First there was the longform piece by First We Feast’s Justin Bolois, examining the origins of the “chopped cheese.” Then there was Insider Food’s “discovery” of the sandwich, followed by Harlem comedian Jeffrey Almonte’s passionate reaction to said discovery. Now, there’s an entire documentary — which celebrates this piece of culinary magic and explores the passion New Yorkers feel for it.
Never heard of the chopped cheese? You aren’t alone. The documentary, titled Hometown Hero: The Legend of New York’s Chopped Cheese and produced by Bolois, begins with several baffled New Yorkers telling First We Feast that they’ve never heard of the sandwich.
But those who have heard of it are devoted to it.
“The easiest description would be a steak and cheese,” Rapper and Spanish Harlem native Bodega Bamz explains. “But instead of it being actual steak, it’s hamburger meat. Then you chop it up, throw whatever kind of cheese you want, whatever kind of toppings you want…The best description, I would say, is a wonderful, magical sandwich that has tested times and is mythical, and is one of the best sandwiches ever created in New York.”
The documentary is just shy of nineteen minutes and worth every second. It takes a winding path as it chases down the surprising origin story of the chopped cheese, discusses issues of food appropriation, and the delinates the difference between a tribute and a ripoff. Plus the food looks really good.
Check out the full documentary, the first from First We Feast, below: