Chefs Decode The Food World of 'Atlanta'
A world of wings, Cheetos, and the best ways to stretch a buck. (Read: The real, best world.)
March 26, 2018
By Richie Nakano | Original image via FX, photo illustration by ChefsFeed
Atlanta—the critically-acclaimed, award-winning, hilarious brainchild of renaissance man Donald Glover—is currently in its second season.
If you’re not already familiar, Atlanta follows the highs and lows of Earn [Glover], a Princeton-dropout turned rap manager and his friends—and while the show isn’t specifically about food, its portrayal of it rings far truer than basically every actual food show out there. It presents food as it really is to most of us: a source of nourishment, stress, and occasionally, mystery.
In honor of its return, we hit up some chefs for their take on Atlanta’s most pressing food questions.
SCENE: Rapper Paper Boi [Brian Tyree Henry] gets out of jail, and immediately goes to get a wing box. The owner of the joint recognizes him, and the chef hooks him up with “lemon pepper wet” wings. When they open the box to take a look, the wings cast a warm glowing light on their faces.
QUESTION: What does the term “lemon pepper wet” mean?
Aaron Hoskins, City Grit Hospitality Group: Lemon Pepper Wet is what it means to be an American. Lemon Pepper Wet is hospitality. Lemon Pepper wet is about choice and freedom. Lemon Pepper Wet is for people that can’t decide between a dry rub and sauce and for people that just want both because they know what they want from life and take it.
But don’t try Lemon Pepper Wet unless the place allows it. Know your wing place. Love your wing place. Respect your wing place. Be loyal to your wing place.
Ferrell Alvarez, Rooster & the Till: It means yellow sticky fingers that are caked up. Acidic and slightly spicy when licked.
Jill Bartolome, Aqui: I’m almost certain it has something to do with wings. The days of lemonparty.com have made me too scared to Google “lemon pepper wet."
SCENE: Broke, Earn sheepishly tries to order a kid’s meal. It uh, doesn’t go well.
QUESTION: Should adults be allowed to order fast food kids meals without a child present?
AH: Listen. Don’t @ me with this self-righteous crusade against adults ordering kid’s meals. If I want to pay $3.99 for two nuggets, nine fries, 4 oz of soda, and some kind of toy from the LEGO: Sophie’s Choice movie or whatever, you don’t get to criticize my brief, warm retreat into my childhood.
FA: They shouldn't be allowed to order fast food period. America needs to lean out!!!!
JB: FOREVER YOUNG.
SCENE: Earn goes on a date with Van [Zazie Beetz], his on-again, off-again girlfriend on an extremely tight budget. After a series of unfortunate upsells, he makes an emergency call to his cousin to borrow money.
QUESTION: Going on a date to a restaurant on a super tight budget—any horror stories?
AH: More than I ever want to admit. Including, but not limited to the time when I was 22 and working a just-over-minimum wage job. I hung out in New York City for a few days with a girl I was into and was like, “Hey, let's go have a fun dinner!”
I don’t even remember [where we went.] I was doing all kinds of math in my head about what to order and how much room I was going to have for the tip so my debit card wouldn’t get declined. I’m pretty sure it went through, but the tip overdrew my account and I ate nothing but the things already living in my pantry for the next week.
FA: On my first date with my now daughter's mother, I took her to the seediest dive bar in Tampa, the Hub. It's a legend, but drinking with the homeless on a first date isn't usually a good idea.
JB: Sadly, no.
SCENE: Atlanta's perpetually stoned moral compass, Darius [Lakeith Stanfield], wonders aloud about the true flavor of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
QUESTION: Well, you heard the man.
AH: “Flamin’ Hot Cheeto” is the flavor left in the wing bowl after that one drunk dude comes in at 11:51 pm and orders 24 wings extra hot, to go, so you really go overboard with the cayenne cus he isn’t gonna find out they’re totally gross until he gets home in 15 min. but you already closed up the restaurant and he was too drunk when he bought them to remember to call and complain the next day.
FA: Powered government cheese with MSG and cayenne. (Is that actually correct? I don't eat that shit.)
JB: Irresistible regret.
SCENE: While riding the bus with his daughter, Earn encounters a strange man who offers him some advice—and a Nutella sandwich.
QUESTION: Would you eat a Nutella sandwich a stranger made for you on the bus?
AH: My first week living in NYC, I was on the platform at the 8th Ave station in Manhattan. There are often “churro ladies” at this platform selling churros for a few bucks. On this particular day, a kind transit cop kicked the lady off the platform, just as the L was pulling in. She had a large cart and one of the wheels was stubborn. I got on and turned around as she struggled a bit to pull it on. No one looked up from their iPhones. I grabbed the front corner of her cart and lifted it into the train, freeing the stuck wheel. She gave me a kind nod and found a seat. She saw me looking at her churros because, come on, churros. I pulled out my wallet to buy one and motioned to them still sitting there on her cart. She handed me a small bag and as I pulled a few dollars out she shook her head. It was a kind gesture. Those free subway churros were fantastic and you’re damn right I’d take a Nutella bus sandwich from a stranger.
FA: Absolutely, if they took the first bite.
JB: No thanks, I’m not hungry.