Wed07302014

News

"Brown is the new green," says local water district


Lina Broydo/Special to the Town Crier
Are downtown Los Altos flower pots getting too much water? The Santa Clara Valley Water District plans to hire “water cops” to discourage overwatering.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is spending nearl...

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Schools

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers


Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Middle school students make robotic hands using 3-D printers during a STEM Summer Camp at Foothill College.

From designing roller coasters to developing biodegradable plastics, high school students received an i...

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Community

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Businesswomen Joan Mazimhaka of Rwanda, third from left, and Fakhria Ibrahimi of Afghanistan, in orange, traveled to the U.S. with a 26-woman delegation through the Peace Through Business program.

Employees scoop ice ...

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Comment

Moving on: The Rockey Road

Just over a month ago, we decided to put our house on the market. My husband and I had been tossing around the idea of moving back to the area where we grew up, which is only approximately 40 minutes from here. Of course, Los Altos is a great place t...

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Business

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday


ElLie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Armed with blow dryers, Halo founder Rosemary Camposano, left, and store manager Nikki Thomas prepare for the blow-dry bar’s grand opening on First Street Monday.

A blow-dry bar is set to open downtown Monday, and i...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

DR. ALFRED HUGHES

Long time Los Altos resident, Dr. Alfred Hughes, died May 1st after a long illness. Dr. Hughes was born in 1927 in Maspeth, NY. He served in the US Army from 1945-6, attended Brooklyn Polytechnic University, then graduated from Reed College in Portla...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn


Town Crier file photo
Local actors rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Los Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company’s collaborative production of “The Wizard of Oz” is slated to close Sunday at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

T...

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Spiritual Life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life


Shaw

Stanford University named the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, its new dean for religious life.

Provost John Etchemendy announced Shaw’s appointment July 21, adding that she also will join the faculty in...

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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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