The biggest restaurant is named Charlie's, in honour of Google's super-cool former executive chef, Charlie Ayers. Ayers was once the chef to the Grateful Dead, a San Francisco Bay Area acid-rock band that was formed in the 1960s, long before the vast majority of current Googlers were born, but at a time when the philosophy that drives them - expand your mind, anything is possible - was the catchcry. Googlers - thousands of them - stream into Charlie's to feast on pretty well anything they might desire: Asian soups, fajitas, gourmet pizzas, seaweed salads, steaks, casseroles, sushi, burgers straight off the hot plate, cheesecake, fresh fruit, exotic ice-creams. And there are about 20 other cafes and kitchens dotted around the Googleplex. All free.
"What's with all these eating places?" Good Weekend asks a succession of Googlers. The answer is always the same.
"Larry says that when a bunch of Googlers sit down together, amazing things can happen."
It sounds glib, a sort of Californian geek-cult mantra. Yet it is incontrovertible that amazing things do happen at Google, a company whose influence on our daily lives has become so ubiquitous that it is less a corporation than a reflex action. "To google" is a verb with no current peer: somewhere between 70 per cent and 90 per cent (depending on whose research you believe) of all searches on the internet are now achieved through Google. Microsoft's Bing and Yahoo! Search carve up the remainder.
"Larry" is, of course, Larry Page. He and the Russian-born Sergey Brin famously founded Google when they were computer science students at Stanford University. The university is just up the road at Palo Alto, and the little shed where the Google story began remains preserved, a sort of shrine to one of Silicon Valley's most extraordinary success stories.
The university remains a major recruitment ground for Googlers, but Yolanda Mangolini, a very jolly African-American who rejoices in the title of director of "global diversity and inclusion", points out that Google "reaches out" to high school students from their early teens, persuading and helping them to choose computer science.
The best and brightest are, in short, identified early and watched as potential Nooglers. Diversity is encouraged, and Mangolini takes pride in overseeing 19 "diversity groups" - Gayglers, Jewglers, even Greyglers for older Googlers.
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