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PROFILE | 04 September '18
Plus his new video series, Plausibly Ridiculous
Erik Trinidad knows all about fast food, but not in the way you’re used to seeing it. Fancy Fast Food, the hit blog (before blogging was really a thing) that later became a pop culture satirical cookbook of the same name, offers a fresh perspective on what’s really sitting on your plate.
For nearly three years, Trinidad created gourmet-looking meals made from fast food chains and posted them alongside clever names like the ‘Tacobellini,’—a fancy looking dish made from Taco Bell Burrito Supremes.
Trinidad’s latest venture, Plausibly Ridiculous is just as quirky. The award-winning video series, which has appeared on Discovery and National Geographic, has people scratching their heads for all the right reasons.
It’s a travel web series with a scientific and anthropological twist, aiming to answer questions about the world you didn't even know you had, like ‘can a really powerful electromagnet cut through piece of cheese,’ and ‘will a 14-lb bowling ball float in the Dead Sea.’
We asked Erik to take through his journey from satirical food blogger to respected travel journalist.
It’s when the whole ‘fast casual’ concept came to be, which is fine, but I’ve always argued that there’s plenty of things that people think are gourmet and better for you that are just as unhealthy. The whole thing was kind of a goof on foodie culture because you can have a fancy looking meal made out of fast food from a chain.
I was doing it once a week and then after the 3rd or 4th one, I don’t know how it went viral but all of a sudden someone discovered it. It was like that scene in ‘Julie and Julia’ where Julie one magical day has every newspaper calling her on her answering machine at the same time. I kind of had that moment; everyone, from Nightline to Associated Press, was asking me for an interview.
Doing the fast food transformations was actually a lot more time consuming than I ever imagined because I was trying to up my game every week. I kept on asking the audience to submit content for me, but people really just wanted to see my photos each week.
Because it’s all supposed to be a joke, it was always based on a pun. So, I’d start with a pun and then sort of reverse engineer what are the things that that real recipe has that can be made from fast food ingredients from a single restaurant.
In the fast food space, I was always interested in the fast food options that are available in different countries. For example, people are really interested in the McDonald’s country-specific offerings - like they have a McNürnburger in Germany and the Chicken Maharaja Mac in India.
Fast food is universal; it’s a global thing. Every country has fast food, which is partly why the concept of transforming fast food into something that looked gourmet was so appealing.
I appreciate them both. If money wasn’t a factor, I’d prefer the gourmet way all the time, with the consciousness that a lot of it is full of butter which isn’t good for you but it’s so delicious. I’ll eat fried chicken any which way.
For about two-and-a-half years, I created content for Fancy Fast Food. Then, after we published the book, which is sort of the end game of a novelty food blog, I stepped away from it.
It let to other things like me being a food writer. I was always trying to do travel writing even before Fancy Fast Food and the attention that I got as a writer has gone from the blog to being a travel and food journalist.
I’m not one of those food snobs that won’t eat fast food because it’s bad for you, because I do believe it has a purpose.
I like that the ad agencies for Burger King and Taco Bell have embraced that their food is late night drunk food. Whereas, McDonald’s tries to perpetuate that they are a family-friendly restaurant when it’s also very much late night drunk food.
In the travel space, I feel like everyone needs to have a different voice because it’s so saturated now. I always loved the show, ‘Mythbusters,’ and I thought that doing quirky science experiences around the world would be my angle.
It’s almost kind of like ‘Fancy Fast Food’ where you reverse engineer the opportunity. I like to think of it as a unique spin on a place, because a lot of travel video content is just showcasing the place. People say it’s refreshing because it’s another take on travel.
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