The first group is made up of the readers playing along in the Eater Forums and on social media. These fine folks are absolutely killing it so far. But in the interest of timeliness, I'm passing off the judging of their efforts to select others on the Eater team (more about this to come). The second group is made up of our work colleagues who don't toil directly for Eater. Rather, as part of the larger Vox Media mindmeld, they make our websites not suck and/or bring in the money that makes this whole absurd enterprise possible.
Quick intros. Cristina Cerulo, Robert Bear, and Jessica Carei are part of Vox Creative, our in-house creative agency. I've worked with these three dating back to our pre-Vox days, and I hope to work with them forever. Not only are they the best at what they do, but they're also in touch with their true selves enough to honor the gravitational pull of The Contest and realize that they must submit to it. Everlasting respect.
Known in certain circles only by his enigmatic personal brand Tangentialism, David Yee rode into Vox Media on a unicorn last summer, joining the company as part of the mystical crew building the future generations of our websites. (Hint: They will not be websites, but they will be edible.) Through a glitch in our New York office seating plan, he ended up with a desk adjacent to the Eater team. Huge win. If you're wondering if he's Contest-worthy, give the piece he wrote for Eater's Classics Week back in January a read and be. very. afraid.
Each of these fine folks are chronicling their week in the Eater Forums (Day One, Day Two). Judgement time! (Like the Eater editors, according to my unassailable scoring matrix, each competitor earns +1 for every day they're still in the game. So: +1 across the board on Day One.) Off we go.
After a morning of indecision, drolly documented, David Yee heads to Chinatown to begin his journey by eating with "an unnamed restaurant critic" (?!). His lunch is immediately superior to any managed by the Eater crew on Day One, with the possible exception of Eater Cheap Eats savant Robert Sietsema's Chinatown chow. (Oh.)
Yee's the first to raise concerns about the ethics of The Contest. He writes, "We share a long ranging conversation about the risks of fetishizing this challenge, as ten bucks is positively extravagant for most families (for whom tax and tip are the least of their problems)."
There's no perfect answer to David's worries, but they're absolutely worth addressing. Eater writes for an audience that has disposable income to spend on eating out. For some, that might be a day at Smorgasburg; for others, a night—or 10—at Per Se. Yet hunger and poverty remain intractable problems in our city. Our team's conclusion is that it's our responsibility to report on inequities in the restaurant industry wherever they exist, and to volunteer and give back to the community not as one-offs, but as part of our core mission. The Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club, serving 13,000 disadvantaged youths in The Bronx each year, is our charity of focus. Please join us in donating here.
So now you know what we know: David Yee is the man. And his lunch, salty/sweet rice noodles with Chinese sausage plus one lotus leaf sticky rice, scores +5.
I'd really hoped we might avoid the whole banana thing in this new group of contestants, but NOPE. Yee: "5:15PM, I buy a banana from Kludt for $0.33. This turns into a short-lived overnight scandal." (-1 banana, additional -1 for banana scandal. Really, people?)
David closes out Day One with dinner at Vanessa's Dumplings in Williamsburg. "I hit the jackpot," he claims, having procured eight fried pork dumplings and a sesame pancake with fried egg. Sorry not sorry, but this dinner kicks the ass of most Eater editor dinners on Night One, good for another +5 for unicorn-man.
What of our Vox Creative colleagues? Rob Bear skips breakfast then drops $8 on a meatball sub at Park Italian Gourmet. Baller move that constituted all of his food intake for the day, and though I can't discern its true deliciousness level from Rob's terse write-up, +5 because meatballs. Jess Carei got off on the wrong foot by consuming a banana for breakfast (-1), but rallies with baked eggs and shrimp from Contest Koreatown favorite Woorjip (+2), finishing with an evening pizza slice with artichokes (+1). Finally, Cristina Cerulo: an unspecific morning purchase of "fruit" (-0, barely); a Whole Foods meat/veggie lunch (as +0 as it gets), and a bargain taco for dinner (+1). I do love these people, but they don't got game.
Sure enough, as the second day of The Contest dawns, the Vox Creative crew has TAPPED OUT. That leaves David Yee as the winner of the non-Eater Vox Media cohort of The Contest. But Yee's not going to be satisfied with that, and nor should he be.
David's working from Gowanus today, an inexplicable move he makes several times a week in lieu of enjoying our fine company at Vox Midtown HQ. (If I could dock points for this, I would.) He skips breakfast, but makes a masterful move by heading to Sunset Park for lunch. Two $1.50 pig ear tacos at Taqueria El Mezcal? That's a super-solid +5 lunchwire by any standard. Late afternoon, he again surrenders to the Cult of El Banana (-1), then dines on two Jamaican patties in "hulking slabs of coco bread" for dinner. (Eh, +1.)
All of which puts David at an entirely reasonable and competitive +15 at the conclusion of Day Two. His score would rank him fifth in the Eater editor standings—and as of this second, it does.
David Yee is moving to the main event. From Day Three forward in The Contest, he'll be scored as part of the Eater crew. That gives him the chance to win the Eater editor pool, bringing glory to Vox Product while foisting shame on every Eater team member, past, present, and future.
The stakes? Raised.
Tangentialism, people. Get used to the sound of it.