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Why the "World's Most Expensive" Burger Probably Won't be the Best

Every week a new “World’s Most Expensive” headline is typed out by an editor somewhere in the world. From pizza to burgers to, uh, ice cubes, this ludicrous restaurant trend just won't quit.
Image via Flickr user jeffreyw

The food world has a dilemma. For all the precise, clever, groundbreaking cooking happening across the globe, there's a ludicrous restaurant trend that just won't quit: the "World's Most Expensive" dish.

Want a gilded Krispy Kreme doughnut filled with creams and jellies made from vintage Champagnes and edible diamonds that's served in a martini glass filled with more vintage champagne and a 500-year old Courvoisier? Course you bloody do. That'll be £1000 please. Fancy forking out nearly a month's rent on an omelette? Great! Go to New York's Le Parker Meridien Hotel and cough up $1,000 (£528.90) on a few eggs with a lump of caviar and lobster. Maybe you want to really slum it with a good, reliable pizza. Only, you have $450 (£269) to fritter. Look no further!

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Every week a new "World's Most Expensive" headline is typed out by an editor somewhere in the world. Only two days ago, a man presumably fulfilled his life's ambition and successfully set—as far as can be determined—a world record for the most expensive drink possible at Starbucks—$54.75's worth of brown sludge, or the "Sexagintuple Vanilla Bean Mocha Frappuccino."

Yes, Andrew didn't pay for the thing—he's a gold member of Starbucks' loyalty program, which means he's allowed a free drink for every twelve that he buys—but still. When the only limits are someone's imagination, look what unfettered joy can be produced!

It's all-too-easy to be cynical—the coffee thing is kind of funny in a one-dude-crusade-against-the-man, man kind of way. In the food world, though, chefs appear to have transcended imagination and entered a whole new plane of consciousness with their 23-carat-gold-topped monstrosities that come with a side order of gaudy French jewelry and will cost you $1,000 (£596).

Forgive me if I sound bratty, but if I was presented with a pudding that looked like a giant burst abscess as a grand gesture of romance by any lover of mine, I'd seriously question their mental stability. Equally, if that person even considered a £61,000 Valentine's menu ($102,260) I'd swiftly call them an ambulance and run off screaming in the opposite direction.

There's a place for wanton extravagance if you have the means but this trend for arbitrary, expensive food nonsense would surely have Marie Antointette scoffing in her grave. It speaks of something dark and desperate in our psyche. Caviar, lobster, truffle, vintage Champagne and edible gold are, while delicious in the own right, the food equivalent of Ferraris and chartered yachts in Monaco: a hackneyed advertisement for the Ducktails-style oceans of money its buyer swims in.

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It also says something about the restaurants themselves. Creating a $100 cheesesteak (around £59) will bring you press traction and notoriety, but where is the chef's heart when he's stuffing huge, unfinishable quantities of beautiful ingredients—Kobe beef, foie gras, truffles (always), heirloom tomatoes, and Taleggio—between two pieces of bread and slicing it up for some flushed businessman with red wine-crusted lips and, lets face it, probably a button mushroom for a penis?

Furthermore, how much is it costing the chef to buy all this produce and is this really the best use of it? Are these restaurants doing the equivalent of a guy putting up a semi-nude photo on Tinder of a torso that definitely isn't his?

Unless money is of absolutely no consequence, all these dishes—the haute pizzas, burgers, sundaes, and sandwiches—are heavy not just with the musk of new-season truffle, but of a dark, desperate need to impress. It's PR at its most cynical and unappetizing. I can imagine the kind of conversation one might have with someone who spunks hundreds of pounds on a burger or $8 on a fucking ice cube (just under £5), too. "Well if you can't treat yourself who can you treat, ay?" they'd guffaw. "Alright, Debbie Downer. It's just a bit of fun."

Except, fun appears to be the exact opposite of what this trend is. Can chefs really be that desperate to get into The Guinness Book of Records? Surely it's just a—canny at best—assembly of the world's most expensive ingredients. The vehicle for them seems largely irrelevant.

To the same end, will a burger bun stuffed with foie gras, hand-massaged Japanese beef, and, of course, truffle, really be the best burger of your life? So much of the enjoyment of food is subject to circumstance and timing. The best burger I ever had was my first In 'N' Out, eaten in the passenger seat of my uncle's truck on the highway from LAX into Hollywood the first time I visited the US as a teenager. It was stone cold (he'd bought it an hour previous), gluey, and full of so much raw onion I burped it up for about four days, but it tasted of AMERICA! It was so exciting. No burger since has brought a similar thrill.

I may be wrong, of course, but the idea of having a belly full of expensive produce thrown together only so the sum of their parts can be labelled "The World's Most Expensive X" makes me feel unspeakably empty. You may as well stick a pile of burning notes under a cloche and be done with it.