Mmm…Tastes Like Google

1214575467Three things found while Googling Charlie Ayers, author of the new cookbook Food 2.0: Secrets from the Chef Who Fed Google (DK, $25):

*An interview with the Scotsman in which Ayers describes a 10-course tasting menu at Ken Oringer’s Clio as the best meal of his life: “It included a liquid Parmesan ravioli, which was like eating Parmesan-scented air. It was out of this world.”

*A blog entry by a slightly dotty amateur chef that uses 25 photographs, including a picture of what two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce looks like, to show how to make Ayers’s Google Hot Sauce.

*The Google cafeteria’s lunch menu for April 8, 2003: broccoli-cheddar soup, corned beef-onion-yam soup, jerk seitan skewers, marinated mushroom salad, orzo Santa Cruz, Nina’s kimchi, orange balsamic beets, spinach salad, wilted kale and French feta salad, farmers’ rice salad, crispy Florida red grouper, braised organic vegetables, chocolate midnight cake, banana bread, Key lime pie, chocolate ganache—

—what’s that? You want to know about the book? Right… It’s just that I get a little carried away by Google: the twisty side paths, the things we didn’t know that we needed to know. Luckily, this kind of stuff also pops up in Food 2.0, lending welcome spice to its mix of eco-tinged philosophy and healthy recipes.

Ayers, who for six years ensured the wiz kids at Google’s California HQ were exceptionally well fueled, devotes the first half of his book to what to eat—organic, raw—and how to stock the pantry. It’s where his voice really comes through: no-nonsense, funny, and bolstered by the cockiness of someone who doesn’t exactly need our money (one of the company’s first employees, he got in on those juicy stock options). “Organic simply means trying to avoid crap in your food.” “Beer is a happiness item.” And though he gives quick how-tos for making flavor boosters like cheese-infused oil and Moroccan carrot harissa cubes, Ayers knows where to draw the line. “Some people will make their own ketchup, but come on: Ketchup is out there. It’s been proven. Spend your time on other things.”

While the recipes that follow fuse influences from across the globe, the overall feeling is West Coast fresh (apple and Brie quesadillas; duck and shrimp dim sum in bok choi wrappers; watermelon satay with honey-vinegar dipping sauce). Quibbles with the fairly labor-intensive dishes (even the granola has a dozen ingredients) and the lack of desserts are easily overlooked, as is the book’s sometimes-nightmarish typography. Food 2.0 is a fun, highly readable addition to any hipster/techie/eco-foodie kitchen. And search engines aside, it’s the only place to find a nerd-world nugget like this:

*“[In the early days], the engineers would play roller hockey out in the parking lot, and then come rolling into my cafe all sweaty and dirty with their trays out for a meal. Once Google was able to hire some women, the guys finally started showering. That’s when the place started to run more smoothly, too.”