ChefVille - A Memoir

published on 2015-05-02


On Monday, August 6th, 2012, we all stood with anticipation, talking, excited. Champagne is being prepared, and some is being drunk somewhere. Anxious glances at the countdown clock, at JK, at each other. We hear (faintly, because it’s coming from a laptop) Europe’s The Final Countdown start as the clock dips under :30 seconds; the video is up on a screen. The gong mallet is prepared. 10! 9! 8! Everyone is counting down the clock. 7! 6! 5! 4! 3! 2! 1! Cheers as the song kicks in, as the gong is struck, as the champagne is popped, and as ChefVille is launched to the world.

Freakin' Europe!

Yesterday was the first day since then that the url no longer pointed to anything; Zynga has retired the app. Sure, there’s a business reason for it, and there were calculations done to see whether it made enough money to continue, but it still stings for a lot of people. Hell, it stings for me and I left the team voluntarily months before I left Zynga. However, I felt bad leaving; I felt like I was letting my family down. I think that’s one of the things which many of us really liked about working on ChefVille; it wasn’t just the game, it was the people.

Chef team

We did some amazing things with the game. It was, for a time, the most popular game on Facebook. We pushed a lot of technical boundaries, in many ways being one of the most tech-forward games at Zynga. We also pushed the envelope with the art; I mean, even now, it still looks great! And the food! Man, the pictures of the food! There were some killer recipe ideas, some great game mechanics, and people really loved to play the game. Even after our team was being picked apart by sending people to other games, we just hunkered down and focused on efficiency… and we really nailed it. We had a great rhythm going on how to get things done, managing a lot of moving parts, responding to Code Reds (and a Zynga-first Code Green, thank you Kathleen!), and generally just kicking ass.

ChefVille screen shot

We didn’t just work hard and work well, we also did a lot of really fun things together. The weekly trivia game in the team meeting; sure, it was designed to make us pay attention throughout, but c’mon, you answer correctly, you get $25. Of course, you’re up against Jesse, so you’d better be quick! Weekly drinks, always changing it up, especially after we


requisitioned the Icee machine; Tatung was all over that! Trips to Vegas, trips to the Wine Country, nice dinners out, all sorts of fun goings on. We could never get enough of Brody when Kwong deigned to bring him in, of Alan’s crazy basketball talk, or giving drinks to Jossie because you just KNOW she’s going to drink them. Then, of course, there’s the times where people just got hammered and stuck around, doing things like triple-fisting drinks (Neil), getting into slap dares (Max), and riding (and falling off) bikes in the suite (Maic). And then there’s Klink. Hell, I think that Neil and Jess, who got married a couple weeks ago, either met or started dating on ChefVille! We enjoyed doing these things because we enjoyed the people we were doing them with.



more shenanigans

So, even though I’ve been long off the ChefVille team, and even though the game was moved to India… what, a year ago now?, the fact that it’s gone makes me sad. Something I took pride in making, something I worked with a lot of great people to build, is now gone. I’m sure a lot of my former teammates feel that way, even though they’ve gone on to do some really awesome things. It truly is the end of an era for me. And I’m very glad to have been a part of it.

R.I.P. ChefVille, Aug. 6, 2012 - Apr. 30, 2015