The role of electrification — for power, heating and cooking — in the modernization of Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Washington, is well-documented. The site eschews natural gas hookups and instead will be supported by more than 902 geothermal wells, in a thermal energy center topped with solar photovoltaic panels. The electricity from Puget Sound Energy will be “carbon-free,” supplemented with more hydropower supplied by the Chelan County Public Utility District.
A centerpiece of the complex will be 77,000 square feet of all-electric kitchens: As Microsoft notes, commercial kitchens can draw up to five times the power used for other functions across a building. Getting that right isn’t just a matter of overcoming technical hurdles — roughly 75-80 percent of the equipment in a typical commercial condition is powered by gas. It’s a matter of overcoming chefs’ and diners’ skepticism about food prepared via induction cook surfaces.
While the modernization isn’t slated for completion until 2023, Microsoft has literally created a working test kitchen for many technologies that will be used there in another location, the One Esterra Food Hall next to the new campus. The all-electric cafeteria opened in March.
“The culinary field is steeped in tradition,” Jodi Smith Westwater, senior services manager of the Puget Sound dining operations for Microsoft, told me. “Authenticity is a big deal in food preparation. That is part of the mindset. But rather than being daunted, we worked with that mindset.”
The One Esterra food hall includes 12,200 square feet of all-electric cooking space, which supports the creation of more than 1,000 meals on a daily basis. (The kitchens on the new campus will serve more than 10,500 meals daily.)
The menu isn’t minimal: There are nine “culinary concepts,” ranging from Masa (Latin cuisine) to Pacific Rim (Asian) and Diner (think all-day breakfast). Microsoft’s food service partner, Compass Group, was closely consulted about the equipment it would take to support this operation, and the two worked closely with manufacturers. This was one of the biggest hurdles for the buildout: Many technologies Microsoft needed weren’t yet available, so Westwater said the company helped custom-design them.
Photo: Microsoft’s One Esterra Food Hall includes an all-electric cafeteria that opened in March 2022. Photo courtesy of Microsoft (pulled from article source)