Granted, Google always did things its own way. But when Ayers was hired in 2000 to bring "eclectic, high-flavor, low-fat food" to the engineers and data crunchers that made up the staff there, he had already logged time working as a personal chef for members of the Grateful Dead: Unorthodox was relative. But where the band might have started off at the crunchier end of the food spectrum, the geeks at Google were used to thinking of food as fuel, the more high-octane (Jolt, pizza) the better. It was up to Ayers to wean them of frozen fish sticks and introduce them to the pleasures of grilled striped sea bass. His menus became the stuff of legend and the Google cafeteria was the envy of Silicon Valley.
Ayers left the company in 2005 with a boatload of stock and the dream of starting a chain of organic fast-food restaurants. Today the first Calafia ("Slow food cooked fast") is nestled in the midst of the Town & Country Village, across from the Stanford campus in Palo Alto, Calif. The tasteful interior of the 120-seat eatery is all wood and stainless steel, a far cry from the sort of interactive video-game environment he had envisioned. (One investor told him his original concept sounded like "an adult Chuck E. Cheese, and I wanted to kill myself.") It's also become the new go-to lunch place for the local digerati.