Google burst onto the scene ten years ago, the brainchild of two students from Stanford University with a good idea for a web search engine. The idea quickly took off, and the partnership soon developed into a full-fledged company with hundreds of brilliant employees. But how do you keep best assets performing at the top of their game? You feed them the right foods.
Charlie Ayers was hired as the executive chef for Google Inc. in 1999 after winning a cooking contest judged by employees, and his first item of business was determining exactly what to feed the creative teams. He soon came up with a mix of locally grown vegetables and organic foods served according to the needs of the body at certain times of day. This "brain food" would help to boost the creativity of the employees. And it worked.
His cookbook, Food 2.0, details the things he learned during his tenure at Google, and is divided into two main sections. The first portion of the book outlines his beliefs in organic, fresh, locally-grown foods. He catalogs how to get the most nutrition out of your food selections and encourages readers to avoid packaged products. The second portion of the book lays out recipes for many of the dishes he became famous for in the Google cafeteria.
All of the recipes in the book feature colorful, nutritious meals, going from energy shakes for a quick start in the morning, to nurturing lunches and afternoon snacks that get you over the 3 P.M. hump. All require fresh, seasonal ingredients. And that's where some home cooks may run into problems. While most of the ingredients can be found in a well-stocked grocery store, there are other, more exotic organic ingredients that can likely only be found in specialty or health food stores. Inhabitants of large cities shouldn't have an issue, but foodies living in smaller communities may find it difficult to locate ingredients like orange blossom mountain honey and wild organic blueberries. While substitutions can of course be made, the whole point of the cookbook is to use the original organic products.
Overall the book is well thought out and executed. Flipping through, the pictures are vivid and bright. The only issue arises with the colors used. The color of the fonts and background varies from page to page, and at times, the contrast between the page color and the font color can be difficult to read.
The recipes I chose from the book were not specifically featured in the full-page photos, since I wanted to test items that might be less showy or weaker recipes. I first tried the Mint-Chocolate Brownies, but was surprised at their inclusion in the book after a closer look at the recipe. In addition to partially sweetened chocolates, the recipe also calls for two cups of sugar, pushing the brownies into a category that I'm not sure I could call particularly healthy. That kind of sweetness seems to go against Charlie's stated goal of providing even energy over the course of the day. Ignoring the nutrition element, the brownies were wonderfully cakey and rich.
I next tried the Smoked Salmon Tartlets. This recipe required some fumbling with frozen phyllo dough, but in the end, it turned out crisp shells filled with smoked salmon cream. The caviar recommended for the top may be a bit extravagant for some home cooks, but the salmon cups are equally delicious without the salty addition. These would make an excellent appetizer for a party.
The last recipe I tested was the Spinach Latkes. The preparation was almost too easy, and the pancakes turned out crisp on the outside, while remaining soft on the inside. A great side dish, they appear to be the perfect way to get some additional nutrition into children or somewhat picky eaters.
Overall, Food 2.0 is colorful and bright, just like the dishes inside. Charlie provides ample encouragement for healthier eating and exploring more organic options, but some readers may have difficulty locating the ingredients, if the recipes are followed exactly.
Recipe: Spinach Latkes