The Great Hall
Google's great chef hunt The Great Hall: Google's great chef hunt
By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, January 18, 2006 - 08:36 am: Edit

An insider's tale from Google's great chef hunt

By Steve Petusevsky
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Editor's note: It's launching showy new products, and its stock price is soaring through the roof. And amid all that, the Internet search engine giant Google inches closer to concluding its worldwide hunt for two executive chefs to cook everything from vegan entrees to organic wood-fired pizzas for employees at its Mountain View campus.

Whoever ends up in those two coveted spots will have big aprons to fill. They will succeed former Google chef Charlie Ayers, who once cooked for the Grateful Dead. Hundreds applied for the jobs. South Florida food writer Steve Petusevsky, former national director of creative food development for Whole Foods Market and author of ``The Whole Foods Market Cookbook'' (Clarkson Potter, 464 pp., $25.95), is one of the few still in the running.

I am writing from Mountain View, where I have entered the second phase of my job application for the position of corporate chef for Google. For this important event, I must prepare a meal for 100 guests. Two other chefs also have made it to this level of consideration for the job.

I am excited to return to the Google campus. As I head to the kitchen, I remember how special this environment is. There is a sand volleyball court, a pool surrounded by tropical plantings and lots of modern, colorful architecture, which reflects the corporate personality. This place fosters out-of-the box thinking.

I wait in the Google lobby and mentally prepare myself for the adventure ahead. My guide arrives and takes me to the kitchen, where I am greeted by the man who oversees this massive food empire, John Dickman.

Tom Petty music blasts loudly in the background, and in the next few days I will cook to the beat of classic rock, rap and even orthodox Jewish reggae by a new artist I have heard about in the news. The kitchen is warm and welcoming, even though lunch service is imminent. The kitchen staff greets me. I feel I belong.

Scott, the purchasing agent responsible for procuring a dizzying array of global ingredients, gives me a quick tour, and I am blown away by the selection at my disposal. There's the produce walk-in filled with every imaginable species of vegetable and fruit. I marvel at fresh shiso leaves used in Japanese cooking, which I have only seen dried. Other refrigerators are filled with dairy products, four kinds of seitan and three varieties of fresh tofu. There are condiments from India, Thailand and Italy, and a shelf dedicated to imported chocolates for baking.

The Google pantry reflects the young, diverse employees whom this busy kitchen serves. I ponder the inventory of grains, noodles and heirloom beans.

As noon approaches, the kitchen becomes frenetic. Chefs Nate, Sean, Bucci and their crews, each responsible for a different food station, prepare for the official tasting done twice daily when the specials are presented, tasted and critiqued. The mushroom-encrusted mahi is examined for doneness and taste. The inspired young vegetarian chef presents kim chee pancakes with house-made kim chee and side dishes that explode in my mouth. Pizzas, authentic regional Mexican dishes and composed salads are reviewed for quality and appearance.

For my job application, I spend two days making a menu that reflects my personality and cooking style. It includes black bean soup with chipotle chile; South Florida sunshine salad with pomelo, grapefruit, arugula, fennel, queso blanco and pomegranate vinaigrette; authentic Hungarian chicken Google-ash with cracked caraway seed, smoked paprika and lemon quinoa spaetzle; cruciferous vegetable mix with poppy glaze; and spicy Thai green curry coconut calabaza squash stew with seared tofu.

What's for dessert?

Before leaving Florida, I had decided to take along one ingredient that the Google chefs had never seen. A tall order.

The day before my trip, I was at Caspian Persian market in Plantation, Fla., where I found saffron sugar, the inspiration for my dessert. I caramelized the golden saffron sugar and drizzled it over warm rice pudding before sprinkling in pistachios, fresh pomegranate seeds, dates and pine nuts. I am happy that is the last taste guests had in their mouths

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