Thursday, May 27, 2010 

5 Guys Burgers - WTF?!?!?!

Although I walked out in protest the first time I visited there - they refused to cook a burger the way I like it - I had some serious road munchies, saw their sign, and decided to see firsthand what all the fuss was about. Yes, I ate at one of their franchises yesterday.

First: If anyone thinks it's all that difficult to create & sell a franchised restaurant operation (I read they have over 450 U.S. units?!?!?!?), this place is proof positive that it doesn't require much (if any) culinary skill - just loads of PR, spin, investment money, smoke & mirrors. 

Second, the success of this chain is one sad commentary on the state of American palettes. I love a good, simple meal as much as the next guy, but this joint leaves a lot to be desired on the actual product (vs. the spin). 

Third, what the hell kind of burger joint only serves burgers WELL DONE?!?!? To me, that's like only being able to order a steak well done - totally lame. So here's what I experienced: 

Their burgers look & taste pretty much EXACTLY like the burgers I grew up eating in Oklahoma and Kansas at home and/or at family get togethers, which is to say: Pan-fried, jagged edges, cooked into oblivion, iceberg lettuce, non-descript bun, with ketchup and mustard. I might suggest a more accurate business name: "5 Guys Trailerpark-style Burgers" NOTE: Although 5 Guys Burgers has a few more toppings, and has double patties, nothing else is different or better than the hometown offerings I remember.

FRIES: They do have fresh-cut fries, but that's a LOT of places; nothing special about that whatsoever. 

AND SO...  why are these guys successful? Who knows? Safe food? The right kind of grease? Most people don't know what a truly great burger is? Cheap pricing? Discuss...

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 

The Holy Grail Of Video & Photo | B & H Photo

Briefly popped in yesterday to THE most mindblowing spot I've ever experienced for video & photo gear: B & H Photo in Manhattan.

FYI, the late-afternoon traffic could have been a lot worse I suppose; nothing most folks in cities like downtown L.A., Chicago or San Francisco don't see on a regular basis; and they do offer free(ish) parking if you order $100 minimum. NOTE TO B&H EMPLOYEES. When someone NOT from NYC is asking directions to your tiny parking lot, don't use terms like "lower" or "upper" - totally foreign to a foreigner.

It would appear they own/occupy the ENTIRE city block, 1st & 2nd floor. This place was JAMMIN with all kinds of people from all over the world, conveyor system delivering purchased parts to the checkout area efficiently, courteous/knowledgable staff and.... toys aplenty.

They also helped me decided on the camera system I'll be acquiring & shooting, which I think I'll keep a secret until I have a chance to knock out some HD content. If this equipment can do what I think it can... it means technology has quickly gotten to the point where a street-level producer like myself with zero schooling or technical training can knock out broadcast-quality content only limited by the content & story itself (I like that a lot)

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 

RIP Ronnie James Dio

I hear legendary rock singer Dio died in the last few days; I only mention this because I used to cook for him when he, his wife/manager & his bandmates stayed at Caribou Ranch in Colorado.

I remember him being very nice (of course, anyone who ISN'T nice to the chef probably deserves whatever they get); and I remember him not being the tallest musician I ever met - his wife pretty much towered over the guy.

I also remember talking about him when I met Axl Rose in Century City/L.A.;
for whatever reason, Axl didn't seem to think too much of him, although Axl was nice to me that day.

Less clear in my memory is that I seem to recall his bandmates contributing to the early demise of Caribou Ranch. As I remember, the owner's (10 year old?) daughter Katie - who pretty much had free reign at the ranch - had walked in on some kind of debaucherous rockstar behavior that little kids aren't supposed to witness, who told her dad, who wasn't real thrilled with his daughter being "exposed" to that sort of thing. Well hell's bells - that's why it's called rock & roll, folks! Rest in peace & rock on, Mr. Dio.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 16, 2010 

Is It Really Who You Know?

I suppose Dale Bozzio from Missing Persons is the same as most folks: If you're used to doing something or being someone for a long time, you don't really think much about it anymore. It's hard not to take things for granted, as a matter of fact. I've been playing music, writing setlists, writing recipes & menus for so long, neither one of them feels any more complicated than taking a shower. If you're great at something, it probably just seems natural to you, and no big deal. It's also funny how most folks, regardless of a having a talent in one area, usually crave something they're not great at.

A great singer might really want to be a great guitarist, and vice versa; A great basketball star might want to be a baseball player; I know a successful lawyer who would give his right arm to be a successful songwriter; and on and on.

