — “Thank you from my whole family! We’ve been missing our cookies” and “Really great! We miss you!” … along with a flurry of requests for additional cookie recipes. The Bon Appétit team is more than happy to oblige, and they look forward to sharing warm, just-baked cookies and more in person with their fan club when it is safe to do so.
ORACLE 300 BAKERY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE
Soft yet crispy with big chocolate chunks inside, it couldn’t possibly get any better. Makes 24 large cookies
1 1/4 cup (10 oz) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cup brown sugar
4 large eggs, also room temp
7 1/4 cup cake flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
21 ounces chocolate pistoles*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a KitchenAid mixer with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed, cream room temperature butter with sugars until pale and creamy.
On low speed, add the eggs one at a time.
Add cake flour, salt, baking soda, and mix until the batter is almost combined.
Add chocolate pistoles and mix until just combined.
Scoop with a #12 green scoop or 1/3 cup size.
On a cookie sheet lined with lightly greased parchment paper, press to flatten down the dough before baking and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet midway between baking.
Bake until golden brown on edges and center is not wet. Cool on sheet before handling.
To freeze dough to bake later: Roll dough into a log and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Once chilled, cut into desired-size cookie, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for up to 1 year.
*Bon Appétit uses Cordillera 58% chocolate disc shape “pistoles” in the bakery. If those are not available, substitute large-sized chips.