Catastrophic Reviews: The Burger Show

I am not a perfect person.

None of us are, except maybe Fred Rogers, so that statement is by no means controversial. Hell, if anything, it’s underselling my numerous flaws. But I bring it up so we can understand that I’m fully aware of how stupid what I’m about to do is. Today, we’re reviewing The Burger Show, a series by FirstWeFeast…because the LA Times momentarily irritated me.


What Tangled Webs We Weave, When Content We Do Need

Alright, quick explanation.  Basically, we noticed that last year our food-show reviews got a fair amount of readers, as did our first one this year.  So we said “Hey, maybe we should review more food-based shows. Maybe try for like, one a month”. Now, before you write that decision off as mercenary and calculating, a small reminder: we don’t run any ads on the site. As such, we don’t make any more money from people reading it. (Technically, the site currently doesn’t make money at ALL, but hey, that’s blogging for you.)  The only direct benefit more viewers give us is that it makes me feel good: I get to see a little graph of how many people read my things this month go up, and feel a little warmer inside. So, you know, if you’re calling us out over this, understand that you’re literally attacking the concept of my happiness


This Tuesday, for instance, made me super stoked. 

Anyway, since February, we’ve done a review of some kind of “show” every month. And then May came along. And, in case you missed the declaration on the site two weeks ago, (and let's be honest, I was definitely having a breakdown, so missing it wouldn't be particularly hard) my father passed away just as the month started. I’m not going to talk about it much right now, because I intend to discuss it more thoroughly Monday. BUT, one thing it did was fill the following weeks with a lot of paperwork, long phone conversations, visits to banks, long stretches of simply trying to sort out one’s own emotions, etc. Which meant that I didn’t really have the proper mindset to think: “Hey, shouldn’t I be watching a cooking show right now?” As such, it was last WEEK that I realized we weren’t going to get a review in for May. And I said: “Hey, that’s okay.” I may not be a perfect person, but I’m not going to torment myself that while I got every post out on time this month, one of them wasn’t the right KIND of post. I’m nowhere near that level of perfectionist.


This is the pile of "I don't know where this goes" that I generated the last time I cleaned my bedroom. It's been sitting there for at least 2 weeks now. I'm barely ANY kind of perfectionist.

I just said “Oh, well, I’ll watch something over the next week, and do it for the 1st of June post,” because I’m bad at math, and thought YESTERDAY was the end of May. So I just Googled “new Food shows”, to see what I could watch in a week. And it turns out, that there are plenty of new shows to watch! Like “Somebody Feed Phil”, or “Ugly Delicious”. Or have you checked out “Samurai Gourmet”?

Apparently, I’ve been too ahead of the curve, I’ve already written about half the new Food TV out there. And one article in particular irked me. The LA Times, wrote an article on May 8th, listing 3 shows to check out. Some YouTube Series about burgers, Ugly Delicious, and Somebody Feed Phil. I was super irritated, because what’s the POINT of LA, if it’s not going to know the hot new shows until two MONTHS AFTER some asshole in a small town in Washington does? Fine, you wanna review shit I reviewed 3 months ago, LA TIMES? THEN I’LL REVIEW YOUR STUPID YOUTUBE RECOMMENDATION, AND WE’LL SEE WHO’S BOSS.

(Fun side note: literally as I wrote that last paragraph, I Googled the article to make sure I got the date correct, and learned that Past Jon’s calendar-based dyslexia was even worse than the doctors thought. The article was written MARCH 8th. In my defense, it was late, and they abbreviated March in the tagline, so I read “Mar 8” as “May 8”. The lesson here is not to start revenge plots in the middle of the night, because now I’ve watched an hour of burger-based videos over the equivalent of a typo.)


First We Dish, at least

“The Burger Show” is a relatively new project of First We Feast, which is an “online magazine” about food. Why did I put those quotes there? Because …well, I think their name is slightly misleading at the moment. See, they haven’t published a new article on their website in almost a year. July 31, 2017 was the last time this “magazine” actually wrote something for people to read. “If that’s true,” you ask, “then what DO they do.” First off, I don’t like the distrust implicit in that first clause. “IF that’s true”?  Yes, it is. I wouldn’t bring it up if it wasn’t…oh, I see. Because I fucked up the dates before. That’s fair. But no, I double checked, July 31st 2017

Check and Mate.JPG


Instead, over the last year, they’ve become pretty famous for their video series…s. What’s the plural of series? Why am I asking you? I’m the one in this relationship who would know that. (The answer is “series”. It’s like “sheep”. Of course, it’s nothing like ‘sheep’ from an etymological sense. Sheep USED to have a plural, but it used a plural U, so we said “fuck that noise”. “Series” translates from Latin as something like “those that are connected/lined up/arranged”. It’s already plural.) Their big series is “Hot Ones”, which has a pretty entertaining premise: a celebrity is interviewed, but as the interview goes on, they have to eat progressively spicier wings, causing them to answer more dramatically and quickly in order to minimize their pain. It’s honestly pretty fun to watch. If the LA Times had plugged THAT show, maybe we’d be over there right now.

Hot ones.JPG

No fucking joke, the Terry Crews Episode is maybe the best celebrity interview I've EVER seen. 

