Any great job comes with plenty of perks: paid vacations, great insurance, maybe even a health club discount. However, employees and clients who step into the Manhattan post-production supercenter housing Fluid, Butter, Mr. Bronx, and Platige Image get an extra special daily bonus: free, gourmet lunch head chef Gen Sato and sous chef Noah Cain. In a time of industry-wide austerity, the food freebies are a daily morale boost and fantastic recruiting tool, while also providing the ultimate welcome mat for outside businesses.
Every day, more than 40 people descend upon the kitchen (named Cindy Rivera after a confused girl who sent Fluid her head shots believing the studio was a casting agency for the Disney Channel) for an all-natural banquet-style meal, typically built around a meat dish with hot or cold vegetable dishes, a raw salad, and a starch.
In addition to daily lunches, Fluid also boasts several catered after work activities – including happy hours, poker nights and a monthly supper club. For variety, the chefs tackle a theme, like an Octoberfest spread with sausages or hand-made pretzels. Other times, ethnic food trends such as Vietnamese sandwiches or Singaporean street food dominate the menu.
“It’s a fun challenge to adapt recipes so they can feed dozens of people with widely different dietary needs, preferences, and food allergies at once,” noted Sato, who is responsible for following a tight budget without sacrificing quality. “I always try to make the lunch fun, nutritious and balanced.”
For Fluid and its neighbors, the lunches have become a central part of the office culture. “People get excited about what’s for lunch,” noted EP Laura Relovsky. “A lot of camaraderie comes out of the lunch time banter, as we can all sit down together and not have to talk about work.”
Outsider visitors have been similarly impressed. “They are usually stuck into getting take out,” explained Relovsky. “So, it is a nice change for them to get a freshly prepared meal. They are all big fans of the cuisine and the warm environment, which makes for happy, comfortable clients.”
The daily lunches weren’t always so exquisite. The lunchtime ritual only took a turn toward the homemade when Sato, then a hobby chef, offered to cook lunch for the entire staff. The one-time event quickly evolved into a frequent occurrence, and became a daily highlight of work life after Sato completed courses at the French Culinary Institute. Eventually, Fluid’s owners offered to build him a custom kitchen if he agreed to become their private chef. Cain, a globetrotting former admissions employee at the Harvard Business School, joined him earlier this year.