In Dale's case, as I always say to her, she has something EXTREMELY valuable most folks can only hope for: A whole rockstar career of connections & pals out there just waiting for her to "light it up" with something new.
But it seems she needs someone like me to help spin her head around & get a new perspective at some great resources she's earned & created on her own - people she knows. And this is why I'm a broken record about her launching her food line: Of all the people who come at me wanting to launch their own line of food products (and that's a lot, and unless they have a lot of cash to throw at it... hell no), Dale's the only one who tells me she can get guest segments with some of her pals & friends who have their own shows, including Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen DeGeneres, Martha Stewart and more. In my world, that is extremely rare & valuable.

Another example: I was speaking to her about an entertainment/marketing company called AEG, which is producing Rocklahoma this year. You might have heard of AEG: They were the ones producing the Michael Jackson shows in Europe, which of course never happened. It looks like they also do a bunch of other big time stuff with professional sports teams, venues, event marketing and more.

At some point in the conversation, Dale says: "Oh, I know Randy Phillips at AEG." (photo, left) .Who's that, I ask? "I think he's the boss there." For real?!?!?!? Turns out he is indeed the CEO there. Damn, Dale - that's huge.

Talk about "burying the headline": A week or so later, Dale shares some more details about her old pal at AEG: "Randy used to be our manager for Missing Persons - we had a lot of success with him." WTF?!?! So this isn't some random pal from back in the day, folks - that's a strong connection between them. She also shared even more personal history between them, which also speaks to much more than a passing contact.

And so, I'm happy to say we tried our first little "who you know" experiment last week: I got Dale some contact info for AEG and - as promised - she made a couple of calls, and left a message for her old CEO pal. While there's no way to know what will happen there, it's got me looking around for who else might be receptive to helping with her long-simmering food & cooking career - how about one of her old boyfriends who produced a record for her? (hint: rhymes with "fence").

Labels: , , ,


I Don't Really Like You - I Just Want To Make Money Off You!

That's what I say to my music & food pals/clients - and they always laugh & say "When do we start? Let's GO!" Hell, I wish someone would say & do that with me, too. There's not many better things in this world for an artist than when someone else is doing the "heavy lifting" on their behalf - and all the artist has to do is show up, do whatever they're hired to do, get their money & CU LATER.

Hopefully (and unfortunately this is extremely pretty rare), these "heavy lifters" are trustworthy, aggressive, creative, results and succe$$ oriented. For the record, I used to work with an agency that got some nice results with my brands, but the problem was this: Although they used me, my original concepts & accomplishments to sell & execute these gigs, they nevertheless treated me like some kind of "work for hire" actor or temp employee. In other words, I never knew exactly how much money they were making off of me, but I can guarantee it was nowhere close to the 10 - 20 percent an agent or manager would take. I can respect hard work and talent as much as anyone, but when someone else is making more money than me from my own intellectual properties, trademarks and creative concepts - that's a problem.

Friday, May 14, 2010 

The Bane Of My Existence

After working my ass off on creating requested proposals, menus, emails, writing press releases, making calls, soliciting sponsors, etc., for an event this month I've been working on for over two years (!), I just got blown off via a curt email: "Marty, the team decided to wait until next year on this one! Thanks ..."

Are you F***ing kidding me?!?!? That's it? No reason given? Unfortunately, I do know the reason, and it truly sucks.

First off, in my experience, next year = NEVER. Nobody ever "keeps this on file" to do it again next year. It's right here, right now or nada.

Second (besides budget, and that at least is a valid reason to cancel), here's the main reason we get blown off, disrespected, used & abused regarding the live version of The Rock & Roll Kitchen: almost nobody in this world believes that a chef could also be good at playing music.

An even more interesting commentary on people and our culture of labels, and putting everyone in their proper category: Nobody ever assumes the food will be bad, or that I can't cook; but almost everyone assumes that the chef will be a "hacker," or the music will be a gimmick, and not strong.

Granted, there are plenty of chefs who do hack away at playing music - good for them; But that ain't me. I've been a pro player most of my life, and I can keep up with anyone, in any situation. For that matter, there's a lot of pro guitarists who can't keep up with me.

I guess it doesn't matter that I only use fantastic musicians in my kitchen band - either famous or not, they're all badasses, and we always sound good on these fun, simple "food tunes." Folks, we're talking musicians like Chip Znuff, Jim Keltner, Tower Of Power, Ginger Baker, Tony Dale, Tim Beattie, Scott Page, Lee Sklar, Professor John, Paul Coscino, Dennis Webber, Rich Perez, Graham Czach, Todd & Paul Sucherman, Lawrence Juber, to name just a few.

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone came up at a festival and said something to the effect of "Wow - you guys sound better than the REAL bands." Well shit - why wouldn't we?

On the opposite side, it's interesting to witness folks hearing my tribute band who look at me funny when I tell them about a cooking show with a rock & roll band. So what the hell is a Rock & Roll Chef to do?!?!?!