The year-end holidays are an international event that different cultures honor in different ways, not least by the sorts of dishes that they traditionally serve to celebrate the occasion. That reality was underscored and recognized last December by high-tech firm Microsoft and its dining services partner Compass Group at Microsoft’s massive headquarters campus in Redmond, Wash., through a special two-week promotion called Holidays Around the World.
The event, held in 20 of the cafes on the campus, featured customary holiday dishes from 10 international cultures at each venue’s Chef’s Table station, complete with educational information about each, to celebrate both the holidays and the company’s diverse workforce. Over 16,000 of the meals were served over the two weeks, from Dec. 3-14., that the promotion ran. The cultures represented were Venezuela, India, Italy, Morocco, Cuba, Russia, France, Japan, Spain and Germany.
The marketing and culinary teams began planning details for the promotion months before December as 10 different countries were carefully selected and research was conducted to determine customary holiday meals from each.
Microsoft Dining partnered with Hola Microsoft, the company’s Hispanic & Latinix Organization of Leaders in Action, to host a kick-off party on the first day of the promotion at which a Venezuelan band performed in the campus’s Café Studio H and guests enjoyed a traditional Venezuelan holiday dish called Camarones al Ajillo con Aguacate. The dish, consisting of roasted garlic seared prawns with avocado and crisp plantains, was also served at the Chef’s Table station in 19 other cafes on campus that day.
The lineup for the subsequent nine days went as follows:
- Dec. 4 (India): Malai Kofta—curried cashew kofta (a vegan dumpling traditionally made with potato, calabash, paneer or banana) with onion lachha (a kind of flatbread) and garlic naan.
- Dec. 5 (Italy): Tuscan arctic char served with creamy garlic butter.
- Dec. 6 (Cuba): Citrus scented prawns served with mango salsa.
- Dec. 7 (Russia): Dill-scented whitefish in a rich vegetable broth.
- Dec. 10 (Morocco): Seared spiced Moroccan rockfish served with chermoula (a North African garlic/herb marinade and sauce), currant couscous and mint.
- Dec. 11 (France): Beef Bourguignon, made of slow-cooked beef short ribs served with parsnip puree and winter vegetables.
- Dec. 12 (Japan): Seared sesame-crusted tuna tataki consisting of miso eggplant, sesame spinach and ponzu reduction.
- Dec. 13 (Germany): Jäegerspätzle made with brown butter spätzle with forest mushrooms and Swiss cheese.
- Dec. 14 (Spain): Oxtail andaluz, made with red wine braised oxtail and served with mashed potatoes and roasted root vegetables.
“The primary goal of Holidays Around the World was to create an experience for guests to celebrate the holidays on a global scale,” says Melissa Jurcan, director of marketing for Compass. “Holidays are often spent around a dinner table with customary meals and our intent was to bring this feeling and experience to guests in our cafes. Whether they are enjoying a meal that reminds them of their own holiday celebrations or trying something new and gaining an appreciation for how another culture’s traditions, this promotion was about creating an experience with delicious entrees.”