But no, they plugged “The Burger Show”, so we gotta talk about that. And that sentence might imply I didn’t like the show. And that would be…too far, but in the right ball-park. Let me break it down for you.


Maybe your Egg Would be Respected More if it Wasn’t Dressed like That.

The Burger Show is hosted by Alvin Cailan, who is a dude I suspect will be making some waves on the national scene pretty soon. He opened up a pop-up in LA named Eggslut back in 2011. A pop-up, by the way, for those not fluent in ‘trendy chef lingo’, refers to a restaurant or food venue with a deliberately limited and determined end point. At its shortest, you can think of it like a booth at a Music festival, or in the longer term, something like: “I’m going to open up a taco shop, and run it for 6 months.” The reasons for their existence are typically financial: If I’m only running the restaurant for 6 months, I don’t need to be focused on long-term viability, and I don’t need as much capital to secure a successful run. Further, if I’m a young chef without a lot of industry experience, it can be hard to find people willing to invest in my ideas without a proof of concept, which a pop-up can provide. Eggslut, for example, took off after it opened. It went from a pop-up to a permanent installation, opened a sister location in Vegas, and is already working on 2 more locations in California.   “Eggslut”, by the way, is named that because it serves egg sandwiches.


To be fair to their name, that is a sexy goddamn egg sandwich.

First things first, though: that explanation I gave you is more than the show EVER tells you about Alvin, and I spent 3/4 s of that paragraph explaining what a pop-up restaurant is.  Like, if you open the description of the episodes, they tell you a bit about him, but in the actual videos, you get a title card with his name on it, and a half-second flash of Eggslut when his guest says “Well, Alvin, you own a restaurant.” in the first episode. He brings up that he’s from California several times, and what his philosophy about burgers is, but he is literally never introduced to the audience.

Secondly, Alvin is a very chill dude, with a great attitude about food. However, in this first season, it’s pretty clear that we’re dealing with a Chef walking us around, rather than a food presenter. I think the show actually shoots itself in the foot in this regard: the first episode is Alvin eating some expensive burgers with Adam Richman, the former host of Man Vs Food. Adam has been a food-show host for almost a Decade, with well over a hundred episodes of various programs under his belt.  You could easily mistake HIM for the host in the first episode.

 And throughout the episodes, Alvin is paired up with people who are honestly better at talking about food than he is. He does a crossover with Andrew Rea of Binging with Babish, a show that is just Andrew standing and talking to you and walking you through recipes. He pairs up with H Jon Benjamin, voice actor for Sterling Archer, and Bob Belcher, and quite a few other big names. Even his second episode, where it’s just him and a man whose legitimate profession is “Burger Historian”, it’s clear that one of these men has experience talking for the benefit of others, and one doesn’t.


It's also clear that one of them is  an alternate-dimension Wolverine. 

And that’s honestly the biggest complaint I have: Alvin is just a little too obviously new at this. He has a habit of repeating phrases in episodes in ways that aren’t smooth or pleasing. Like, “After all this talk [,] I’m ready to go across the street, and show you what I’ve been training for. [4 seconds later] Let’s go across the street, and check it out.” This sounds nit-picky, but it’s something that comes out at least once or twice an episode. Just a slightly incorrect structuring of set-up and pay-off, that makes Alvin sound less intelligent and less confident than he is.

That’s not to say there’s nothing of value here, of course. The show has some cool shit in it. I personally really enjoyed the second episode, where Alvin just sits back and has the history of regional burger styles in America explained to him, as his guest makes them, and he gives his thoughts on how they taste. Every one of his guests, I feel brings something cool and interesting to the table, I just also constantly feel like Alvin’s the odd man out in his own show.


Fun fact: I intentionally didn't use any shots of Alvin so I could put this picture up and say "who do you think the host of this show is?" Because this shot says "Guy on the left, or woman on the right." And the answer is "neither of them." 

Is it perfect? No. But of the hour or so of videos, I enjoyed a solid 30-40 minutes of it. I felt the diner episode dragged a little in the middle, the H Jon Benjamin episode had a bit that didn’t quite land, and that the first episode is pretty poorly managed. Not strictly terrible, but simply not a great first episode. Like, I want to do an entire post SOLELY about the ways we could improve the first episode. And maybe I will. But if you just move it deeper into the line-up, I think it’d be much better. There are far worse food shows out there, and I honestly will watch a second season if it gets made, to see if a little more experience makes Alvin the stronger host I think he can be.  

And that wraps up Mash-Up May! Yeah, I know this post doesn't really have anything to do with Mash-Ups, but, again, I totally thought today was going to be June until midway through Monday's post. I'm pretty proud with how it turned out, honestly. And we avoided the reader slump we had with our last Themed month, so that's cool. Due to the way the Patreon poll panned out, I still have two Mash-Up Recipes to make, but I think I'll keep one a Patron-Exclusive, just to avoid badgering the general populace with my mad creations. 

 If you want to see both recipes, well, then, maybe that's a good reason to support us on Patreon! Just $1 a month gets you a bunch of cool stuff, including occasional updates from Jon about what's going on with the site! Failing that, you can also share our posts, and invite your friends to like our Facebook page, since that makes that little graph go higher, and keeps Jon in stokes-ville.