Almonte sparks controversy, simplifying the conversation surrounding gentrification with his famous Chopped Cheese Video.
The chopped cheese is a New York City staple monumental to the city’s urban culture. When food tourism company Insider Foods gave a tone-deaf review of the sandwich, it hit too close to home to ignore. They’re not the first to be insensitive or bastardize the culture surrounding underground foods and pretending that “no one knows about it.” Taco Tuesdays. Sushi Cones. French-owned Cambodian spider restaurants. These tell-tale signs of gentrification have worried locals for years. Insider Food’s Chopped Cheese video was the last straw for Almonte.
Almonte reacts saying ‘this is how it starts.’ Hipsters and yuppies–middle class transplants from the Midwestern states– run to enjoy the hustle-hard urban aesthetic of the hood. Simple things like cheap food and rent entice them to flood to places they’re overqualified to live in. Financially privileged and oblivious to the existence of the poor, they call the price of a chopped cheese a “steal.” The irony of callingit a ‘steal’ foreshadows the thieving nature of Columbus syndrome, a plague coined by Spike Lee to describe a plague of visitors claiming to discover a cultural element locals have indulged in for years.
Hipsters Invade Harlem after the Chopped Cheese Video
At first glance, Insider’s viral Chopped Cheese video sending an influx of tourists seems to be something that would boost Harlem’s local economy. However, kids who would look forward to buying the chopped cheese po’ boy sandwich now face the reality that the prices may skyrocket now that a bunch of White middle-class yuppies will walk in the store bragging about what a “steal” it is. The commodification of edgy underground perks that ‘no one knows about’ becomes an overpriced tourist attraction that business owner’s can exploit at will, leaving locals out of the loop.
‘It’s not supposed to be revolutionary. It’s a f*ckin sandwich.”
But is it really just a sandwich? The chopped cheese video’s sharp rise in popularity has turned what was “just a sandwich” into a symbol of our fleeting culture. Bourgeois Upper East Side stores will soon make their new-and-improved organic, gluten-free, non-GMO chopped cheese on a panini and replace the Arizona with a Naked juice. The bodegas filling up with White people that treat the Hood like a sideshow at the carnival is a mere microcosm of gentrification. Something as simple as a chopped up burger on a hero has now allowed people to understand gentrification on a smaller, simpler scale. Even a year and a half later, the chopped cheese video continues to resurface in the complex conversation of gentrification.