Charlie Ayers knows how to make an exit. When the Grateful Dead’s former private chef left Google in 2005, after six years as the company’s first and most celebrated executive chef, he did so in grand style. On Google’s Mountain View campus, T-shirts were handed out that depicted Ayers’ head atop Elvis’s body, along with the profound adieu “Charlie has left the building.’’ With an armload of stock options, no less.
This month, Ayers will try to make an equally impressive entrance when his new venture—and first restaurant—Calafia Café and Market A Go-Go, opens in Palo Alto. In honor of the occasion, we take stock of the astounding, no-holds-barred cafeteria revolution he set in motion.
Google title: Executive chef and employee #53
What he brought to the table: “A whole new level of cool. I planted the seeds to grow their food culture, which is now world renowned, planned the outlandish late-night parties on the company’s ski trip, and its Big-Ass BBQs with keggers in the summer. You name it, I tried to get away with it.’’
Pre-Google jobs: Private chef for a “very wealthy’’ family in Woodside; private chef for the Grateful Dead; executive chef at Blue Chalk Café, Palo Alto; executive sous-chef at Left at Albuquerque, Palo Alto
Post-Google job: Chef-proprietor of the new Calafia Café and Market A Go-Go, Palo Alto
Google title: Marketing manager
What she brought to the table: “I contributed to developing Google’s presence at top industry shows. I also picked the food and wine for many of Google’s executive/customer appreciation dinners.’’
Pre-Google jobs: Director of eBusiness at Oracle; director of marketing at InfoWorld Media Group
Post-Google job: Coproprietor and wine director of Cin-Cin Wine Bar and Restaurant in Los Gatos, where Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt has been spotted
Google title: Executive chef at Café 150 (dedicated to using products from within 150 miles of the restaurant)
What he brought to the table: “We tried to introduce people to new flavors and textures.’’
Pre-Google jobs: Cook at Rubicon and Tokyo Go Go, San Francisco; cook at the Kitchen, Sacramento
Post-Google job: Entremetier (the cook in charge of amuse-bouches and meat-dish accompaniments) at WD-50, New York City
Google title: Global food service manager
What he brought to the table: “I raised the level of awareness on sustainability issues and encouraged ridiculously fresh, made-from-scratch food.”
Pre-Google job: District manager at Palo Alto–based Bon Appétit Management Company
Post-Google job: Director of food service at Apple, Cupertino
Google title: Executive chef
What he brought to the table: “Leadership (I was the godfather of the Google chef team). Tremendous work ethic. Passion for food and for charity work.’’
Pre-Google job: Chef at Café de la Presse, San Francisco
Post-Google job: Culinary Overlord (yes, that is his real title) at Facebook, Palo Alto
Google title: Sous-chef and kitchen manager
What he brought to the table: Initiated composting. Helped organize a fundraiser for a public television show aimed at getting kids to eat better.
Pre-Google jobs: Personal chef; executive chef at L.A. Food Works
Post-Google jobs: Consultant for Watsonville’s Second Street Cafe; developing a grant proposal for a farm to teach low-income kids about sustainability and healthful cooking
Google title: Executive chef at the Pure Ingredient Café (most everything is made in-house without chemicals and preservatives, including the condiments and sodas)
What he brings to the table: “An eye for detail and a desire to push the envelope.’’
Pre-Google jobs: Executive chef at Viognier restaurant, San Mateo; cook at the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco; cook at the Lark Creek Inn, Larkspur
Google title: Executive chef at the Basic Deli (all curing, brining, and charcuterie done onsite) and Café Euro (modern European food)
What he brings to the table: “I am the molecular gastronomy guy around here.’’ Olive-oil gummis, anyone? The Basic Deli has no stoves, so Balek cooks his meats and eggs (for egg salad) in vacuum packs, sous vide–style.
Pre-Google jobs: Worked with Gary Danko, Jeremiah Tower, Nancy Silverton, Roland Passot, and Jan Birnbaum; most recently, chef at Cellers Camp de Tarragona, a winery in Catalonia, Spain
Google title: Executive chef at Charlie’s (named for you-know-who), a food court that includes everything from sushi to a gluten-free station
What he brings to the table: He may be British, but he believes in seasonality and bold flavors. “British cuisine has come a long way. I am now proud again to say I am English.’’
Pre-Google job: Executive chef at the California Culinary Academy, San Francisco
Google title: Executive chef
What he brings to the table: “Competition. Chefs are very competitive, so I hope I raised the bar a little.’’
Pre-Google jobs: Executive chef at Fringale and La Table, San Francisco; opening sous-chef at Elisabeth Daniel, San Francisco
Google title: Executive chef at American Table and the Oasis Café
What she brings to the table: Shines the light of the Bay Area organic-food revolution on Asian cuisine. Trying to set up an adopt-a-farm program to work with Asian immigrant and refugee farmers to supply produce to the café.
Pre-Google job: Food and wine writer for the San Francisco Chronicle