In 1998, when the year-old Google had grown up out of its digs in Susan Wojcicki ‘s house and moved into its first proper office in Palo Alto, California, the 50-ish people who worked at the company were hungry, so Larry Page decided to hire a chef.
Google would end hiring Charlie Ayers who was, until that time, best known as the former chef for the Grateful Dead, which put him in the middle of the “counter culture” back in the day.
Ayers described that first interview with Page and the epic parties he threw in a new book by Adam Fisher called the Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley (as Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom). An excerpt of the book was published by Vanity Fair.
Ayers landed at Google because founder Larry Page’s father was a big Deadhead who ran a radio talk show every Sunday night called the Grateful Dead-hour, Ayers said in the book.
In those early days, Google was a wild, childlike place to work, filled with people in their 20s. During the interview for the chef job, Page sat and bounced on one of those big red bouncy balls with a handle, the sort you’d get from a toy store.
“It was just a very unprofessional, uncorporation attitude,” as Ayers tells the story. “I have a pretty good understanding of doing things differently from the Grateful Dead — I’ve worked on and off with them over the years — but from my perspective, looking from the outside, it was an odd interview. I’d never had one like that. I left them thinking that these guys are crazy. They don’t need a chef!”
But he took the job as employee number 53 anyway, staying until 2005. He left to open his own restaurant, rich from his stock after Google’s IPO in 2004.
And one of the things he did in his years there was throw epic parties. The Google crew started taking annual ski trips to Squaw Valley where at first Ayers’ parties were, as he described them, “unsanctioned.” And then the company bowed and allowed him to create what he called “Charlie’s Den.”
“I had live bands, D.J.s, and we bought truckloads of alcohol and a bunch of pot and made ganja goo balls. I remember people coming up to me and saying, ‘I’m hallucinating. What the fuck is in those?’,” Ayers said in the book. A spokesperson for Google declined to comment on the parties.
The parties got even wilder from there, Ayers recalled, “Larry and Sergey had like this gaggle of girls who were hot, and all become like their little harem of admins, I call them the L&S Harem, yes. All those girls are now different heads of departments in that company, years later.”
Read the full excerpt on Vanity Fair.
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