Legendary chef and author Anthony Bourdain famously wrote the following in his book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly: “Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.” With all due respect to Bourdain, that is not always true, something that I learned thanks to this video posted in the lead-up to the 2022 NFL Draft featuring Purdue defensive lineman and prospective first-round selection George Karlaftis.
Getting draft-ready with the help of @ChipotleTweets. Take a look at my Unwrapped episode #chipotlepartner pic.twitter.com/YJUoEZAZtD
— George Karlaftis III (@TheGK3) April 19, 2022
“I get a big bowl, brown rice, I get probably extra or double brown rice,” Karlaftis said when asked about his go-to order at the fast casual restaurant. “I get triple steak, usually, and I get a bunch of cheese on it. That’s it. Really simple.”
Simple. There’s that word, the common link between Bourdain’s thesis and Karlaftis’ order. Rice, lots of it. Steak, more of it. Cheese. It is, objectively, a simple order, but is simple good in this regard? Well, I have nothing else to do this afternoon in the lead-up to the Draft and can build in 30 minutes for a nap while I wait for pepcid to kick in and save my gastrointestinal tract from sheer agony, so why not find out?
Simple, again, one would think, but there is a layer of complexity to this. Because I don’t want anyone making fun of me to my face like a good poster, I attempted to order this meal on my phone through the Chipotle app. The catch: It would not open, for some reason (my hunch is the microphones that are used to track the things I say so my ads on Instagram can be personalized picked up on this and tried to save me from myself). Ok, fine, let’s go through my computer, because God as my witness, I am not looking a human in the eyes as I do this.
I ran into the issue of Chipotle quite literally will not let you order triple meat in a meal, nor will it let you specify double rice. As such, this was my order:
(NOTE: This graphic says Karlaftis gets light cheese as opposed to “a bunch” and white rice instead of brown. I tried to split the difference in an attempt to make this 0.05 percent healthier.)
With the addition of a bag of chips, which I got because Chipotle’s chips are great, the order came out to exactly $25, which is easily the most I have ever spent there. After going to pick it up, here is what greeted me as I opened both bowls in my kitchen:
Before eating, I did two things. One is something everyone should do when they order a bowl from Chipotle (or Moe’s, or Qdoba, etc.) and dumped the whole thing into a mixing bowl and tossed it together, so you get little bits of everything in every bite. This, admittedly, is a better tactic for when you are getting a bowl with more than 2.5 things in it, but I digress. It also gave me a chance to take out some of the bigger bits of cilantro — yes, I am part of the 20 or so percent of people who are genetically predisposed to think cilantro tastes like soap, which is why I generally veer away from Chipotle despite thinking it does a very good job.
Anyway, I sat down after making sure my Brita was full because I knew I was going to need a lot of water, stared at the following picture, and started digging in.
The first few bites were generally fine. If you have ever had steak or brown rice from Chipotle, you can almost certainly imagine what it was. I did notice the steak was over-seasoned, which is very much a thing I enjoy when I get food from here, and while I wasn’t able to get all of the cilantro out, obviously, it wasn’t much of a bother. The cheese was kind of just there in three or four of the forkfuls I consumed, since it got all melted and congealed. There were several bits of steak that I found about 10 minutes in that were wonderfully, perfectly fatty, which gave my life through the ultra-repetitive nature of this meal.
And then, at the 17-and-a-half minute mark, disaster struck. Chipotle is liable to cook its steak well-done. When it is warm and mixed with other things, it’s a thing you can live with. When you are nearly 20 minutes into eating a bowl that only has a few things and has gone cold by this point, it is the single least pleasant experience on earth. Biting into it required activating muscles in my jaw that I have never used before in my life, the process of chewing seemed to take hours. It was, maybe, a minute. It got chewed up and swallowed, but it was one of the most unpleasant things I have ever consumed.
I started noticing bits of cilantro more. At the 26-minute mark, I bit down on one and had a chill go down my spine. That happened again about five and a half minutes later.
There wasn’t much food left, I was merely eating to get as many calories into my body as possible. I tend to believe people who consume food generally fall into one of two categories — there are those who want to experience a good meal and believe in food as a wonderful way to experience something, either directly through what they are eating or as part of a larger, communal experience. Seeing as how this piece started off with a Bourdain quote, this is the camp in which I tend to fall.
And then there are those who view food as, essentially, gasoline. Their body needs fuel to keep running, and for someone like Karlaftis — a high-level athlete who stands 6’4 and 275 pounds and needs to put things in to perform at a level that turns him into an NFL Draft pick — Chipotle is a means to an end. I assume he eats this after practice or a workout. I ate it after taking the dog to the park.
At the 34:39 mark of my meal, with maybe 5-6 forkfuls left, I had to tap out. An enjoyable experience, that magical thing I seek when I sit down for a meal, was not possible. Simplicity turned into something far more complex, the mere thought of biting into steak, or rice, or cilantro made me feel physically ill. As I am typing these words, my body desperately wants me to put my head under the faucet in my sink and consume as much water as possible before taking a nap. Somehow, I feel a little tipsy, I’m not sure how or why.
I will, of course, encourage anyone to go to Chipotle at any time if they want that. This is especially true for George Karlaftis, who very obviously knows exactly what he wants and has been able to parlay this into a number of good meals and a partnership with the company before he ever steps foot on an NFL field. Having said that, I’m probably not eating it for a while, nor will I consume steak (easy enough, I’m not made of money) or rice (a lot more difficult) any time soon. Or cilantro, but that’s more a general operating procedure.
If you are reading this, there is a good chance I am taking a nap or on a walk to burn off some of this meal. At some point, I will have to consider if eating dinner today is going to be on my to-do list. The answer is probably not, but if it is, I’m excited to eat nothing but a gigantic bowl of vegetables.