As you've probably read by now, Zack "Danger" Brown has raised more than $40,000 for his Kickstarter campaign to make potato salad. The weird but widespread popularity of this unlikely mission has been met with the typical outrage that accompanies something going viral. Many have deemed the campaign as nothing but a joke, but I can tell you firsthand that its inception was genuine.
I cook professionally and, like many chefs, am generally aggravated by the growing apathy in the industry and the "So what, it's just food" mentality of young line cooks. Even more off-putting are the bright-eyed bushy tailed people who think that cooking in kitchens is what's seen on TV.
But when I heard from my friend Alex Brown, a San Francisco-based artist, that his brother had started a Kickstarter campaign to make potato salad, the curmudgeon in me melted.
Zack had never made potato salad before, but he wanted to try. He really wanted to do this right.
Alex told me that Zack's campaign had already raised a couple hundred dollars after only a couple days. "I could have never imagined this happening," Zack later explained during his appearance on Good Morning America. "I remember at day one when we had reached $200—I had thought that was way too much money. I was overwhelmed by making $200 worth of potato salad." Just to put that in perspective, $200 worth of potatoes could probably feed a 60-seat restaurant through several turns a night throughout a week.
Alex said to me, "Listen, I told my brother about you—that you're a professional cook and that he should ask for your help with the potato salad recipe."
The thing is, I love potato salad. Every mayo, non-mayo, and international iteration of it. The muted-yellow ice-cream-scooped stuff served in every cafeteria? Absolutely! Chunks of red potato with fresh herbs, minced onion, and mustard? A classic beauty! The Korean version, which is served with sweet mayo and sliced apples? Kinda gross, but I still appreciate you!
The Kickstarter success was accompanied by irrelevant questions from the Internet community: "How is this art?" "How is this a real project?" "Is food art?"
Between my strange but very real love for starch salads and my experience in professional kitchens, I felt like I was more than qualified to enter the ring. Potato dishes from past restaurants I had worked at started coming back to me: the potatoes from State Bird Provisions, cooked in dashi with scallions and togarashi; a more classic warm potato salad with crème fraîche, dill, and whole-grain mustard from Bar Agricole; and, most recently, Glasserie's smashed-grilled potato salad with celery hearts, Aleppo pepper, and a soft-boiled egg.
My potato salad repertoire spoke for itself.
Meanwhile, Zack's project was taking on a life of its own. After a week on Kickstarter, the viral campaign had received over 4,000 backers from 20 different countries, totaling over $40,000. Its success was accompanied by irrelevant questions from the Internet community: "How is this art?" "How is this a real project?" "Is food art?"
His love for potato salad, as funny as it has become, has reminded me how much I love potato salad.
Alex told me, "I think it's hilarious and so absurd. At this point, it's making fun of Kickstarter and artists who have to panhandle online because they can't receive funding elsewhere because we value the arts so little. He's the best performance artist without being a performance artist."
But this was not some piece of performance art. Zack really just wanted to make a potato salad—that's it. And his love for potato salad, as funny as it has become, has reminded me how much I love potato salad. Hell, my boyfriend and I made three different kinds for dinner last night.
At this point, I don't know if I'll be able to break through and media frenzy surrounding Zack and take him up on my personal invitation to make potato salad. But I really want to.
He might not even know himself. "When you set to make $10 on Kickstarter to make potato salad, you don't have long-term goals," Zack told Fox Business. "All I know is what I want do with this is do something for the greater good. I don't know what that is. Ideally, I would throw a benefit concert in Columbus, Ohio, and invite the entire Internet."
And if I can help with that goal, I will. "It might not be that good," Zack wrote on Kickstarter. "It's my first potato salad."