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Hungry Magazine - All Things Tasty
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02.27.06

Virtual Bacon

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Burke Sprays

Image courtesy of flavorspraydiet.com

Oh, Eric Schlosser, where have you gone? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

I’m pretty sure that the author of Fast Food Nation would be interested in gourmet Chef David Burke’s newest invention. David Burke, the Iron Chef America lamb battle veteran, chef/partner of David Burke and Donatella in New York, and the upcoming Primehouse David Burke in Chicago has a new bag, the Flavor Spray.

Last week at a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago, I spoke with Chef Burke about Iron Chef, and he said, of the people he had spoken to, “The consensus is that I was robbed”. I agreed that his Iron Chef dishes looked good, and that if Emeril got his wish and we had “Smell-o-Vision”, maybe he would have won. At that moment, a steely glint flickered in Burke’s eyes, and he said, “Oh, you want Smell-o-Vision, here’s Smell-o-Vision. Hold out your hand?”

Chef Burke reached over and pulled a bottle from a ceramic crock. It looked like a travel size container of nail polish remover. I consider myself a garden variety metrosexual, but I’ve never had my nails done. I admit they could use some work, a little cuticle soak, a trim, maybe a clearcoat…wait, was one of America’s top chefs really going to give me a manicure?

Chef Burke shook the bottle vigorously in his meaty hands, and uncapped it with a flourish, as if he were sabering a bottle of champagne, and sprayed the top of my hand. He said, “Go ahead. Taste it.”

It felt like I was at a Grateful Dead show, and some hippie shaman had just plied me with liquid acid. As a child of the eighties I kept thinking of Nancy Reagan, “Just say no!” Then again, I never met an organ meat I didn’t like, and I am always on the look out for more. I’d try anything once, and so I licked my hand as if it were Bart Simpson stamped blotter paper.

All of the sudden my tongue was bombarded with a smoky, salty virtual bacon. Eerily enough it even had a mouth feel like bacon. It was truly an “I can’t believe it’s not bacon moment.” Applewood smoked Nueske’s from Wisconsin in a bottle?

It turns out this is just one of thirty plus zero calorie, zero fat, zero cholesterol, and zero carbohydrate infused flavors available from David Burke Flavor Sprays. Also available are Banana Split and Bleu Cheese. All I need now is a year’s supply and a large shipment of tofu, and I can eat my way to a male version of Kate Moss with tofu BLT’s (Smoked Bacon and Tomato Basil sprays).

The sprays are composed of natural and artificial flavors and sodium benzoate. Sodium benzoate occurs naturally in cranberries, prunes, plums, and cinnamon, and is used as a preservative. On the other hand, according to a World Health Organization, it can be poisonous in quantities larger than the FDA approved .1% of a product by weight. Curiously, cats have a low tolerance to benzoic acid, and its use is banned in animal feed. If it isn’t good for Garfield, should it really be good for Jon?

Spray Label

Why would one of America’s top chefs, a man committed to seasonality and freshness team up with the flavorists of the New Jersey turnpike to create a food substitute?

It’s a scary proposition any way you cut it. The problem is that when food celebrity meets with a hungry public, bad things happen. Because of Emeril, every person in America salts, peppers, and throws in a whole head of garlic, no matter the recipe. Now, with Burke’s endorsement, people, might mistake Flavor Sprays for a wholesome diet, ala Atkin’s low carb craz. For those who don’t know, Dr. Atkins had a heart attack in 2002, and it is speculated that he died of a heart attack in 2004.

I don’t mean to vilify Emeril or David Burke. After all, the fact that Emeril got America to season its food consistently is a feat of David Copperfieldian proportions. Lest you think Copperfield is just a quack illusionist, he did convince Claudia Shiffer in to a long marriage engagement.

In the same night, I spoke with Chef Burke, he talked about how the Primehouse in Chicago bought their own bull stud to produce some of the freshest Kentucky farm raised beef available, and how they would be dry aging on natural salts in the restaurant’s basement.

On the other hand, it just doesn’t feel right. Celebrity chefs need to reign in their culinary reach. Honoring the American public’s fascination with cheap and easy, especially when it comes to diets, is just a mad dash for cash, one that cheapens their important contributions.

In the meantime, I’ll kick back with some Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly jelly beans, and await Schlosser’s next tome. Fast Foodie Nation anyone?

3 Comments on "Virtual Bacon"

Tuan

I’ll have to say that the piece of steak that he sprayed with cheesecake flavor tasted extraordinary! Really eye-bugging crazy stuff.



McAuliflower

Hmmm, silly me, I’ve only been trying these on popcorn (and on my co-workers’ chairs…).

The marshmallow is the only one I like so far (i’ve also tried bacon & pesto), but only as a novelty.

Did you talk to him about his inspiration for the sprays? Maybe it was a case of ‘becasue I can’ striking again.



Michael Nagrant

Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to talk to Chef Burke too much about the sprays. My guess is he genuinely believes that he is helping folks who want flavor, but don’t want to invest the time to cook, or who can’t lose weight otherwise, which aren’t terrible motivations. It’s just the whole artificial thing that is a bit icky. Weren’t “Bacos” imitation bacon bits enough?



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