We Went to the McDonald’s Build Your Own Burger Test Restaurant
On the outside, the McDonald’s in Laguna Nigel, California looks like every other store in the chain. There’s sad white walls, three kids running in circles while their parents beg them to stuff more fries into their faces, and the prominent golden arches luring you inside to get your weekly grease injection. Upon further inspection, this McDonald’s was like no McDonald’s I had ever been to, because it’s the tester restaurant for their new build-your-own-burger gimmick.
My first thought was “damn, this place is clean.” It was clean, you guys. The counter was shiny, and the walls were painted with stripes to look futuristic and European. What shocked me the most, however, was the sheer friendliness of the employees. Three teenaged girls in white button-up shirts greeted me instantly with big smiles. “Welcome to McDonald’s!” They were like the Stepford Wives, but a fast-food employee version.
This McDonald’s is the McDonald’s of the future. I’m not saying that just because it’s really clean and people are happy. I’m saying that because this McDonald’s has iPads! What do these iPads do? They are the tool with which you customize your burger order. With this magic iPad, you’re able to order such exotic menu items as an “artisan roll,” and “guacamole.” Yeah you heard me, a McDonald’s that serves guacamole. Welcome to the 21st century, fuckers. Obviously, little things like “clean dining areas,” “friendly service,” and “freedom of choice” are not features that can be rolled out to every McDonald’s all at once. No, those things have to be “tested,” and Laguna Nigel is the only place where you can enjoy the aforementioned amenities.
VICE Japan correspondents Kentaro and Masakazu travel to Beijing, China to check out Guo Li Zhuang, the local go-to penis restaurant in the city. First on the menu is raw donkey penis, followed by “Golden Pike of Iron Horse” (horse penis), “Dragon Moving Through Fire” (Yak penis), “Digging in Sand” (goat testicle and snail penis), and last but not least, a soup made up of some more penises. Watch and learn more about the healthy medical effects these dishes can have.
Time magazine has pissed off the international restaurant world. They’ve alienated female chefs. Oh wait—they forgot them altogether. The recently released November issue is titled “Gods of Food: Meet the People Who Influence What (and How) You Eat.” A bro-centric series of culinary stories about key influencers in food, the content includes a list of 13 “Gods of Food” (no female chefs made the cut) and a visual “food family tree” of heavy hitters who have pioneered the current restaurant scene. You won’t find ladies in there, either.
Like a bad train wreck, Time issue editor Howard Chua-Eoan—the dude who edited this entire package—recently engaged in an offensively revealing interview with Eater’s Hillary Dixler to explain the sausage-heavy content. When asked about including groundbreaking female chefs to the “family tree” flow chart, Chua-Eoan responded, “the chart came about because men still take care of themselves. The women really need someone—if not men, themselves actually—to sort of take care of each other.” The chart failed to include key influencers like Alice Waters, Barbara Lynch, Anita Lo, Elena Arzak, April Bloomfield, Clare Smyth, and Dominique Crenn, for starters. And when it couldn’t get any worse, he added that the Time editors, “did not want to fill a quota of a woman chef just because she’s a woman. We wanted to go with reputation and influence.”
The issue and Howard Chua-Eoan’s recent interview are revealing by-products of the pervasive sexism that continues to exist throughout all aspects of the culinary world. Or in the words of New York chef Sarah Jenkins, “the relentless circle jerk between the media, PR agents, and the chefs or countries who employ them than any kind of reflection on what’s truly happening out there in the real world.”
London chef Margot Henderson—chef and co-owner of Rochelle Canteen, and wife of chefFergus Henderson—decided to call bullshit. Here’s her response to Time, the reality of women in the kitchen, and why she believes media will continue to promote men before women.
David Chang, René Redzepi, and Alex Atala look quite charming on the cover of Time, don’t they? I think that most of these chefs set out to become famous, putting themselves in front of newspapers. I think that women are getting on creating great restaurants, but men feel that they have to change the world. Australian chef Stephanie Alexander has one of the top restaurants in the world. She has now—admittedly—stopped cooking, but the people that she has taught are incredible. Her cookbooks are incredible. That’s the thing: women are better food writers than men, aren’t they [laughs]? And they often stop because they’re so successful and brilliant at writing books when the men aren’t [laughs]. That Time editor… what a wanker? To not even include Alice Waters in this piece? It’s pretty shocking.
If you think about it, women didn’t really start working in kitchens in the culinary world until about fifty years ago. We’ve got women like Angela Hartnett and Joyce Molyneux, one of the first female chefs to win a Michelin star. Angela is one of the chefs that influenced a whole generation of young men who went on to have great careers. Maybe men are better at taking? They recognize the good things that they’re doing and go with it. In all of these media focused articles, they’re often based on geography. Ferran Adrià is an amazing chef who has undoubtedly influenced food in this generation. David Chang is great, and so is René Redzepi, but it’s just that the hard hitting punch line of tacking the name “Gods” on the cover of Time, and the Time editor’s recent interview where he alludes to not including women—on purpose—is offensive.
