Back when Googlers cooked for themselves

I’m headed back to Google to talk about food for the first time in about 13 years. My trip reminded me of this column, which I wrote not long after I first heard of Google. You think Sergey will talk to me today about the company’s food choices?

Me neither.


Subhead:    Web Headline:    Reporter:  MIKE CASSIDY column Day:  Wednesday Print Run Date:  9/8/99 Section:  Front Edition:  Morning Final Page Number:  1 Section Letter:  A Memo:  Silicon Valley Dispatches Corrections: Dateline:    Slug    Text:  IT’S not so crazy this start-up, Google, hiring a corporate chef and offering the cook stock options. (Finally a use for that stock pot.)

The Internet company just moved from a cramped office surrounded by eateries to a huge building, with working kitchen, in the midst of a restaurant wasteland.

Google’s 40 or so employees work hard and deserve better than greasy pizza slipped under their cube dividers, says Sergey Brin, 26, the Mountain View company’s president.

And it’s not like they’re hiring a company masseuse. OK, well, yes they are — also with options. But it’s a legitimate need.

“We have these hockey games, ” Brin explains. Roller hockey. Rough roller hockey, which leaves programmers sore and stiff.

The ads went up. A chance to go from rolling dough to rolling in dough. A chance to Rolf for dollars. Other companies — mostly bigger — have chefs and hire masseuses to come in and work the kinks out. But those are contractors. You won’t find many chefs or rubdown folks who are employee No. 40-something with options.

This is no time to think small. Money is falling from the sky. The days when start-ups went for the frugal look — buying used furniture, renting ratty office space — are over. It’s time to be as big as you can as fast as you can, or everybody (at least everybody shoveling out money) will wonder where your gumption is.

Google has gumption and cash — a lot of cash. The search-engine company received its first round of venture funding in June: $24 million (maybe enough for a sous chef, too).

“Mostly, we want to attract great people, ” says Brin, thinking beyond chefs and masseuses. “And great engineers in particular.”

As you have heard, great engineers are in short supply. Brin figures good food and a rubdown couldn’t hurt. The chef and masseuse applications are just beginning to arrive. Two masseuses have interviewed, a process that includes a tryout on Google workers.

“They were both OK, ” Brin says.

As for the chef, he’s offering the run of Chez Google and looking for simple, healthy food.

“Actually, I decided everything that starts with ‘S’ is good, ” Brin says.”Sushi, sandwich, soup, salad, spaghetti (as in pasta).”

(Note to Google workforce: Shrimp, souffle and sauvignon start with “S.”) Brin isn’t worried about investors freaking (to use the Wall Street term) at the hires. It makes business sense, he says. Massage might reduce repetitive strain. An in-house cook means workers won’t be driving off to lunch and dinner.

Which is good. They can stick around and visit the company manicurist and auto mechanic.

Just kidding.




Filed under Silicon Valley Business, Silicon Valley History, Silicon Valley Life

2 responses to “Back when Googlers cooked for themselves

  1. Reblogged this on PENPals Surveys and commented:
    A little retrospective on when Google first hired their chef in ’99. Never forget, in-house chef == gumption!

  2. Pingback: G-noshing at Google | Mike Cassidy's Blog

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