People

What people in tech are cooking up this holiday season

We've rounded up some of the tech industry's favorite recipes.

What people in tech are cooking up this holiday season

These holiday cookies didn't come from a tech exec's kitchen, but they could have.

Photo: Getty Images

This year, while we search for the joy and light amid all of 2020's doom and gloom, we thought we'd try something a little different for the holidays here at Protocol: We asked tech workers to share stories about the food and drink that bring them happiness over the holidays (plus the recipes, of course). We've collected many of those recipes and stories here, for our first-ever "Tech industry holiday cookbook."

You'll find cookies and cakes and soups and stuffings between these virtual cookbook pages. You'll hear stories about children and grandparents, and others about tradition and memories. Many of these stories are about heritage: where people came from, and where they are going. You'll even find a short tale about what happens when, predictably, tech execs try to optimize for the best possible recipe using AI (I'm rolling my eyes at you, Google Cloud).

From all of us here at Protocol, we wish you a very happy holiday, and we hope you can perhaps create your own traditions and memories using some of these recipes. We've collected all of the recipes here, and if you share photos of your own holiday cooking and baking with me on Twitter, I'll retweet them (and share some of my own).

Hayden Brown, CEO of Upwork

Apple Pie

"From my mom, Marcia Odell, who inspires me and nourishes me in every way. In our family, we eat this pie not just for dessert, but as a great breakfast or lunch food, too; after all, it's mostly apples! We also have a running debate about whether this pie tastes best fresh out of the oven or even better the next day — and a strong faction of folks who think it's best a la mode, versus the purists who would never taint it with even the best vanilla Haagen-Dazs."

Fidji Simo, head of Facebook app

Buche de Noel Cake

"Two of my favorite things about the holidays are getting to be with my family and being able to pass along generation-old traditions to my 5-year-old daughter. Every year on Christmas Eve, my family bakes a yule log cake, which is a French holiday dessert that consists of a sweet spongy cake rolled and frosted with a rich chocolate buttercream made to look like bark — perfect for someone who has a sweet tooth like me! Better known as a bûche de Noël in my home country, this dessert represents the yule log that families used to burn on Christmas Eve to symbolize the coming of a new year and to bring good luck. While the yule log looks complicated, even an amateur baker can master it! I will admit, you can usually find me cheering on my mom and husband as I take my place as the designated dessert taste-tester for any leftover frosting. I love the chestnut one; to me, chestnut tastes exactly like Christmas. Sometimes, my family even goes the extra mile when decorating by adding a few meringue mushrooms or rosemary sprigs and cranberries.

While this year has kept my family physically apart, it has not stopped us from coming together virtually and celebrating our traditions. Since I usually travel to France or my family comes to the States for the holidays, we already set a date with my parents to bake yule logs together in Messenger Rooms on Facebook so we can continue our tradition, even from separate continents."

Brian Huseman, VP of public policy at Amazon

Mom's Hello Dolly Cookies

"I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma and a favorite family holiday tradition was for my mom, my brother and I to get together to bake cookies. We particularly liked 'Hello Dolly' cookies (I wasn't sure where the name came from when I was young, but research now tells me it came from the musical). As was appropriate in rural Oklahoma at the time, we used old-fashioned sweetened condensed milk. Christmas season doesn't start in my family until the first batch of Hello Dolly cookies come out of the oven!"

Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, chief diversity officer at Microsoft

Melting Moments Cookies

"Every year, ever since I was a little girl, my mom would pause her busy, working single-mother life to make these cookies. I learned about tradition, the science of baking and the importance of following directions from these cookies. It was a special time for us to have our favorite movies on in the background, sing songs or just catch up. We packaged them with love and gave them to friends and family, much to their delight."

John Howard, director of government affairs at Dell

Peanut Blossoms Cookies

"For me, the holidays are usually all about sweets, thanks to my family's baking skills. Each Christmas, we'd help my mom bake thousands of amazing Christmas cookies of all sorts and hand-deliver them to our friends and neighbors. My most treasured Christmas cookies are peanut blossom cookies, thanks to that delicious combination of peanut butter and chocolate. This recipe makes about three dozen cookies. Hope you enjoy and that this recipe inspires you to start similar traditions with your family this holiday season!"

