The $168 cheese sandwich
What can this 'luxury snack' teach us about hype and value?
Last week, Britain's Daily Mail reported that celebrity chef Martin Blunos had created a very unique sandwich with a menu price of £110. For those of you here in America, based on current exchange rates, that comes out to approximately $168.80.
According to Blunos, who happens to be a Michelin-starred chef, "We Brits are known to love our cheese sandwiches, and here's one that not only comes with a royal price tag but is fit for the banqueting table."
I know what you're thinking. Did he really say cheese sandwich?
I don't know about you, but if I'm going to pay $168.80 for lunch -- not counting my beer, plus tax and tip -- I want something a bit more substantial than a cheese sandwich. In fact, I would demand that my sandwich be loaded up with a couple pounds of thinly sliced Kobe beef. I'd also want a bag of chips and a lobster tail on the side with drawn butter.
And a pickle spear.
By the way, I would also insist that the sandwich be slathered with a gallon of Grey Poupon. Never mind that I hate Dijon mustard; I'd do it just to ensure I got my money's worth.
Of course, chef Blunos doesn't work at Burger King, so I assume if you want to try his $168.80 gourmet sandwich you'll get it his way, darn it, or you won't get it at all.
His triple-decker vegetarian sandwich is made with a very expensive gourmet cheddar cheese infused with white truffles.
In addition to the cheese, the sandwich includes such gourmet additions as quail's egg, pea shoots, black heirloom tomatoes, red amaranth, epicure apple and fresh figs.
And instead of using fresh Wonder Bread (his only culinary misstep in creating this dish, in my humble opinion), Blunos uses a fancy sourdough that costs $7.68 per loaf.
He then dresses everything up with a little extra-virgin olive oil and 100-year-old balsamic vinegar.
Voila! Add it all up, and you have a $168 cheese sandwich.
Buying in to the hype
Is this really necessary?
After all, why would you pay $168.80 for a sandwich when you can run down the street right now and get a foot-long sub for five bucks?
And for those folks who prefer to make their own sandwiches, they can save even more. Even the most expensive sarnie in my most recent annual brown-bag sandwich survey, the BLT, costs only $2.16 to make at home.
Perhaps the biggest lesson here is to observe how the makers of this overpriced sandwich successfully hype their product; the Daily Mail bought in to it hook, line and sinker.
Blunos' creation is called a "luxury snack," apparently to keep it from being associated with those more mundane sandwiches that we usually eat for lunch.
Then again, please don't call it a sandwich. It's actually a "gourmet dish."
Furthermore, the sandwich -- I mean gourmet dish -- is not simply slapped together either. It's "hand-crafted." Presumably with all the care and craftsmanship of a Swiss watchmaker.
The Daily Mail even goes so far as to proclaim the sandwich a "masterpiece," as if it were on par with the works of Michelangelo, Bach or Dickens. Really?
So what can we learn from this?
We get bombarded with this type of sales-speak on a daily basis, although the products usually aren't quite so gaudy and over the top as this particular gastronomical creation.
The trick is to take a deep breath and not get caught up in the hype. It is certainly OK to pay extra for quality; the real trick comes down to evaluating whether or not the premium paid for that better quality results in an appropriate degree of added value.
By the way, did I mention that Blunos tops off his "hand-crafted masterpiece gourmet dish" with a sprinkle of edible gold dust? He does.
Hopefully he permits his patrons to take their gold dust on the side if they wish.
Oops. I mean luxury snack.
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