In part two ofFresh Off the Boat - Detroit,Eddie heads to Dearborn, Michigan, home of the highest Middle Eastern population per capita outside the Middle East. There, he mows some Iraqi pastries, checks out Wild Wednesdays where the community does its bulk shopping, and engages in kebab diplomacy with a Lebanese community leader and some young Muslim activists.
In part one of the Detroit episode, Eddie meets up with hometown hero Danny Brown to eat some massive Big Baby burgers and survey the ways in which Detroit has been affected by the economic downturn, and how a select few like Danny are doing their part to turn the city around.
Andy Ricker is obsessed with northern-Thai cuisine. The James Beard Award-winning chefstrives for accuracy, recreating dishes from northern Thailand—once considered the underdog of Thai cooking for its lack of representation in the Western food scene—in his five restaurants: Whiskey Soda Lounge, Pok Pok Noi, and Sen Yai in Portland, Oregon, and Pok Pok NY and Whiskey Soda Lounge in New York City. As he writes in his forthcoming cookbook, Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand, “People often praise the food that we serve at Pok Pok and my other restaurants as ‘authentic.’ I’m flattered, but that word and its cousin in compliment, ‘traditional,’ are banished from my restaurants. The words imply that there is one true Thai food out there, somewhere.”
Like the revolutionary moment in the 60s when Julia Child revamped the cold meatloaf palettes of American cooks with her debut French cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Pok Pok is the first indubitably comprehensive collection of essays and recipes to capture northern-Thai cuisine for Western readers. The book features 70 of Ricker’s most popular recipes, and calls for a span of ingredients foreign to the Western palette like leuat(raw blood), phak chii farang (sawtooth herb), and Pandan leaf.
Dealer’s Choice: Pawpaw, the Weirdest American Fruit You Never Knew About
Five years ago Ian Purkayastha, then 16, took out his life savings ($100) to buy Burgundy truffles on eBay, only to turn around and sell them at sky high prices to chefs in his home state of Arkansas. One year later he opted out of college to become the US president of the Italian truffle company P.A.Q., importing fresh truffles into the American market.
Now Ian is 21 and living in Brooklyn, where he works as a full-time food salesman, making fat stacks hustling fresh (and expensive) food products through the back doors of Michelin-starred restaurants around NYC. He’s got an impressive client list of over 300 restaurants nationwide that includes well known chefs like Sean Brock, Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. On any given day, you can find Ian b-lining straight through the back door of fancy kitchens, toting a chilled down backpack filled with $60,000 worth of white truffles, Moscow millionaire-quality caviar, and nondescript packages stuffed with a gamble of strange items—trout placenta, anyone? He almost always has legal seasonal shrooms on hand, like blue chanterelles and bears tooth, that can be hard to find beyond the floors of his delivery van, unless you’re tight with a mushroom forager in the Pacific Northwest.
If you’ve never been aroused by an Instagram picture of an arctic char or a bowl of chocolate-ganache pudding, it’s not for lack of stimulation. At any given time, food porn occupies roughly 80 percent of all Instagram uploads, according to this sentence. Photographer and filmmaker Chris Maggio has had enough. A self-proclaimed outsider to the artisanal-food movement, Chris has created a fictional, character-driven photo blog called Male Chef as a response to the “democratization” of food media on the internet. A site dedicated to displaying disgusting images of home-prepared meals, it’s unclear if the Male Chef is a lonely bachelor, hoarder, late-night drunk with a cooking fetish, or clueless omnivore. Regardless, he’s the one you hope never invites you over for dinner.
Dr. Oz believes that food porn is making Americans fatter. Psychiatrist Dr. Valerie Taylorthinks taking pictures of your food is a sign of mental illness. Whether it’s displaced sexual frustration, lust, hunger, or a good old-fashioned desire for sploshing, food porn is a pervasive social affectation that’s taken over food-centric circles of social media. Out are civilized conversations about the velvety texture of foie gras; in are sepia-tinted pictures of a dead duck above “#OMFG” and “#delish.”
The Male Chef blog, which features stuff like disturbing photos of a bowl of chicken soup filled with peppermints and a nauseating picture of raw chorizo and black beans, is like giving oneself a visual Taser as opposed to praying down a food-porn boner.
VICE: From what I understand, you’re not the type of person who would generally be considered a foodie. Why did you start this blog? Chris Maggio: I’m a complete outsider to the culture of food. It’s a little painful for me to live in Brooklyn because there seems to be some sort of food renaissance happening here that’s culturally relevant. I feel completely excluded from it, but that may just be my own doing. It seems like I’m clueless enough to participate in the food movement in a satirical way. Most of the fodder stems from looking at food photography on food blogs and Yelp, where the idea of going out to a restaurant and almost stealing someone else’s piece of artwork is frequently exhibited for a wide audience to see.
You’re arguing that taking pictures of your food at a restaurant is like stealing art? In a way, yes. I think going to a restaurant where the chef takes pride in the presentation and construction of a meal is something both chefs and consumers consider to be works of art. Photographing these dishes and riding the line between the creator and curator is a blurred path, a space where the photographer gains credit for someone else’s work.
In part two of Fresh Off the Boat - Mongolia, Eddie checks out some questionable meat at a market in Ulan Bator, attends a massive outdoor metal festival, and learns how to make khorkhog at one of the country’s first truly modern restaurants.