John Howard's peanut blossoms cookies. | Photo: John Howard

Susan Kimberlin, venture partner at Backstage Capital

Double Chocolate Almond Toffee

"Every year for the holidays I make toffee as a gift for friends and family, and for me, it's the signal that the holiday season has really begun. I started making it as a kid — my cookbook with the original recipe is inscribed as a Christmas gift from my parents, from 1986 — and since then I've branched out from the original recipe, which is for toffee layered on toasted almonds and coated with dark chocolate.

This week, I made both that original version and a new version that I decided should just be called 'Kitchen Sink': a mixture of toasted almonds, 'Butter Snap' pretzels, and white chocolate-coated pretzels in a brown sugar and coffee-flavored toffee and mixed white and bittersweet chocolate coating, dusted with sea salt … and rainbow sprinkles. I make it as my gift for my a cappella group's white elephant gift swap every year, and there's always a lot of maneuvering to try and guess which package is the one from me, with its mother lode of crunchy-sweet-saltiness."

Susan Kimberlin's toffee. | Photo: Susan Kimberlin

Mike Wystrach, CEO of Freshly

Cranberry Nut Bread

"I grew up in a small ranching town in southern Arizona. My mom has been there since 1947, so our family knows everyone there. Every Christmas, or the few weeks leading up to Christmas, my mom would bake hundreds of cranberry cakes (two options: nuts or no nuts!) and give them as gifts to our neighbors. They would come wrapped in tinfoil with a red string wrapped around them like a gift. To this day, they remain extremely popular in my hometown. For me, just the smell of the bread reminds me of Christmas. After all, we pretty much ran a small bakery for four weeks leading up to the holiday. While hunting down the recipe, I discovered it was actually a recipe from Ocean Spray!"

Google Cloud’s new holiday tradition

'Breakie' Bread/Cookie

"Amid their pandemic baking, Google Cloud's Dale Markowitz and Sara Robinson wondered if they could train AI/ML models to predict new baking recipes. So they collected a dataset of roughly 600 baking recipes for cookies, cakes and bread, identified 16 core ingredients and built a classification model using AutoML Tables. The result of their research was a bread and cookie creation dubbed the "breakie" — and it actually tastes good."

Kristi Hummel, SVP of talent and culture at Dell

Turkey Sausage Casserole

"The holidays are such a special time for my family. It's a time where we break from the routine of everyday life and remind ourselves what we're thankful for. I'm sharing my family's yummy make-ahead dish for the holiday season. Because you prepare things ahead of time, this dish is perfect for those mornings where the kids are hungry and you'd like to sit back and spend time with them while the dish bakes away! You can spruce up the dish by serving it with fresh fruit and a warm blueberry muffin. It's a favorite at our home, and I hope it makes your family smile this holiday season."

Deb Liu, VP and founder of Facebook Marketplace

Hot Pot Family Dinner

"My family makes a hot pot every year for the holidays, both for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We do one night of Chinese hot pot usually on Christmas Eve and then on the actual Christmas holiday we make an American meal. It is our way of continuing a tradition that my parents and in-laws had of celebrating their Chinese heritage and combining it with our American upbringing. Our kids pitch in and help with the chopping and prepping, and they love being able to select and cook their own food."

Deb Liu's hot pot. | Photo: Deb Liu

Renato Profico, CEO of Doodle

Eggplant Parmesan

Profico's favorite holiday recipe, eggplant parmesan, originates from Puglia, in Southern Italy, where he's originally from.

Mary McDowell, CEO of Mitel

Cornbread Stuffing

"I'm from the Midwest where the dish that accompanies the turkey is called stuffing, made with white bread, cranberries and the like. I married a Louisianan for whom Thanksgiving was incomplete without spicy cornbread dressing. For years I tried various compromises: spicy white bread or bland cornbread concoctions. Whereas I once pleased half of the family, now I was getting no votes. I finally realized sometimes you have to adapt the lessons of the Book of Ruth: ' … whither thou goest, I will go … thy people's Thanksgiving dressing shall be my Thanksgiving dressing.' I have happily served Paul Prudhomme's recipe for years now, resulting in a happy husband and newly appreciative Midwestern fans!"

David Berkowitz, founder of Serial Marketer

Momma Berkowitz's Potato Latkes

"My mom makes these latkes (potato pancakes) every year, and she taught me how to grate the potatoes by hand. Now I cheat, using the KitchenAid mixer's peeler and grater attachments while saving myself a few Band-Aids. There's nothing like the taste of this served fresh, and now I've taught my own school-aged daughter how to cook them and continue the family tradition, adding to the brightness of Hanukkah."

