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Coffee, cupcakes, easter eggs, and innovation

Posted by Louise Barnfield on April 12, 2011

I have very mixed feelings as I retire from Oracle at the end of this week after 21+ years!

Moon over Oracle

On the one hand, since it’s my choice, I’m excited for what my very different future holds; on the other, I know I shall miss seeing so many people, who have become more friends than work colleagues, on a day-to-day basis.

Over the past few weeks, as I drive to the office each day and our HQ campus comes into view, I’ve found myself nostalgically focusing on the impressively architected buildings whose exteriors still look fresh and contemporary, and a darn sight more fresh and contemporary than I feel, after 22 years. The same goes for the interior decor and facilities. I know there are plenty of unsung heroes who keep our entire campus ticking along, unnoticed and often unappreciated by most of us, but, since I can’t hope to recognize everyone in one blog post, here’s a shout out to someone who’s responsible for one of the areas I’ll miss more than many: our 3OP Café, which houses the campus café and bakery, and which (a happy coincidence for me) is in the same building as my own office, 300 Oracle Parkway.

The Café, though once a fairly insignificant portion of a large and varied restaurant, has taken on a character all its own over the past few years, under the leadership of Ian Farrell.

Ian is a shining example of passion, innovation, and creativity – all characteristics that our TalentedApps bloggers frequently praise, encourage, and admire – and, as a thoroughly decent, caring member of the human race, he has even found a way to donate his skills for a worthy cause, such as baking a vast quantity of cakes, cookies, and tarts to benefit the recent Bakesale for Japan!

The photos speak for themselves, yet don’t come close to representing all that Ian has achieved. He came to Oracle five years ago as Executive Pastry Chef for Bon Appétit, our corporate caterers, with a remit to develop new programs and to change the quality of the desserts and bakery. He is now responsible for all the dessert catering for our Customer Visitor Center, and for our three main campuses in the area: Redwood Shores HQ, Pleasanton, and Santa Clara. However, for many employees, the 3OP Café remains our primary window into his world of creativity.

From time to time, I’ve exchanged a few words of appreciation with Ian, but it was only recently, as I reflected on the many changes that I’ve witnessed in the Café, that I truly appreciated the scale of his achievements. Here are a few of his innovations over the past few years:

  • Truffles – Ian’s an experienced chocolatier and takes great pride in the quality of his ingredients (sorry but, as a Brit, I have a very critical palate for chocolate that does not include the more common US offerings!), and the fact that he uses Fair Trade certified Cordillera baking chocolate from Colombia. He started packaging his truffles for special occasions and holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, but they are now available and in high demand at any time of year.
  • Chocolate specialty creations – The high-heeled shoes (a Valentine favorite apparently) were inspired by The Devil Wears Prada, and working at Oracle evidently provided his inspiration for the chocolate laptops and cell phones. His chocolate sleds filled with a variety of cookies and treats were extremely popular last winter, and his Easter eggs are now selling like hot cakes (‘scuse the pun!).
  • Cake designs to order – Ian is a master at designing and executing fondant cakes, all the more impressive for being a self-taught skill. Many of his first-time cake designs were ideas requested by customers, and he has now built quite an amazing portfolio of photographs. Customers can order an existing design, use the photographs as inspiration for their own ideas, or simply peruse the photographs to give them a smile while waiting for their latte or cappuccino.
  • Breads – There is now a range of artisan breads to order, and an entire cabinet dedicated to their display.
  • Sugar creations – One of his most skillful accomplishments, and possibly one of the least appreciated in terms of the time and skill required, are his 3D sugar creations. At various times of year, one or more of his designs makes an appearance…a Halloween haunted castle with intricate turrets surrounded by bats and cobwebs, or a holiday train dusted with snow and bulging with cheerful passengers. His artistry and attention to detail always fascinate me.
  • Classes – Ian’s baking classes for employees are becoming increasingly popular. What a great way to collaborate with friends and colleagues while learning a new skill, such as creating and decorating Easter eggs.
  • Social media – Ian enthusiastically embraced the world of online communication a couple of years ago, and frequently highlights the Café activities and offerings through his Twitter account and Facebook page, 300 Sweet Treats. Those of us who follow him are the first to learn of the day’s specials, and are reminded to buy our fresh-baked bread on Fridays.

In terms of smart marketing and business acumen, increasing the variety of product, the display cabinets, and the online communication has no doubt been a huge success but, personally, what I appreciate most of all is the appearance of our Café, and the sheer entertainment value of the displays. Thank you for your passion, Ian, and for always making me smile!

I’m relieved that I will still be able to enjoy the 3OP Café when I leave, as it’s in an open area of the building. So I, and you if you’re local, can visit for a coffee, admire the ever-changing displays, and maybe buy my old man some truffles (I can always hope he’ll share)!

P.S. Since this appears to be my parting post for TalentedApps, I will add that it has truly been a privilege to be a member of such a passionate team of bloggers. I shall continue to read, learn, and be inspired and entertained by their posts, as well as those of our close counterparts in the HR blogging community. Onwards and Upwards, and best wishes to you all!

Photo: “Moon over Oracle”
Source: Flickr.com
Credit: Not Quite a Photographr

4 Responses to “Coffee, cupcakes, easter eggs, and innovation”

  1. Meg Bear said


    Of course I’m still choked up to have you leaving us but what a lovely post! I do hope this isn’t your last TalentedApps post though, I don’t see why you wouldn’t have great things to contribute with your new endeavors in retirement.

    We are so going to miss you Louise.


    • Louise Barnfield said

      Thanks so much, Meg, I’m trying not to admit to myself just how much I’m going to miss you all too, but thankfully this digitally social world makes it so much easier to keep in touch than it used to be…and, yes indeed, I’d be honored to remain a part of the TalentedApps team, thank you! 🙂

  2. Oh Louise! Still can’t believe you will be leaving us. I’m pretty sure we all will miss your humor, more importantly your great demos. Wish you good luck with whatever you decide to do and stay around. Cheers!

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