Mon09152014

News

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council last week approved the installation of two new directional signs on Foothill Expressway pointing motorists to the Woodland Plaza Shopping District.

The Los Altos City Council voted unanimou...

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Schools

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Edsel Clark, new Los Altos School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, above, facilitates a junior high mathematics curriculum meeting last week.

Edsel Clark, Ed.D., new assistant superintend...

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Community

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China


From IncredibleTravelPhotos.com
Jacque Kae’s “Mischievous” is one of the many photographs on display at Foothill College this month.

Photographs of the land and culture of Huangshan and Zhangjiajie, China, are on exhibit through Sept. 26 at t...

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Sports

Spartans shine in opener

Spartans shine in opener


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Frank Kapp snares a touchdown pass from quarterback Owen Mountford in Friday’s win.

Leading by a point at halftime, the Mountain View High football team outscored visiting Del Mar 20-0 the rest of...

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Comment

A look ahead to the Nov. 4 election: Editorial

Election season is upon us. In Los Altos, we have three major local races ahead – two seats on the Los Altos City Council, and three seats each on the Los Altos School District and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District boards of tr...

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Special Sections

Renovation complete,  Villa Siena looks to future

Renovation complete, Villa Siena looks to future


Above and Below Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier; Left Photo Courtesy of Villa Siena
Villa Siena in Mountain View recently underwent a $35 million face-lift. The five-year project expanded their senior living community’s space and ability to serv...

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Business

Transitioning from postage to pets

Transitioning from postage to pets


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A new Pet Food Express store is scheduled to open at the Blossom Valley Shopping Center this month.

A site that previously existed to meet postal service needs will soon have an entirely different purpose – serving pe...

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Books

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights


A good story about aliens is always great fun to read – after all, it’s only by attempting to understand the human race from another perspective that we can see ourselves more objectively.

But readers who might be tempted to dismiss ye...

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People

JEANNE PACKARD

After suffering a stroke in May, Jeanne Packard died August 10, 2014 at age 83. She was born in 1931 in Berlin, Germany, the only child of Emily Channel and Frank Howe Packard of Chicago, IL. Jeanne is survived by 5 great grandchildren. She was a lon...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos


Courtesy of Los
The cast of Los Altos Stage Company’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” includes, from left, Mylissa Malley as Lin, Vanessa Alvarez as Betty, and Christina Bolognini as Pickles. Altos Stage Company

Los Altos Stage Company...

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Spiritual Life

9/11 survivor Michael Hingson finds purpose

Imagine walking down 78 flights of stairs – 1,463 individual steps. You are in imminent danger as you walk, unsure whether you can make it out of the building before it collapses or explodes. Struggling for each breath, you smell the heavy sten...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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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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