Power

How the creators of Spligate built gaming’s newest unicorn

1047 Games is now valued at $1.5 billion after three rounds of funding since May.

1047 Games' Splitgate amassed 13 million downloads when its beta launched in July.

Image: 1047 Games

The creators of Splitgate had a problem. Their new free-to-play video game, a take on the legendary arena shooter Halo with a teleportation twist borrowed from Valve's Portal, was gaining steam during its open beta period in July. But it was happening too quickly.

Splitgate was growing so fast and unexpectedly that the entire game was starting to break, as the servers supporting the game began to, figuratively speaking, melt down. The game went from fewer than 1,000 people playing it at any given moment in time to suddenly having tens of thousands of concurrent players. Then it grew to hundreds of thousands of players, all trying to log in and play at once across PlayStation, Xbox and PC.

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.

While it's easy to get lost in the operational and technical side of a transaction, it's important to remember the third component of a payment. That is, the human behind the screen.

Over the last two years, many retailers have seen the benefit of investing in new, flexible payments. Ones that reflect the changing lifestyles of younger spenders, who are increasingly holding onto their cash — despite reports to the contrary. This means it's more important than ever for merchants to take note of the latest payment innovations so they can tap into the savings of the COVID-19 generation.

Keep Reading Show less
Antoine Nougue,Checkout.com

Antoine Nougue is Head of Europe at Checkout.com. He works with ambitious enterprise businesses to help them scale and grow their operations through payment processing services. He is responsible for leading the European sales, customer success, engineering & implementation teams and is based out of London, U.K.

Protocol | Policy

Why Twitch’s 'hate raid' lawsuit isn’t just about Twitch

When is it OK for tech companies to unmask their anonymous users? And when should a violation of terms of service get someone sued?

The case Twitch is bringing against two hate raiders is hardly black and white.

Photo: Caspar Camille Rubin/Unsplash

It isn't hard to figure out who the bad guys are in Twitch's latest lawsuit against two of its users. On one side are two anonymous "hate raiders" who have been allegedly bombarding the gaming platform with abhorrent attacks on Black and LGBTQ+ users, using armies of bots to do it. On the other side is Twitch, a company that, for all the lumps it's taken for ignoring harassment on its platform, is finally standing up to protect its users against persistent violators whom it's been unable to stop any other way.

But the case Twitch is bringing against these hate raiders is hardly black and white. For starters, the plaintiff here isn't an aggrieved user suing another user for defamation on the platform. The plaintiff is the platform itself. Complicating matters more is the fact that, according to a spokesperson, at least part of Twitch's goal in the case is to "shed light on the identity of the individuals behind these attacks," raising complicated questions about when tech companies should be able to use the courts to unmask their own anonymous users and, just as critically, when they should be able to actually sue them for violating their speech policies.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Protocol | Workplace

Remote work is here to stay. Here are the cybersecurity risks.

Phishing and ransomware are on the rise. Is your remote workforce prepared?

Before your company institutes work-from-home-forever plans, you need to ensure that your workforce is prepared to face the cybersecurity implications of long-term remote work.

Photo: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The delta variant continues to dash or delay return-to-work plans, but before your company institutes work-from-home-forever plans, you need to ensure that your workforce is prepared to face the cybersecurity implications of long-term remote work.

So far in 2021, CrowdStrike has already observed over 1,400 "big game hunting" ransomware incidents and $180 million in ransom demands averaging over $5 million each. That's due in part to the "expanded attack surface that work-from-home creates," according to CTO Michael Sentonas.

Keep Reading Show less
Michelle Ma
Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.
Protocol | Fintech

When COVID rocked the insurance market, this startup saw opportunity

Ethos has outraised and outmarketed the competition in selling life insurance directly online — but there's still an $887 billion industry to transform.

Life insurance has been slow to change.

Image: courtneyk/Getty Images

Peter Colis cited a striking statistic that he said led him to launch a life insurance startup: One in twenty children will lose a parent before they turn 15.

"No one ever thinks that will happen to them, but that's the statistics," the co-CEO and co-founder of Ethos told Protocol. "If it's a breadwinning parent, the majority of those families will go bankrupt immediately, within three months. Life insurance elegantly solves this problem."

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

Latest Stories