“Food” is one of the top three words associated with Atlanta. The city’s slow-cooked Southern culture is built on open fire pits and front porch potlucks, clambakes and barbecues. Our culinary claims to fame include the Frosted Orange and King of Pops, the international gastro-hub of Buford Highway and Linton Hopkins, Paula Deen and pimento cheese. Simply put, down here in the ATL, we enjoy a solid, three square meals a day—and a solid three square meals a night.
“Hip-hop” is another Atlanta tag word. “The A” is the baby daddy of hip-hop legends, just like Nashville is the cheatin’ momma of country stars. Think: Andre 3000, Ludacris, Cee-Lo and Lil Jon, to name a few.
Yet the two, food and hip-hop, have never truly met—until now. In spring 2012, Atlanta’s first-ever hip-hop cookbook
was born: Bon Rappetite: Volume 1. Yuppie, Rachel Ray EVOO drizzlers be warned: this is bacon grizzle and Chihuahua melty cheese. This is food that sticks to your ribs like tar balls to a sea bird. And the only thing that can scrape it off is a long, hard swig of Southern Comfort.
Long before Bon Rappetite actually went to press, however, it had already gained national media attention from the likes of CNN, NPR and MTV. That’s because the main ingredient for the cookbook’s own success was not perspiration or even inspiration; but rather, a heaping scoop of glorious luck.
Here to tell the true story behind the charmed—and dare I say, spiked—wellspring from which Bon Rappetite was born is one of its three brain-parents, Bunny Mcintosh, who with Everett Steele forms Atlanta’s interactive-media startup Baby Robot Industries. (Georgia Music contributor Chris Hassiotis formed the third leg of the BR tripod.)
By the time I got wind of BR back in February, it had already become the stuff of urban legends. The version I heard went something like this: In a beer-induced stroke of brilliance, you and some friends dreamed up a fake hip-hop themed restaurant called Bon Rappetite. The more you drank, the more you out-punned each other with pretend menu items like “Wu Tang Clams” and “Notorious BLT.” True so far?
True so far. Everett and I were sitting around the Graveyard Tavern in EAV drinking. When we went to order dinner, I think Everett said to Brian, our favorite bartender in ATL: “I’ll have the Wu Tang Clams,” and I chimed in with “I’d like the Queen LaPizza,” or something. For the rest of the night we just tried to outwit each other. When we got home, Everett built the Bon-Rappetite website. I was taking a bath and he kept yelling things into the bathroom like is Talib Qual-i funny?!? And I’d yell back, yes but we need more girls. Put Turkey Minaj in.
How did the idea go from being an inside joke among your tight-knit circle to a full-blown Internet sensation?
It was bananas. Everett and I posted it on our Facebook pages and forgot about it. About nine months later, Scoutmob ran a piece on it, Creative Loafing picked it up from them, and then Bon Appetit magazine and the Huffington Post ran articles. We assumed our servers were being hacked since we’re a web company because the traffic was just insane. We looked where it was coming from and realized what was happening.
And that’s where, in the words of Public Enemy, “the rubber hit the road; broke the motherlode.” The website goes viral. The phone’s ringing off the hook. The media is mobilizing. Then what?
Our friend Chris Hassiotis, who is a brilliant writer and a great cook, said “You guys should do a cook book.” It seemed so obvious to have him involved. We figured Baby Robot can do the creative work, the designs and the financing, and we’ll put it out together.
At this point, you must have thought, how could this get any crazier? And then, Greg PORN of the legendary Roots Crew gets on the Bon Rappetite bandwagon and offers to collaborate on a CD to go along with the cookbook. How did that experience rate in your book?
We figured that, because we really love hip-hop, we’d use some of the national attention we were getting to let people know about local artists we love like Deuce Ducartier, BNMC and SmallEyez. We decided to put together a mixtape as a little bonus download with the book. Bon Rappetite was really popular on Twitter, and that’s how we met PORN. We’re both huge fans of The Roots, and Greg was really active on Twitter, so we started talking to him online. His music is so mind-blowingly good, so we asked him if he’d consider doing a verse or something for the mixtape we had decided to mail out with the book.
PORN sent us two full songs in about 24 hours, and both of them kicked a lot of ass. We became friends with him quickly because he’s just so nice and down to earth, and he came down with his crew and DJ Afrodjiak to help us launch the book. They played an amazing show at The Basement with a bunch of people from the mixtape. We’re still working together, we’re either calling into Philly, or they’re calling us almost every day. He’s so unbelievably talented and prolific, it is remarkable to be able to work with him. The synergy between Atlanta and Philly is insane; we all see a lot more cool stuff coming out of it. I think we’re actually going to visit them for Fourth of July.
Are there plans for a Bon Rappetite restaurant?
I was a disastrous, panic-filled waitress for about six years, so I shouldn’t be involved. We’d all be jazzed if someone wanted to open one, though.
What about a series for the cookbook? As a Jewish person, may I cast my vote for a Klezmer-themed sequel called Bon JAP-ettite; menu items to include OYE!sters and Matisyahu-sh puppies.
I like that the first thing on your Jewish cookbook menu involves shellfish. A series is a cool idea and we’ve talked about doing a few other versions. We’re vegetarians, so a healthy eating/vegetarian book is probably the next step. Baby Robot is definitely in the publishing business now, so we shall see. We really like the idea of promoting options for healthy eating in urban environments, and that movement is really catching on in hip-hop in general. People like Jermaine Dupri, Quincy Jones Jr. and the RZA are all spending a lot of time and money on educating kids in the cities on how to eat well in a “food desert.”
A portion of the proceeds of Bon Rappetite sales go to The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Go to www.bon-rappetite.com or Amazon to order your copy.