Executive Chef Luis Rodriguez walks everywhere on Google’s sprawling Northern California campus. He’ll even take the eight flights of stairs up to JIATING, Bon Appétit’s full-service Chinese concept. “I’ll challenge my chefs to take stairs with me,” laughs the 34-year-old, who’s obviously quite fit. (More about that later.)
Luis’s career to date has been one of scaling higher heights, always seeking out greater responsibility and furthering both his knowledge and his impact. Whether that meant learning the financials of Google’s 56 cafés in Silicon Valley, training and developing effective teams, or spearheading strategic initiatives to improve workplace safety, Luis has taken the initiative time and again to add value to his daily work.
Luis came to cooking as a teen. His father, Jose Luis Rodriguez, was a line cook at the now-closed San Remo’s Ristorante and Pizzeria in San Carlos, CA. When he was 16, Luis visited his dad at work, and while he was waiting, he was given free pizza. “Do you get to eat this all the time?” he asked incredulously. When the response was yes, his future career path unfolded. “From then on,” he says, “I wanted to work — and eat pizza.” He talked to the owner, got a work permit, and worked part-time at Remo’s through the rest of high school.
The years that followed included an impressive number of jobs: at the burger franchise The Counter, where he was quickly identified as management material and named head chef of a new franchise; as sous chef, then executive sous chef, then executive chef at Marqs, a French restaurant in Palo Alto; and then at another French restaurant called Viognier.
In 2005, Jose Luis joined the Bon Appétit team at Google as a cook. Father told son how great it was, and soon Luis joined the Bon Appétit family, too. He’s now in his 12th year.
Luis’s responsibilities at Google have swelled. He began as a line cook at American Table; was promoted to lead cook for Pure Ingredient Café (now called Beta C); then became sous chef at Café Alley (now Baadal) and chef de cuisine for Beta C. He soon began supporting other openings on Google’s expanding campus, and in 2015, he was named executive chef of the opening support team, where he has helped open more than 30 cafés and works with the Operational Excellence Certification Program. “One of my favorite things is to build successful teams every day and to see the growth in chefs and hourly staff. I play coach a lot, but I get to be a player as well,” he says.
Regional Director of Business Excellence and Mobilization Sarah Johnson first met Luis at the end of 2014 when he interviewed for a position on her team. “He was really jazzed about openings. Luis saw a need for better systems and wanted to play a bigger role,” she says. And he has. Sarah calls Luis “operationally wise,” adding that he’s “driven and cares more than just about anyone else. His passion for food safety and workplace safety have helped us advance the program. He shows guiding leadership at every opening. Everyone really adores and respects him.”
Luis is proud of the changes he’s been part of. “Bon Appétit offered me the chance to dream of building a new career. I wanted to oversee a café. I reached that goal, and now I oversee all the cafés. With this opportunity I’ve built not just a new career but a new me.”
The new Luis, it turns out, is 200 pounds lighter than the Luis of just 18 months ago — a striking fact he lets drop almost as an afterthought. His secret? Cutting out sugary drinks, and beginning to walk everywhere. Along with taking such good care of his teams, he realized he needed to take good care of himself as well.