[caption id="attachment_28069" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Cover courtesy of Baby Robot Industries"][/caption]
After a night of bullshitting over beer, Everett Steele and Bunny Mcintosh transcribed rap puns they'd scrawled on bar napkins and created the "official" website for Bon Rappetite. Advertised as the world's first hip-hop restaurant, Bon Rappetite's menu included Roastface Killah, Big Boi-led Shrimp and Waka Flocka Flambé. "We spent a lot of time making dumb pun stuff before, of restaurant names like the Crepes of Wrath," Mcintosh says.
Steele and Mcintosh sent Bon-Rappetite.com to some friends, then forgot about it for months. Then one morning, Steele woke up to find that one of his web servers was overloaded. He and Mcintosh both run Atlanta online marketing company Baby Robot Industries, though neither of them anticipated that tens of thousands of people would suddenly unearth this inside joke -- and that some would call, asking whether Bon Rappetite takes reservations.
The duo have since teamed with writer (and home cook) Chris Hassiotis to write a Bon Rappetite cookbook while they assemble an accompanying mixtape, out in March. Hive spoke with the Bon Rappetite team about the sudden internet fame, the mixtape's most notable guest so far and never-before-seen recipes from the cookbook, premiering below.
"No one sends our food back. It's Fabolous."
The relationship between rappers and food has only gotten more interesting in recent years. Take Action Bronson...
Everett Steele: We just talked to him this morning. We were talking to him about doing a whole show here as part of a launch party, but I'm not sure if that's gonna happen.
It's too bad we can't visit the restaurant.
ES: I got a super angry hate mail the other day. According to this lady, she and her friend flew from Miami to Atlanta to eat at the restaurant, and when they got here, she found out it wasn't real. If you can afford to buy a plane ticket on a lark, for a joke restaurant, you could probably afford to lose that money.
Chris Hassiotis: No one goes to a restaurant before thinking, "I should read some reviews to see if it's actually good."
ES: I took our home address off the website; now it's just a fake street name. When I was really all over the place I swapped the phone number on the website for my number, just because I was curious. I left it that way for ten minutes, and I got four phone calls from people -- like,"What time do y'all open?" and "Hey, do y'all take reservations?" Then I swapped it.
Bunny Mcintosh: Thank you, by the way.
Did you get any calls?
BM: Yeah, from indignant sorority girls who were like, "We're coming from Milledgeville, Ga., and we're on spring break!"
Why do you think people find it so convincing?
BM: Because it looks like a real website, I guess?
ES: I did an email interview with someone a couple days ago, and they asked, "What was your intent in tricking people and having them think it was a real restaurant?" I didn't know how to answer that question.
CH: I think there are enough restaurants out there with awful puns in their menus.
What comes first -- the name or the dish?
CH: The name. The hilarity of the pun takes primacy.
ES: The book has comprehensive sections -- breakfast, "rappetizers," soups and salads, side dishes, entrees, cocktails, desserts. And Chris is an awesome cook, so I would actually eat most of the stuff there.
CH: Most of the recipes would make fine food, but we built the recipes around the jokes.
ES: If you wanted to throw your own "Bon Rappetite" party at your house, the cookbook would be awesome for that.
CH: It'd be weird but hilarious, and that's sort of what we are.
CH: That's also what the internet is. There's only one recipe in there that's kind of weird, and that's just because it involves buttermilk and Jell-O.
CH: D'An-Jell-O Salad. I think you stir pineapple and Mandarin oranges into the gelatin mixture and let that sit for a bit, then add the buttermilk as sort of a layered Jell-O salad. Out intents with this cookbook was to have puns and good food, but I think it also covers the breadth of hip-hop and hip-hop, adjacent -- a good amount of Atlanta stuff, which was important in putting together some of the puns.
ES: I just want to meet all these people. I want them all to come to my house and say "thank you" for immortalizing them in recipe form. That's it.
Didn't a rapper get in touch with you?
ES: Greg Porn (P.O.R.N.) with the Roots. Their new album [undun] is phenomenal, and he's on two of my favorite tracks. Last night he sent me a handful of tracks that he recorded for the mixtape we're putting out, so I'm excited. We've got different local rappers, so they might do a verse each on one. I'm actually just as excited about the mixtape.
BM: I think we should call it a sampler.
CH: Oh, like an appetizer sampler?
ES: Things are coming together. We've turned this around in like, what?
CH: Nine days, with the book up for sale.
ES: No big deal. Originally we were going to do a very limited run of, like, 100 books -- give them to our friends and then sell some. We sold that number very quickly. So now we're ordering tons of books.
How many books?
ES: It depends. We're doing some in-store sales, so we're working out how much people are going to order. I'd like to order 10,000 one day.
Who are your favorite rappers?
BM: Ghostface Killah.
ES: I love the Wu-Tang Clan.
BM: The Roots are amazing.
CH: I feel like the last couple of years haven't been great for national or international hip-hop, in terms of big-name stuff. When I say it hasn't been great, I just means there hasn't been a lot of releases where everyone can cohere around and say, "Oh yeah, this is an excellent rap album that came out this year." There's been a lot of smaller releases, and maybe it's the nature of the internet that has things fracturing.
BM: The Weeknd. I'm a huge fan.
ES: When House of Balloons came out we listened to it for six months straight.
CH: I think I got eight emails from you guys recommending it.
ES: Just before that it was Die Antwoord.
BM: A lot of our friends were like, "This is just awful house music." We were like, "No, this is so good."
Chris, when did you start cooking?
CH: I started cooking ... always ago? I grew up overseas, and those sorts of adventures translates to eating all sort of different things. In college I always cooked for himself --
BM:-- and his poor people friends.
EM: My favorite brunch restaurant is Chris’s house.
CH: We have a breakfast Raz Kass-erole in the cookbook.
What are some key ingredients?
CM: Actually when I was putting the recipes together, I made them all very flexible. For instance, the breakfast Raz Kass-erole recipe says to use breakfast sausage or bacon or a combination of both, whatever you want.
ES: My favorite line to that effect is actually from the D'An-Jell-O Salad recipe: "Open a can of pineapple and pour them and their juices into a saucepan. Drain the juice of the Mandarin oranges -- down the sink, down your throat, into a glass into a cocktail. It don't matter."
When did you first notice that people were catching on to Bon Rappetite?
ES: All of a sudden one of our servers went insane, and I was like, "Oh crap, someone's hacking us or something." Then I started tracking the traffic, seeing it's got 10,000 hits, then 15,000 hits -- in just hours. From there it got so much visibility; people were sharing it a lot on Facebook and on food blogs. Reddit blew it up.
BM: Bon Appetit wrote about it.
ES: I love the comments, people being hateful on the internet.
CH: The only way it could do better is with YouTube comments.
BM: We should make a commercial.
ES: People on YouTube are so hateful. People are writing to us with these horrible comments. A lot of them are racist, but one person got really angry about hip-hop going "corporate" -- like, "The one percent has taken away our music."
BM: This guy hasn't been to our house. He could come to our house and see we're not part of the one percent.
What's the best feedback Bon Rappetite has gotten?
CH: Did you say "food back?"
CH: No one sends our food back. It's Fabolous.
ES: I've gotten a bunch of personal emails from people saying they love the idea, they wish it was a real restaurant and if we ever open a real restaurant, they'd be the first in line to eat there.
BM: You talked to Greg Porn on the phone, which was the greatest thing in the world.
ES: Jean Grae was talking to us through our Twitter feed.
CH: Hopefully when the book is out, we're going to start getting some more Twitter promotion.
ES: That's the interesting thing -- we're internet marketing professionals, and we've done almost no internet marketing on this.