Empire of the Bun
How one man made millions with a fancy hamburger.
How one man made millions with a fancy hamburger.
“That learning to cook could lead an American woman to success of any kind would have seemed utterly implausible in 1949; that it is so thoroughly plausible 60 years later owes everything to Julia Child’s legacy.”
How KFC brought fried chicken to China and Africa as U.S. sales slumped.
One man’s dream to turn America into a post-prohibition wine utopia.
Don’t call them “foodies.”
“My name is Jackie and I am addicted to waitressing.” An essay on waiting tables.
Inside a restaurant lawsuit.
Michael Chow’s complaint, which sought $21 million in damages, alleged that the team behind Philippe, including chef Philippe Chau, restaurateur Stratis Morfogen (also behind the well-received Ciano) and several codefendants, appropriated the Satay recipe and 11 other Mr Chow standbys, the “modern” decor of Mr Chow’s restaurants and even the name Chow—thereby engaging in deceptive trade practices, swiping trade secrets and infringing on the Mr Chow trademark.
A profile of New York chef and fisherman David Pasternack.
On Manoj Bhargava, who says he’s “probably the wealthiest Indian in America,” and his ubiquitous product.
A profile of Gordon Ramsay.
The history of “‘50s-era market-tested USDA White Pan Loaf No. 1.”
Law enforcement vs. local fishermen in Massachusetts.
The case for why a cup of joe is about to become a luxury item.
The absurd scale of McDonald’s’ economics suggests a company more like a commodity trader than a chain of restaurants.
At this volume, and with the impermanence of the sandwich, it only makes sense for McDonald’s to treat the sandwich as a sort of arbitrage strategy: at both ends of the product pipeline, you have a good being traded at such large volume that we might as well forget that one end of the pipeline is hogs and corn and the other end is a sandwich. McDonald’s likely doesn’t think in these terms, and neither should you.
Two weeks spent walking across Provence.
There is something about entering an ancient town on foot that's radically different from entering the same place by car. Keep in mind that these old French towns were all designed by people on foot for people on foot. So when you walk in, you're approaching the place as it was intended to be approached—slowly and naturally, the way Dorothy came upon Oz (spires rising in the distance, a sense of mounting mystery: What kind of city will this be?).
You know this one: German guy heads into tribal jungle deep upriver, sends the company crazy reports full of radical ideas—and then goes totally rogue. Only this time it's not ivory he's after. It's a secret lost for centuries: the finest cacao on earth.
The history of Trader Joe’s.
On the life of illegal immigrant fruit pickers.
Without 1 million people on the ground, on ladders, in bushes—armies of pickers swooping in like bees—all the tilling, planting, and fertilizing of America's $144 billion horticultural production is for naught. The fruit falls to the ground and rots.
When a writer’s daily routine gets out of control.
One morning, as I gobbled my doughnut and slurped my coffee, thinking to myself, "What a fantastic doughnut, what an amazing coffee," I realised that I had not just thought this but was actually saying aloud, "What a fantastic doughnut! What a totally fantastic experience!", and that this was attracting the attention of the other customers, one of whom turned to me and said, "You like the doughnuts, huh?"
On the closing of New York’s Fulton Fish Market.
It smells of truck exhaust and fish guts. Of glistening skipjacks and smoldering cigarettes; fluke, salmon and Joe Tuna's cigar. Of Canada, Florida, and the squid-ink East River. Of funny fish-talk riffs that end with profanities spat onto the mucky pavement, there to mix with coffee spills, beer blessings, and the flowing melt of sea-scented ice. This fragrance of fish and man pinpoints one place in the New York vastness: a small stretch of South Street where peddlers have sung the song of the catch since at least 1831, while all around them, change. They were hawking fish here when an ale house called McSorley's opened up; when a presidential aspirant named Lincoln spoke at Cooper Union; when the building of a bridge to Brooklyn ruined their upriver view.
How the spirit became a billion-dollar business.
Michael Roper, owner of Chicago’s Hopleaf bar and restaurant, recalls what bartending was like in the early seventies. While Smirnoff was considered top shelf, he remembers lesser varieties such as Nikolai, Arrow, Wolfschmidt, and another brand that was then ubiquitous called Mohawk. “Mohawk was cheap, cheap, cheap,” Roper remembers. “Mohawk had a factory just outside Detroit along the expressway and . . . all their products were made there. It’s almost like they turned a switch—whiskey, vodka, gin. And it was all junk.” Still, by 1976, vodka had surpassed bourbon and whiskey as the most popular spirit in America. Roper attributes vodka’s rise partially to women, who started drinking more spirits and ordering them on their own: “Women were not going to like Scotch—that was for cigar-smoking burly men,” he speculates. “And . . . it was unladylike to drink Kentucky whiskey. But it was considered somewhat ladylike to have a fancy cocktail with an olive in it.” He also remembers when a salesman first brought Miller Lite into his bar, explaining “it’s for women.” In a similar vein, Roper considers vodka a low-calorie option with “a less challenging flavor.”
On the restauranteur behind New York’s Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack.
On the history and study of pica:
Indeed, we have long defined ourselves and others by what we do and do not eat, from kashrut dietary restrictions described in Leviticus to the naming of Comanche bands (Kotsoteka—buffalo eaters, Penateka—honey eaters, Tekapwai—no meat) to insults—French frogs, English limeys, German krauts. But poya seemed to beg a different question: what was one to make of people who ate food that wasn’t food at all?
A primer on competitive eating’s premier event, the Hot Dog Eating Contest, which airs today at noon EST:
1: During the allotted period of time, contestants eat as many hot dogs and buns (called "HDBs") as they can. 2: They're allowed to use a beverage of their choice to wash things down. 3: They must stay in full view of their own, personal "Bunnette" scorekeeper. 4: Condiments may be used, but are not required. 5: HDBs that are still in the mouth at the end of the contest only count if they are eventually swallowed. 6: Puking up the hot dogs before the end of the contest (called "a reversal") will result in a disqualification, unless you do something horrific to make up for it (more on this later.)
First Hormel gutted the union. Then it sped up the line. And when the pig-brain machine made workers sick, they got canned.