Meet Ex-Google Chef Charlie Ayers

You may know him as the former executive chef of Google in Mountain View. You may also know him as the former private chef for the Grateful Dead.

Now, you can get to know Charlie Ayers even better by joining him on tour as he promotes his first cookbook, “Food 2.0, Secrets From the Chef Who Fed Google” (DK, $25).

 Unlike so many chef cookbooks, this one is filled with dishes you can easily make at home, from ”Mexican Chicken and Caper Stew” to “Tofu Nicoise.” Of course, it’s also filled with fun tidbits about what it was like to feed 4,000 meals a day to hungry Googlers. Apparently, co-founder Sergey Brin has a thing for sushi, and co-founder Larry Page has a Subway sandwich habit. Ayers’ food was such a hit, though, that Google ended up having to hire boot camp instructors for the employees, who were getting too pudgy on all those good eats.

As Google employee #53, Ayers probably never has to work another day in his life. But the Johnson & Wales University culinary graduate has far too much energy, and far too much passion about food to stop. He will be opening his own restaurant, Calafia Cafe & Market A Go Go, later this year in Palo Alto’s Town and Country Village. It will serve up fast, casual, healthful, and sustainable cuisine.

May 9 from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., join him at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park for a talk and a book-signing. May 11 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., he’ll be at Book Passage in San Francisco’s Ferry Building doing the same. And May 19 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., he’ll do that routine at the Commonwealth Club in Palo Alto (price is $10 for members, $15 for non-members).

Meantime, enjoy this recipe from his new book.

 Silicon Valley Split Pea Soup

(serves 6)

1 smoked ham hock, about 2 1/4 pounds

2 cups yellow split peas, soaked in plenty of cold water for several hours or overnight

2 carrots, cut in small dice

2 celery ribs, cut in small dice

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 large fresh thyme sprig

1 fresh oregano sprig

1 bay leaf

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 large russet (or other floury) potato, cut in small dice

14-ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put ham hock in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then throw away the water (this is to make sure the finished soup isn’t too salty). Put hock back in the pot and add 5 pints water along with drained split peas, carrots, celery, and onion. Add tomato paste, herb sprigs, bay leaf, and garlic. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, partially cover, and simmer for 2 hours.

Lift hock out of pot and set aside. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf. Add potato and tomatoes to pot. Bring back to a boil and simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour longer.

Meanwhile, when hock is cool enough to handle, pull all the meat off the bones, discarding fat, skin, and tendons. Dice the meat and return to the soup. Stir in chopped thyme and season to taste.

Serve hot, with crusty sourdough bread.

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