Mike Isaac

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Valley Nerds Cook for Good in “The Start-Up Chef” E-Book

Mention of the words “techie” and “food” likely brings to mind the typical engineer fare — racks of Popchips, Snickers bars and chilled Mountain Dew, staples all too common to the Silicon Valley start-up pantry.

But some nerds eat better than others.

At least, that’s the case for those contributing to “The Start-Up Chef,” a new recipe book touting dishes from more than 70 Valley-dwelling contributors who can cook everything from eggs sous vide to steak au poivre (as well a host of other non-French dishes).

It’s the pet project of Hunter Walk and Maya Baratz, two techies who wanted to both celebrate the fact that the start-up diet isn’t all Funyuns and Twizzlers, while trying to do a bit of good at the same time. Published as both an e-book and a PDF on self-publishing platform Leanpub, proceeds from the book sales go to charities aiming to end hunger.

It’s a break from the typical Valley refrain, where dreams of wealth, upward mobility and lavish parties often trump the do-gooder ideas and concerns of social welfare.

“We want to evolve the norms of our industry,” Walk, a product head at YouTube who has worked on other philanthropic efforts at Google, told me. “Not only in building amazing products, but in helping the world in general.”

As new generations of technologists continue to come into money and prominence early on, Walk says it’s all the more important to try and find ways to participate in charitable giving at every point in their careers.

And as Baratz points out, the book offers a taste (ha!) of the lives of founders, venture capitalists and tech writers that we wouldn’t otherwise be privy to.

“Not only can these people cook well, but many of these are passed-down family recipes,” said Baratz, a product exec at ABC News. “They’ve brought a lot of personal aspects to the project.”

Natch, you’ll find a sausage soup recipe on page 138, one that comes straight from the kitchen of “Mom Crowley,” mother of Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley.

The book is available online beginning Friday, and will be updated with further recipes and pictures through the Leanpub platform in the coming months.

Bon appetit, geeks.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work