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What Did Ghislaine Maxwell Order at a California Burger Place? An Investigation

The British socialite, alleged to be Jeffrey Epstein's fixer, was spotted eating... but what was she eating?

by Tim Marchman
Aug 16 2019, 12:11am

Photo by Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Among the many mysteries to have arisen in the aftermath of the death of Jeffrey Epstein—Did he die by suicide or was he murdered? Why did the New York Times not deem it worthy of further investigation when a reporter went to the convicted sex offender’s house only to be greeted by an extremely young-looking girl? Where is his money going?—one of the more intriguing involves the whereabouts of Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite accused of helping him recruit teen sex slaves.

In recent days, the Daily Mail has placed her in Massachusetts and the Daily Beast has placed her in France. Thursday, the New York Post placed her in Los Angeles, where she was spotted eating at an outpost of a popular California burger chain while reading “The Book of Honor: The Secret Lives and Deaths of CIA Operatives,” perhaps in an attempt to make everyone paying attention simultaneously yell “Come on!” But this raises yet another mystery: Exactly what was Maxwell eating?

An attempt to call the Universal City outpost of the California burger chain where the Post spotted Maxwell was stymied by the burger chain’s policy of not listing phone numbers for individual restaurant locations. A customer service representative who answered the number listed for all the California burger chain’s franchises said that she would not, out of concern for employee privacy, be able or willing to put me directly in touch with anyone who might have served Maxwell or observed her eating, and suggested that I call a marketing representative. That representative said flatly that she would not be willing to put me in touch with anyone who might have served Maxwell or observed her eating. When pressed, the representative also declined to comment or review the Post’s photo with an eye to identifying what Maxwell was eating, both out of specific respect for customer privacy and more general respect for “our heritage and the way we are.”

She did, however, suggest that the items could be cross-referenced against the California burger chain’s online menu.

There are several technical difficulties involved here. One is that while the Post’s photo is clear and well-composed, it doesn’t offer a full picture of the sandwich—presumably a burger of some kind—on Maxwell’s table, due to its positioning in a tray. Another is that while cups offer the most obvious points of reference for scale, they’re partially hidden behind the tray in the Post photo, and behind burgers and fries in the California burger chain’s online menu. It’s also unclear whether the cup presented on the online menu is a large or small. (Cups of both sizes are on Maxwell’s table.)

Another is that drawing direct comparisons between the Post photo and the menu is complicated by the fact that, according to my colleague Rupa Bhattacharya, who has expertise in such matters, burgers that have been styled, as they would be for an online menu, are typically 125% to 150% as large as they would be in the real world.

All of this makes any direct analysis of what was at the table where Maxwell was sitting necessarily contingent and provisional. That said, we have some clues. First, there's no way that Maxwell ordered the California burger chain's vaunted double-cheese, double-patty burger, because those always come in a red wrapper. The single-patty burgers, whether they have cheese or not, are relegated to white wrappers. The Post's own photo makes the comparison clear:

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Detail of photo: New York Post

This isn't the only evidence for a single. Our best analysis of the size of the sandwich and large cup on her table indicates a roughly 1:2 ratio in height between the sandwich and the cup; that matches the burger-to-cup size ratio on the online menu, assuming that the burger was styled to be 150 percent as large as it would be when ordered at an actual California burger chain location and that the cup presented on the menu is a large.

There are certainly also other possibilities here. One would be that it’s a half-eaten grilled cheese on Maxwell’s table; as the California burger chain’s online menu doesn’t offer a photo of this item, though, it’s difficult to make a direct comparison. It’s also entirely possible that there was cheese on the burger; scale comparisons argue against this, but the sliding of the top bun argues for it.

Analysis of the photo does raise one further question, though, aside from the one having to do with just what Maxwell was eating. In the Post’s photo, there are two drinks, what appear to be two cell phones or at least internet-connected devices, and, in the tray, what appear to be two paper wrappers. The California burger chain serves fries in a paper tray, so a second wrapper would suggest a second sandwich. That, together with the two drinks and two devices, suggests that despite the Post reporting that she was “sitting alone with a pet pooch,” she was in fact at the California burger place with a mysterious second, non-dog party.

Why a rich person credibly accused of facilitating a campaign of brutal sexual violence against children is not only on the loose but couldn't be pinned down to the level of a continent until just now is another question entirely.

Do you know who Maxwell’s possibly-extant dining companion is, anything about where she is, and/or anything we should know generally? Contact me at tim.marchman@vice.com or more securely at timmarchman on Telegram.

Additional reporting by Hilary Pollack and Derek Mead.