The Thumbtack kitchen prepared its final meal in the 360 9th Street San Francisco office last Thursday, and for a few weeks their jobs will take on a markedly different flavor. Instead of lovingly preparing three handcrafted family-style meals a day for an office of 300+ employees, the band of ten culinary team members will be hunkering down in Thumbtack’s new San Francisco office to set up their kitchen—all ten zones of it.
Food is a huge part of what it means to work at Thumbtack. So before our cultural cornerstone disappears for a week into their happy place—teaser: some of the new kitchen’s features include a salad station, pizza oven, a stand-alone chef’s office, and a Mongolian grill—we caught up with the person who started it all, co-executive chef Aubrey Saltus (left above with Marlee Belmonte and April Word), to learn a bit about where Thumbtack’s food comes from and where it’s headed next.
Executive Chef Aubrey Saltus: Thumbtack Employee #16!
Aubrey and Thumbtack go way, way back. In a few weeks, Aubrey will have helped launch three Thumbtack kitchens in three different spaces in San Francisco—and the most recent will be a far cry from the first Thumbtack kitchen in the Natoma Street office, where she shared a single communal fridge and sink with the company’s 15 other employees.
Since Aubrey’s earliest days at Thumbtack, food was important. “Marco loves food and that was important to me from the start.” Today, Aubrey and co-executive chef April Word lead a talented group of ten, crafting food that is delicious, ethically sourced, seasonal, and always cooked from scratch.
Aubrey’s vision: “Cook food from heart and make it from scratch. I really think you can taste the difference.”
Aubrey preparing food with culinary team member Daniel Giggy (left).
The Thumbtack Kitchen’s Humble Beginnings
Originally built as a food photography studio, Thumbtack’s first office kitchen was small and apartment-style. Only three of the four burners worked (most of the time) and to accommodate the challenge of a shared fridge, Aubrey resorted to posting labels on shared items that said “don’t eat.” Maria Joya, who joined the team around the same time, did all of the office’s dishes in one sink.
When Thumbtack’s San Francisco team moved to the 9th Street office, Aubrey had a moving crew of one: her mom, who flew out from Nebraska just for the day. They packed the kitchen into that day’s empty produce crates, loaded the boxes into Aubrey’s Subaru, and unpacked them in the new space.
Today’s move is a different story, with a designated team and an air-tight timeline.
Inside the New Kitchen
Thumbtack’s new kitchen is about 3,100 square-feet, broken into ten zones. For a sense of scale, that’s about ten times larger than Thumbtack’s 360 kitchen space. After months of playing ten-person tetris in a kitchen they’ve outgrown, the culinary team will have a chef’s office of their very own.
And with this newfound space, the culinary team is most excited to uplevel the ways they make food from scratch and from the heart to fuel the San Francisco team. Among many other things, the new kitchen will include: two walk-in fridges, a freezer, a tilt skillet, a meat grinder, a salad bar, an industrial Hobart mixer, and a steam kettle for making stocks overnight. The team will also start doing snacks in-house, making homemade fruit mixes, granola bars, nut blends, and pastries for between meals. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but we’ve never had the storage here to do it,” says Aubrey.
It’s not the only thing the culinary team is checking off their bucket list in the new space. They’re also planning to bring back Thumbtack culinary classes this summer (in case you’ve always wanted to know what it takes to bone a fish), and once the permits come through, the Thumbtack kitchen is even going to start curing meat onsite.
There’s a lot to be excited about while Aubrey and the team are away. While you wait for the big reveal, remember Aubrey’s advice: “Eat food made from heart, from scratch. Source seasonally and locally. Eat everything in moderation. But sometimes have a cookie.”
The SF culinary team is grinding for the next two weeks preparing the new kitchen, coordinating vendor logistics, and planning our first meals in the new space. If you miss them, listen along with them on Spotify @thumbtackfood.