Google food manager charged with double-dealing

Owen Thomas · 08/27/08 04:00PM

The brouhaha over Google's once-legendary, now troubled free-meals perk has bubbled up more charges of wrongdoing in the search engine's kitchens. An anonymous poster has taken to Craigslist to air charges against Google's former global food manager, John Dickman. (The post refers to him as "Dick," but it's obviously Dickman being discussed.) The Craigslist poster claims Dickman, left, who is married to Lisa McEuen, right, an executive at the parent company of food-service operator Bon Appétit, with leaking inside information which helped Bon Appétit win a contract to run Google's in-house meal service.The poster claims Dickman then arranged to get a kickback from Bon Appétit. Google, he goes on to write, investigated Dickman and Bon Appétit, going as far as testing fruits and vegetables, presumably to see if they met Google's high standards for organic and sustainable ingredients. The implication there: Bon Appétit had been feeding Googlers slop dressed up as fancy fare. The end of the Craigslist poster's story: Dickman was brought before Google's board and fired. All juicy gossip — but there's one thing that doesn't make sense about this whole tale. Dickman is now working at Apple, a company with close ties to Google. Google CEO Eric Schmidt is on Apple's board of directors. Apple directors Bill Campbell and Al Gore are important advisors to Schmidt. If Dickman left Google in a cloud, how could he possibly land a job at Apple? Either the poster's allegations aren't true — or something darker is going on here. One possible explanation: Google's leaders might have arranged for Dickman to get a job with their friends at Apple in exchange for buying his silence on other matters. Here are excerpts from the original post on Craigslist:

AdWords customers receive Google cookbook

Jackson West · 08/26/08 12:00PM

Google's cafeterias have become such a point of pride for the company, even if it has to close a cafe now and again, that longtime AdWords customers recently received a spiral-bound copy of the Google cookbook title "Keyword: Delicious." If anything, the cookbook proves just how much fat there is to trim at the company's cafeterias — not one, but two of the recipes call for super-rich and expensive foie gras, or fatted goose liver. Included in the gift basket was a black apron emblazoned with Google's logo. Want to pick up a copy and eat like a Googler?Tough luck. They're not available to the public, yet. And we suspect this may be a limited edition. The introduction is written by John Dickman, Google's former director of food operations, who left the company amidst controversy in January, and now works at Apple.

How Google's cafes turned into hell's kitchens

Owen Thomas · 08/25/08 08:00PM

Live by the fork, die by the fork. Now that Google is cutting back on its free food, where will its flacks woo journalists? Morale in Google's kitchens is rock-bottom, as leaderless workers try to keep understaffed cafes running, even as Google management insists they open new eateries. The last place Google's PR staff should want to entertain a reporter is in their cafes. The tragedy of it all: As we learn more about how the Googleplex's food operations fell apart, it sounds like Google executives' ego got in the way of thinking about the needs of employees — or the workers who keep them fed.The trouble started when Google hired John Dickman as its director of food operations. Dickman is married to Lisa McEuen, an executive at Bon Appétit. At the time, Bon Appétit and Google were two of the largest buyers of organic and sustainable food in the region; by picking up Google as a client, Bon Appétit gained considerable purchasing power. A source in Google's kitchens says that Dickman was "the reason Bon Appétit got the Google contract." But in exchange, Bon Appétit, a division of Compass Group, got a very testy client. A former Google chef who had his own ideas about how to run the cafes profitably said he tried to get founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and CEO Eric Schmidt interested, but they didn't listen "because I didn't have a Stanford degree." Google's ethics cops have never looked askance at, say, Schmidt hiring his girlfriend for a high-profile PR gig, or Brin getting Google to invest in his wife's startup. But Dickman's marriage to a Bon Appétit executive raised eyebrows, and he left the company in January. Two top chefs followed him out the door. Josef Desimone went to Facebook, in March. Dickman himself went to Apple, and Nate Keller, a protégé of Google's first chef, Charlie Ayers, followed him there. Both Desimone and Keller took several members of the kitchen staff with them. "All management staff has quit within the last three months," says a source at Google. That may be an exaggeration, but if so, not by much. One issue that's been underplayed: The behavior of rank-and-file Googlers. "Pride is all cooks and dishwashers have," says a former Google chef. But Googlers, whose sense of self-aggrandized entitlement is already legendary in the Valley, have been taking out their frustrations on the people who dish out their food. Kitchen staffers are "invisible" to them, says a Google food worker — except when they somehow displease Googlers who expect free meals and servile deference, too. Google's cafes have always been at the heart of its PR strategy, helping to portray the company as generous to employees, dedicated to doing things differently, and caring about Mother Earth. Google PR director David Krane took on the replacement of original chef Charlie Ayers as the task he worked on in the 20-percent time Google gives employees to work on side projects. I can't remember the number of times Krane cajoled me to enjoy a free meal, courtesy of Google. He wouldn't want me there now. A Bon Appétit executive said in May that the company was planning to drop Google as a client. Arrogant, tightfisted, and argumentative, the Googlers were more trouble than the food-service contract was worth. Even so, Bon Appétit has been scrambling to patch things up. "The two founders of Bon Appétit come on site at least once a week," says a Googler. "Other representatives from Bon Appétit headquarters are on site every day — as visitors. It's a very sticky situation. The kitchen staff isn't being told anything. When dinner is cut how many jobs will be cut, too? The thing that really gets me is that the Googlers have no clue and will be asking us questions when dinner and other programs stop. They won't know the truth either." The company seems uninterested in letting Googlers know the truth. It's telling that Google PR won't go on the record to deny the cuts, though they're happy to persuade reporters on background that the cuts are limited. A spokeswoman, conveniently unnamed, told CNBC's Jim Goldman that the company had no idea where the rumor came from. Here's an idea for Google PR: Go down to a kitchen, and talk to the people who actually make the food you love to eat while chatting up reporters. They seem to be better informed than you are. (Photo by Jeromy Henry/Fortune)