Employees wear ‘no quinoa’ shirts at Travis Kalanick’s startup to stave off a coddled work culture

Travis Kalanick
Uber founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick. Reuters

  • The phrase “No Quinoa” is branded on T-shirts and laptop stickers at CloudKitchens.
  • The phrase comes from CloudKitchens CEO Travis Kalanick’s days at Uber.
  • Kalanick has mimicked some of the aspects of Uber’s work culture at the startup, Insider reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Uber founder Travis Kalanick once got upset at an employee for asking why the company’s cafeteria no longer served quinoa.

Kalanick, who was Uber’s CEO at the time, was annoyed that the employee would complain about quinoa in the midst of an all-hands meeting instead of focusing on work.

The story lingered for Kalanick, according to an exclusive report by Insider’s Meghan Morris. Now at his $5 billion startup CloudKitchens, the phrase “No Quinoa” is branded on some employees’ T-shirts and laptop stickers, sources told Morris. Some new hires are also told the “No Quinoa” tale as a warning to stay focused on the company’s mission.

The culture at Los Angeles-based CloudKitchens mimics that at Uber during Kalanick’s time at the ride-hailing company. CloudKitchens doesn’t offer many of the posh perks, like laundry service and nap pods, that have become common among other Silicon Valley companies. Kalanick wants employees’ focus to instead remain on company’s core work – a sentiment that is expressed in phrases like “no quinoa.”

Read more: Travis Kalanick’s stealth $5 billion startup, CloudKitchens, is Uber all over again, ruled by a ‘temple of bros,’ insiders say

CloudKitchens declined to comment on Insider’s investigation.

CloudKitchens, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, operates as a ghost kitchen company that rents commercial space and turns it into shared kitchens for restaurateurs.

In 2018, Kalanick invested in City Storage Systems, renamed it, and took over as CEO. Since then, it has expanded to at least 29 cities in the US and brought on customers including Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s.

Read more about the culture at CloudKitchens here.

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What people get wrong about superfoods

Following is a transcript of the video.

Nina Shapiro: There is no such thing as a superfood. There are a lot of foods that are super good for you, and that’s fine, but this title of superfood is completely made up.

The notion of a superfood is that is so good for you, it will prevent cancer and even treat cancer or stave off evil illnesses, but food alone cannot do that. When we talk about superfoods, primarily we think of berries, foods with high antioxidants. And it’s really a misnomer. There is no such thing. There are foods that are good for you and foods that are not so good for you, but the idea of a superfood treating or preventing an illness is false.

Superfoods have evolved, and they may not have been called superfoods, but even back in the 1970s there were the quote-unquote health foods which were really the superfoods of their day, which included pasta.

New Catelli pasta. It’s made with a nutritious blend of unbleached flour. Catelli adds vitamins too.

Which is now considered this horrible gluten-filled, carb-filled evil with sugar in it. Bran muffins, which are really just like small cakes, were considered superfoods. Other things, such as frozen yogurt, was considered a superfood in the ’80s and ’90s because it was healthier than ice cream.

Delicious TCBY nonfat frozen yogurt. What a great tasting way to help you lose weight.

Although it does have pretty much as many calories, as much fat, and as much sugar. So superfoods of one day are gonna be different from superfoods down the line, but they’re not necessarily much healthier.

I think a lot of the superfoods of today are the things that are hard to pronounce. So the harder it is to pronounce, the better it is. so something like turmeric or quinoa, a lot of the berries, goji berries are a new one. We talked about blueberries and raspberries a few years ago being superfoods. Now we have acai as another superfood. Again, these are harder to pronounce. Those are sorta the newer superfoods.

I think as far as should we be eating a certain superfood, are we missing out? Not necessarily. I think, again, if you wanna eat healthy, eat berries, eat healthy grains, eat a balanced diet, and that will give you enough nutrition, antioxidants, vitamins as any superfood would give you.

People have the false notion that if they’re eating a lot of superfoods in high quantities that that will keep them healthy and they don’t need to do other things to take care of their health. So if you’re eating a lot of superfoods but you don’t get a flu vaccine, that doesn’t mean you’re not going to get the flu. If you’re eating a lot of superfoods and you don’t get basic cancer screening based on your age, that will not prevent cancer. So I think there’s some danger in eating superfoods in that you think that that’s going to be the be-all, end-all of your healthcare.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in June 2018.

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