Google Builds Street Cred w/Chef Jose Andres

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Google Builds Street Cred w/Chef Jose Andres

    I ventured into the DC Googleplex last night for one of the company’s “Google D.C. Talks” and no one challenged me at the door. It looks like Consumer Watchdog isn’t on a no-entry list after our latest investigation into Google’s Wi-Spy wiretapping activities. No one was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement to get in either, as they usually ask visitors to do. That was probably because the whole place was locked down (I tried the wrong door on the way to the ladies room) aside from the big empty room where the talk was held. The room was studiously unfinished with Ikea lamps, exposed venting and wires everywhere.

    Chef Jose Andres was irreverent, entertaining, and retains enough of his Spanish accent to keep you hanging on every word even if you don’t know the first thing about food and have never heard of minibar. The liquid olives hors d’ ouevres were tasty – and nothing like I imagined from his explanation of making them. Vint Cerf (Google’s “Chief Internet Evangelist” – I’m still not clear on what that’s supposed to mean) was the elder statesman interviewer, though still styling in brown suit and moss-colored tie, and never once hinted at Google’s agenda, or anything related to the internet for that matter. (Although I did miss most of the introduction.)

    Jose Andres talked about bringing solar kitchens to Haiti, agricultural subsidies, and explained super-cooling from the point of view of a beer you forget to take out of the freezer (hey, I’m supposed to be frozen!)

    So who goes to this kind of thing? Eyeing the room, strictly the 40 and under crowd. It’s all part of Google’s political brand-building. They’re competing with Apple for the cool factor. Jose Andres has nothing to do with the internet, or any other policy Google’s lobby shop might be interested in. But he’s a DC institution that the city loves to claim as its own. Google’s success has a lot to do with whether the public claims the company as its own, and believes the company lives by its “don’t be evil” motto.

    The invite asked us to “re-imagine innovation and how it can transform the way we eat.” Chef Andres is a cutting edge chef (it’s called molecular gastronomy, or nouvelle cuisine, or something else I’m not foodie enough to know). And Google would like us to allow it to re-imagine acceptable boundaries of internet privacy and information-sharing. That’s the logical connection. But mostly, I think Google just wants to make sure its place in the DC ethos is with the cool kids. They did a pretty good job, but I’m still not signing up for gmail.

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