This chap’s been in the news lately:
It's David R Chan – a 72 year old, LA–based, retired tax lawyer, of Chinese heritage. The BBC report said he ‘claims to have dined at nearly 8000 restaurants across the US and counting.’ It’s the word ‘claims’ that’s a problem, as though there might be some doubt, but I believe him. Lawyers have money, they can afford to eat out a lot, and in any case he’s got an honest face.
The BBC also seems unusually crass in using the headline ‘What I learned eating at 8000 Chinese restaurants’ as though obsession and food consumption had anything to do with learning.
Of course I’m deeply fascinated by obsession, collecting and accumulation, by ordering and organization, and in this case by the fact that according to the article, ‘Each (restaurant visit) is archived in a spreadsheet that he has maintained for four decades, along with thousands of restaurant business cards and menus.’
Now, there have been times in my life when I’ve accumulated (or even collected) large numbers of food books, menus and business cards, but I suppose it’s an indication that I’m not truly obsessed, that most of these items were ditched in various acts of nomadism and downsizing. All I’ve kept are a few favorite books, and a box of restaurant business cards. The latter are especially satisfying because they’re small and compact. But I’m not sure this constitutes a collection, much less an obsession, and there’s certainly no organization
I’ve been following David R. Chan on Instagram, which is a reasonable way of being obsessed (both for him and for me) and (for him) also a way of sharing or showing off his obsession. When I last looked, i.e. a few minutes before I wrote this, Mr. Chan had 9242 followers which is impressive by my standards if not by Kim Kardashian’s.
His photographs are wonderfully artless such as this ‘Chicken and fried egg sandwich on a Hong Kong pineapple bun at Alice’s Kitchen in Monterey Park.’
Or these ‘Cheeseburger dumplings with cheese crispy at Ms Chi Cafe in Culver City.’
It all made me realize how rarely I eat in Chinese restaurants. Below is a spread from one I went to in L.A’s Chinatown after a slightly grim night organised by Lucky Peach (Kim Gordon had recited a recipe for corn with miso butter and bacon while making guitar feedback - don’t ask). I’ve forgotten the name of the restaurant though I think I could find it again.
And here’s the food at a wedding reception I went to, some years ago also in an L.A. restaurant. I’ve no memory of where the restaurant was, or what it was called.
Kind of makes me wish I had a spreadsheet.
And yes, that is shark fin soup, though I didn’t know it at the time, And yes, I am ashamed.