Google in a Hungry Search for Executive ChefsEven if I were qualified, I wouldn't go near that one... But thanks for sending the article, Ann!
By Chris Gaither
Times Staff Writer
August 5, 2005
SAN FRANCISCO — Google Inc.'s stock is cooking, but the Internet giant is
having trouble in the kitchen.
Google on Thursday announced a global search for two executive chefs to
oversee preparation of the company's most celebrated employee perk: free
To help feed the rapidly growing company, Google advertised an opening in
December for a second lead chef to help Charlie Ayers, who formerly cooked
for the Grateful Dead. Then, in May, Ayers quit to start his own chain of
restaurants. Neither job has been filled.
"It's been a challenge to get someone who has the scale and quality" to live
up to the company's expectations, said Susan Wojcicki, a Google vice
president on the hiring committee.
The requirements: five or more years as a sous-chef and three years as an
executive chef. Must be able to cook for vegans and carnivores alike, and
use organic food whenever possible.
Wojcicki would not disclose the pay. "I'm sure it will be competitive, plus
all the Google benefits," she said, which include — along with the food, of
course — stock options, sports facilities, massage and yoga classes.
Google plans to invite the top applicants for a "cook-off," preparing meals
for several dozen members of a "tasting committee" that will probably
include co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
"You know when you meet the right person," said Wojcicki, who put Ayers
through the same paces in 1999, when the company had about 40 employees.
Today it has about 4,200.
Finding a chef with experience cooking for thousands of people isn't easy,
said Dawn Jantsch, managing director of the American Culinary Federation,
which represents nearly 19,000 chefs. Still, she has never heard of a
company issuing a news release and holding a cook-off to find a corporate chef.
"It almost sounds like a reality TV show," she said.
Jobs like those can be a blessing or a curse:
blessing=trying to play around with food to get the best results when making large quantities and feeding many people in a buffet setting
curse=trying to do it under a certain budget. Perk or no perk, I can't imagine them giving carte blanche for food costs for free meals.
When you do huge numbers like that, you lose the ability to feed people food they enjoy; you're stuck making food that will hold up well at 145 degrees for long periods of time. And suddenly, diners find things on the buffet like green beans in the meat lasagna, or nameless soups made exclusively of veggies from yesterday's salad bar.
And the cook-off thing? It's good if it's done right. The staff will probably WANT to eat things like lasagna and chinese chicken salad and meatloaf and mac&cheese and chicken-mushroom pasta, so why have a cook-off where the chefs will do things like "poached skate in a green apple gastrique with pommes macaire", or " kobe beef burgers topped with confit of onion and manchego cheese, served on a brioche-style bun?"
Have them do mystery baskets.  That's a real challenge: Here's a chicken, some potatoes, some chard, a lemon, an apple, and a bunch of carrots. GO! Here's a chunk of tofu, a jar of peanut butter, some celery, pea pods, and some barley. GO! You've got to know how to work with food to make something special out of a mystery basket.
 For the competition each young chef is given a
mystery basket of food items. Using all of the mystery
basket ingredients and drawing from items in a
common pantry, the contestant must execute a 3
course meal for 4 people. Each contestant is given
30 minutes to write the menu then 3 hours to cook
the appetizer, entrée and dessert and another 30
minutes to serve. Dishes are judged on taste,
presentation and originality. The kitchen judge rates
the contestants on organization, sanitation, product
utilization, and proper cooking techniques.
Last thing I ate or drank: pizza from Dagwoods, the best pizza place in Santa Monica. They just remodeled, too, so they get even more appreciation from me.
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