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News

Electrical shutdown scheduled today, tomorrow

PG&E is installing new electrical service to the 400 Main St. development project today, which will require the temporary interruption of electric services to several businesses located on First, Main and State streets in downtown Los Altos. PG&a...

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Schools

Community support pays dividends

Community support pays dividends


As a recent cover story in The New York Times Magazine revealed, getting low-income students into college is not enough to close the achievement/income gap. The percentage of low-income students entering college who actually earn a degree lags far ...

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Community

War veteran to visit D.C. memorial on Honor Flight

War veteran to visit D.C. memorial on Honor Flight


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos resident and World War II vet Earl Pampeyan is preparing for an Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C., next month.

Los Altos resident Earl Pampeyan is scheduled to fly to Washington, D.C., next month to vis...

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Sports

Making a splash

Making a splash


Courtesy of Clarke Weatherspoon
Stanford Water Polo Club’s under-14 boys team earned the bronze medal at the Junior Olympics. Front row, from left: Corey Tanis, Larsen Weigle, Nathan Puentes, Walker Seymour, Alan Viollier and Jayden Kunwar. B...

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Comment

Whom can you trust?: Haugh About That?

Waving my pink poodle skirt with all the fervor of a matador preparing to tease a raging bull, I blinked my 20-year-old eyes and gave a come-hither look to indicate, “I’m ready!” Little did I know that the blind trust I had in this ...

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Special Sections

Getting right by eating right: PAMF doctor's book addresses South Asian health risks

Getting right by eating right: PAMF doctor's book addresses South Asian health risks


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Dr. Ronesh Sinha, a physician at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, promotes healthful living among the South Asian population. His new book, “The South Asian Health Solution,” includes nutritious recipes.

When you think o...

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Business

From Google to First Street: Massage therapist sets up studio in downtown Los Altos

From Google to First Street: Massage therapist sets up studio in downtown Los Altos


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Upuia Ahkiong is slated to open Kua Body Studios next month at 106 First St. Ahkiong is sharing space with Evolve Classical Pilates.

A massage therapist with ties to Google Inc. is slated to open a new – and shared...

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Books

"Jack London" chronicles author's adventurous life


Much has been written about American author Jack London, primarily known for his early-20th-century Western adventure novels, including the classics “White Fang” and “The Call of the Wild.”

In Earle Labor’s biography of the literary icon, “Jac...

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People

TIMOTHY WARREN WATSON (TIM)

TIMOTHY WARREN WATSON (TIM)

Born June 2, 1935, died peacefully on August 11, at home in Mountain View, surrounded by his family. He died of complications of Parkinson’s Disease after a courageous 15-year battle.

Tim was the beloved husband of 55 years to his college sweethea...

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Travel

Bergama bound: A visit to newest World Heritage site

Bergama bound: A visit to newest World Heritage site


Photo Eren GÖknar/ Special to the Town Crier
The amphitheater in Turkey’s ancient city of Pergamon, now known as Bergama, overlooks the Bakirçay River valley, left. The city’s ruins also include the Temple of Trajan.

It was 90 F during t...

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Stepping Out

TheatreWorks offers 'Spoonful' of drama beginning this week

TheatreWorks offers 'Spoonful' of drama beginning this week


Kevin Berne/Special to the Town Crier
Three strangers – “Chutes & Ladders” (Anthony J. Haney, left), Odessa (Zilah Mendoza, center) and “Orangutan” (Anna Ishida, right) – come together in an online support group in TheatreWorks’ regional premie...

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Spiritual Life

Spiritual Briefs

Meditation group meets at Foothills Congregational

A Weekly Meditation Practice group meets 7-8:15 a.m. Tuesdays at Foothills Congregational Church, 461 Orange Ave., Los Altos.

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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Corporate caterer targets large scale, local feel


Shannon Weaver/Special to the Town Crier
Epicurean Group’s chefs personalize new dining plans for each client based on the company’s sustainability policies, which prioritize local and fresh foods each season.

Corporate cafeterias, subsidized or gratis, have become a standard perk in the Bay Area, and behind the scenes, food service titans duke it out for catering contracts. Giant multinational conglomerates dominate the world of food service management – locally grown Bon Appétit, known for its presence on Stanford and Google’s campuses, was acquired years ago by Compass Group, one of the largest food service contractors in the world.

But hidden away in a second-story office on Los Altos’ Main Street, a local challenger has been quietly setting up cafes across the greater Bay Area.

Los Altos resident Mary Clark Bartlett’s Epicurean Group operates 35 facilities and employs approximately 400 chefs and other workers. After 10 years in operation, it has expanded its sustainable foods ethos to corporate cafeterias, school campuses and museum cafes.

Bartlett and her partners built the company as a test case for environmental and socially responsible management practices – how big can you scale while making food from scratch, with responsibly raised meat and an emphasis on organic produce? Each of their facilities maintains a kitchen garden, and in addition to developing a food plan for new clients, they delve into waste management, figuring out how to implement composting and reduce solid waste.

Capitalizing on local

Bartlett fell in love with the culinary world while studying in a hospitality program and got her start in corporate dining in Southern California, opening restaurants for a large company and then becoming director of nutrition for a hospital in Santa Barbara.

“We put a hotel service in a hospital because I didn’t know how to do hospital food,” she said. “We were batch cooking for the tray line. Cooks who didn’t want to learn how to use a knife left.”

Batch cooking – preparing food by hand just before serving it – provides an alternative catering model to the industrial food prep based on the “defrost and warm” method.

Moving up to the Bay Area to work for then-independent Bon Appétit, feeding thousands for Stanford’s commencement each year and customizing programs across campus, Bartlett got a taste for what a local company could achieve in the corporate food market. When Compass Group purchased Bon Appétit in 2003, Bartlett left to found the Epicurean Group with her partners Rey Hernandez and Marvin Rodriguez.

“We live in the mecca of food, why wouldn’t we capitalize on local?” she asked.

And as Bartlett pointed out, sustainable values don’t always come at a great cost.

“We develop our menu seasonally around fresh food – when food is in season, it’s plentiful. When there’s plenty of supply, the price is right,” she said.

The group operates institutional eateries from Napa to Watsonville to Sacramento, at places like Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Fairchild Semiconductor. The group’s chefs and managers confer with each client to determine how to craft a “green” meal plan suited to each program’s tastes and budget.

Some standards the company won’t compromise on, regardless of cost. For instance, they only buy seafood that passes muster with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guidelines, which tracks which fish can be responsibly caught or farmed.

“We would not go below those sustainability standards. If we’re going to do a hamburger, it’s grass fed,” Bartlett said. “People want honest food. People here are educated – they want to know where their food comes from.

“That hamburger is going to cost us 20 cents more, but so what? We know that the hamburger is grass fed. We grind our own meat, scoop it out and hand-form patties on the grill.”

Promoting sustainability

The group has also worked to build savings into their practices. Epicurean Group established a cooperative buying group, the GreenTown Co-op, three years ago for Los Altos businesses to team up to buy compostable products, replacing Styrofoam containers and plastic cutlery with a bulk discount – primarily underpinned by the Epicurean Group. Chef Chu’s and Los Altos High School number among the co-op’s participants.

“This is the way we give back to the community,” Bartlett said.

Working out the economic benefits of reducing solid-waste and renegotiating trash contracts to include composting provides a teachable moment for educational institutions and individual corporate clients experiencing a new way to eat.

“People will say, ‘I can’t afford all organic.’ We’ll pick and choose – if you’re going to eat the skin, definitely buy organic. That’s like putting a deposit in the bank for the future,” Bartlett said.

For more information, visit epicurean-group.com.

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