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Facebook to eat like Google

The website wants what its rival is having and hires its top chef.

April 04, 2008|Jessica Guynn | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Now Facebook's cooking.

The social networking upstart has been poaching top talent from Google Inc. for months. The catch of the day is Executive Chef Josef Desimone, who is sure to win hearts and stomachs at Facebook by substituting its steam-heated buffets with the fresh, healthy gourmet fare for which Google became famous.

"Joey has the chops," said Charlie Ayers, author of "Food 2.0: Secrets From the Chef Who Fed Google."

As Google's first executive chef, Ayers hired Desimone in 2003 when Google was growing so fast that they cooked in the back of an 18-wheeler and served meals under tents.

Desimone, one of Google's top chefs, couldn't be reached for comment. But in an interview with Fast Company published last month, he described Google as "Disneyland" and asked "Where do you go from here?"

Answer: To Facebook, which is Silicon Valley's hottest company. The Palo Alto company had its pick of about 100 food-industry heavyweights inspired by Ayers, who joined Google in 1999 and reaped millions in stock options.

"Now everyone wants a piece of the pie," Ayers said.

Facebook employees are salivating over Desimone's arrival in a few weeks. "Once our catering company found out we were going to hire a chef, they stopped caring," one said.

A big Desimone fan is former Googler Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's new chief operating officer.

One might expect relations between the Internet rivals to become chillier than a walk-in refrigerator. But Google was diplomatic.

"Josef made Google a delicious place to be during his time here," a spokeswoman said.

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jessica.guynn@latimes.com

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