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November 18, 2013 at 7:00 AM

The Microsoft Cookbook: a labor of love leads to true love for two Microsofties

Colin McCaig and Erica Wadley on their wedding day.

The McCaigs on their wedding day. (Photo courtesy of the McCaigs)

The McCaigs’ love story began, as these things often do, over food.

But not a dinner date. Nor even a quick coffee.

Instead, Colin McCaig and Erica Wadley bonded over a cookbook: the Microsoft Cookbook.

Cover of Microsoft Cookbook Vol. 3 (Photo from Microsoft)

Microsoft Cookbook Vol. 3 (Photo from Microsoft)

That cookbook — their brainchild — is a collection of recipes from Microsoft employees worldwide, presented with personal stories from the employees about the role those recipes played in their lives, and lush photographs of the food.

Those cookbooks — there have been three volumes published since 2011 — have received some high-level recognition. The first two volumes won the 2013 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards’ categories for best publisher: printing, and (in a tie) best charity cookbook in North America. The third volume is a finalist in the corporate category for the 2014 awards.

More importantly, proceeds from cookbook sales have raised $175,000 for FareStart, a Seattle-based nonprofit culinary training program for homeless people.

The cookbooks started this way:  Back in 2010, both Wadley and McCaig were working in the Services division at Microsoft — she in worldwide operations services, he in the consulting services business. They had met briefly once or twice but that was the extent of it.

One day, they were both helping at a Services division cook-off held during Microsoft’s Giving Campaign — a monthlong series of events held at the company each October to raise money for charities.

Wadley approached McCaig, saying: “Wouldn’t it be cool to capture some of those recipes.”

McCaig agreed, thinking it would be even better, though, if they could do a company-wide cookbook.

They wanted to “capture the heart and soul of Microsoft — love for the individuals that make up our great company,” said McCaig, who is credited by his official first name — Nicholas — in the cookbooks. “We saw this as an opportunity to capture a piece of their story.”

They posted requests for recipes on several foodie discussion lists within the company. As thousands of submissions came pouring in, they received not just recipes but also the stories behind them.

Erica Wadley's contribution to the Microsoft Cookbook Vol. 3 includes this apple pie recipe from her Aunt Barbara. (Photo from Microsoft)

Erica Wadley’s contributions to the Microsoft Cookbook includes this apple pie recipe from her Aunt Barbara. (Photo from Microsoft)

They realized two people weren’t enough for the project and ended up recruiting about 35 more employee volunteers, including Liberty Munson, who worked in human resources and became the cookbooks’ editor. Munson put together the recipe evaluation process, assembling a team to review whether the recipes were clear and the stories compelling.

In the meantime, as McCaig and Wadley worked ever more closely together, they discovered a shared passion for philanthropy, art and design. As they read through the personal stories revealed with the recipe submissions, they started sharing with each other their own personal stories, including stories about their children from their previous marriages. They laughed together, became great friends, and eventually, something more.

McCaig, who has since left Microsoft and moved on to a company called Fish Bowl Design and Instructional Technologies, recalls that when they were working on the cookbook pages, they divided the work into two piles, each working on his or her own pages.

“When we brought our pages together, I realized the world could not tell who had designed which pages,” he said, in a burst of poetic inspiration. “Our designs evidenced what our hearts felt: Unity.”

Wadley, who now works as a senior marketing manager in the Windows division, puts it in more down-to-earth terms.

“We were spending so much time together – day after day,” she said. “I was getting more and more excited to get to work every day, wearing cute little outfits. I thought: ‘Why am I doing this?’ I had to be honest about what was happening. I wasn’t looking for anything like this. It blindsided me.”

They eloped this past June, getting married at the Willows Lodge in Woodinville. They dined at The Herbfarm afterward.

But the Microsoft Cookbook still played a part in their betrothal. They held an engagement party in Savannah, Ga. One of the highlights: the dishes they prepared, based on recipes from the cookbook that had brought them together.

Comments | More in Microsoft | Topics: giving campaign, microsoft cookbook


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