Silicon Valley's Josh Brener plays barista with Soylent founder Rob Rhinehart (right).
The opening sequence of HBO’s Silicon Valley came to life this week as a sleek Soylent truck rolled through Silicon Valley IRL. Staffing it: Soylent founder Rob Rhinehart and Silicon Valley star Josh Brener, aka Big Head, decked out in a futuristic Soylent-emblazoned silver Velcro suit to promote the company’s recently launched drink, Coffiest. Marrying the polarizing meal replacement beverage with everyone’s favorite morning drug, Coffiest dispenses with the last remaining thing we might actually leave our workstations for: coffee.
Brener and Rhinehart (who became friends after Brener appeared in a forthcoming comedy directed by his sister Cat Rhinehart) hammed it up while delivering Soylent to techies. The pair posed for selfies at Google and eBay, clinked incongruously old-timey Mason jars filled with chilled Coffiest, and doled out samples of the caffienated slurry, dubbed “Metamucil Frappuccino” by Grub Street and backhandedly praised as “surprisingly almost good” by Eater.
Despite being surrounded by tech campuses that hire actual chefs to cook actual food, Brener thinks Big Head’s all in. “He doesn’t like to exert himself,” says the actor, “so the two-in-one nature of Coffiest—not having to lift anything, seek anything out, lift a fork to his mouth—I think that would really resonate with him.”
But now that Soylent’s come for our coffee, we had to ask Rhinehart: Can something that’s already convenient, portable, and liquid really be improved upon? He answers pragmatically, calling Soylent a “food option” rather than an attempt to take anything away. “A lot of people are working through lunch,” he says. “If they’re behind on a deadline, food, especially quality nutrition, can be a real pain point.” Food as a pain point? Somewhere Michael Pollan sheds a tear.
And then there’s this wrinkle: Even Soylent regularly feeds employees with free, genuine food, the CEO admits. For Rhinehart, that’s not so much an irony as another selling point. Despite the availability of food options with a texture other than pancake batter, “I find myself using a lot of Soylent products,” he says. “So our products get used a lot just because [food] doesn’t always fit into your schedule.”
Or into writers’ rooms. Brener says the Silicon Valley writers sometimes have Soylent handy “to keep them going through the long, grueling days of making fun of Silicon Valley.”