Book Review: Food 2.0 by Google’s Chef Charlie


I knew Charlie Ayers back in the day. As a corporate peon for Google, I would rejoice when lunchtime came around and I could finally extricate my eyeballs from the computer screen. (We each had two monitors. Made us work faster, supposedly.)

So I’d wait in line along with hundreds of other worker bees. We’d grab Google-colored trays, forks, cups, whathaveyou, and shuffle impatiently towards the cramped buffet. Charlie would inevitably appear somewhere from behind the wall of low wall of food dividing his elite cadre of cooks from the working masses. “One piece of meat only!” He’d holler. Or something like that. The cooks ran a ship tight enough to make even the Phish blaring from the cafe loudspeakers sound a little aggressive.

But the food was good. I mean, 98% of it was really, really friggin’ good. 2% of it, like the goat sausage stew or tofu burger sushi roll, was culinarily over my head. But wow, that man could make a heirloom tomato salad sing ecstatic showtunes. His fried chicken made me wish I had a Southern grandma.

The Charlie team even had us all drinking wheatgrass, arguably one of the most disgusting substances on the planet.

So now Charlie, probably the most famous corporate chef in history, has released his first recipe book. Food 2.0, Secrets from the Chef Who Fed Google, brings Charlie’s expertise to organic foodies across the country.

The book’s layout makes it surprisingly accessible. Charlie peppers his sustainable eating philosophies throughout the beginning, while breakfast-through-dinner recipes make up the second half. Saving time and health, he says, don’t have to be mutually exclusive. He includes pages of “Smart” tips on how to select good produce, grind your own spices, make simple condiments, and freeze special flavor cubes for future use.

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Then, there are his recipes. Apple brie wraps, broiled salmon-pesto-tomato bundles, screwy rabbit (that’s a drink), and a range of others–many of them Northern California hippy-inspired–made a drool string slip out the corners of my mouth.

I tried a couple of recipes. They proved as tasty as Charlie’s Google fare of yore. Simple ingredients and preparation made them a joy to cook. This is good stuff if you’re not skimping on expensive food (I wouldn’t exactly call his recipes recession-proof.)

These recipes also fueled the humans behind the Google machine in its early, wildly successful years. They’re worth trying if you believe you are what you eat, and you would desperately like to become a Googlite.

Charlie had some other secrets to success, but if I told you, I’d have to kill you. Or they would kill me.

I have no doubt that the Charlie book is a worthy contribution to the world of cooking. Whether its recipes are affordable is another question, but if you work at Google, you don’t have to worry about stuff like that…