Review: Get Baked Presents The Joint

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I laughed when my friend suggested it as a brunch destination – not because it was a funny joke, but because I knew he was 80% serious.  “Dude imagine if it turns out to be ace: you’ll be that guy who surprises everybody and gives it a good review despite what everybody else says”
 
He had a point, I do like being “that guy”, and there’s been an eerie silence surrounding The Joint since it opened.  The only press I’ve seen it receive has been from “Everybody’s a winner just for taking part!” publications who would write a positive review of the influenza virus if it meant the subsequent social media shares bolstered the price they charge advertisers.  With Get Baked/The Joint boasting an impressive sixty thousand Facebook sycophants, a couple of shares of a glowing review could bring enough extra traffic to take down a site completely.
 
Spoiler alert!  You’re reading this on a screen rather than from a crumpled piece of paper in a dystopian future where CousCousBangBang.com lies in tatters; ransacked by the sudden rush of traffic from Get Baked’s Facebook page.  Obviously this isn’t the glowing review you’re looking for – but it’s not all bad.

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The writing’s on the wall (!!) for Leeds’ Bro-Food Misogyny

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I mentioned last week in my Almost Famous review that their embarrassing attempt at “subversive” branding was enough put me off going there again, and as such they fell off my radar entirely – we had nothing to offer each other.  That was, until I saw this article by Helen Graves last night, which brought some more details to my attention.

Photo: Helen Graves (helengraves.co.uk)
In particular, there was a justifiably negative response to the women’s bathrooms, specifically the fact that the walls are plastered in first-person displays of low self-image and low self-esteem.  “Why can’t I be thinner?” is one of the questions being forced into female customers’ subconscious while they look in the mirror.  “Maybe laxatives are the answer?”  Other snippets designed to nudge women towards Almost Famous’s feminine ideal include suggesting “My hair is too frizzy” “My nose is too fat” and “I wish I had boobs like Katy Perry”.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if the Gent’s bathroom was a haven of insecurity and critique as well, with 1200pt Helvetica saying things like “Your willy is a bit crooked today” and “You brought a date to a restaurant which serves something called ‘Bitch Juice’, what the fuck is wrong with you?” but they don’t.  Instead, when male customers (hopefully) wash their hands and admire themselves in the mirrors they’re given the opportunity to read an exert from American Psycho
“I believe in taking care of myself and a balanced diet and rigorous exercise routine. In the morning if my face is a little puffy I’ll put on an ice pack while doing stomach crunches. I can do 1000 now. After I remove the ice pack I use a deep pore cleanser lotion. In the shower I use a water activated gel cleanser, then a honey almond body scrub, and on the face an exfoliating gel scrub. Then I apply an herb-mint facial mask which I leave on for 10 minutes while I prepare the rest of my routine. I always use an after shave lotion with little or no alcohol, because alcohol dries your face out and makes you look older. Then moisturizer, then an anti-aging eye balm followed by a final moisturizing protective lotion.  

There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman; some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me: only an entity, something illusory. And though I can hide my cold gaze, and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable… I simply am not there.”

Women are encouraged to wonder “Who is that girl in all of my boyfriend’s Facebook pictures?”, whereas Men get to briefly assume the role of one of literatures most notable delusional narcissists.

When I visited I noticed that the front of house and floor staff were women around 18-22 (While the males were behind the bar making drinks, or just behind the bar talking about man stuff like doing press ups) – is this considered an appropriate working environment for young women?  If I went to work every day and got told “My bum is really flat”, I might just start to believe it.  And my bum is fucking gorgeous.

This isn’t Leeds Bro Food scene’s first foray into misogyny though.  Primo’s came under criticism a couple of years ago for their marketing, which encouraged customers to “Get Freshers while they’re still thin”, and responded to the criticism by suggesting that Primo’s loves big girls, because they keep them in business.  Red’s True BBQ launched a campaign earlier this year which parodied domestic abuse charity adverts, with the hilarious twist that it was to help “convert” vegetarians.  And let’s not ignore Get Baked/Mr. Nice Guys, who every so often encourage their Facebook followers to launch a tirade of abuse against Cher Lloyd for no apparent reason, with predictably vulgar results.

Unfortunately, when negative attention is drawn to these campaigns it only makes the idiots responsible for them think they’re doing a great job at “viral marketing”, and the equally stupid apologists jump to their defence, mistaking critics sense of decency for “Being easily offended”, all the time normalising the outdated messages that the restaurants perpetuate.  Are the people who approve these campaigns really that out of touch the the pop culture that they think sexism is still fair game?  A national dialogue is open on equality now lads; feminism is a backing dancer for Beyonce.

Leeds is desperate at the moment to be considered “Food Capital of the North”, and 90% of restaurants and vendors are doing great work towards that.  Unfortunately while this minority tries to make up for the shortcomings of their food with shock tactics, all the things which make the city great will be ignored as our city’s image boils down to little more than attention-craving LAD Bible burger joints.

Update: After maintaining silence for most of the day, Almost Famous issued the following statement on their website, complete with photograph:

The designs in our female toilets have caused upset and we are sorry. Almost Famous is a young company, we take risks, but we got this one wrong. We want to stress our intentions weren’t to offend. The designs were created by a female employee to voice her own and other women’s insecurities. We accept we didn’t communicate this properly. The designs are currently being removed from all of our restaurants.

The Almost Famous Team”

All credit to them for being proactive.  The “we’re young mavericks who are naive, and as a result took a swing and a miss” and “it was a female employee’s idea” attempts at absolving blame doesn’t quite cut it, but it’s better than the usual “Some people just can’t take a joke” or “We’re sorry you were offended” responses to criticism – so that’s some progress.
Of course, this doesn’t address their promotional video featuring a close-up of a woman’s face while she masturbates over the thought of a ketchup-lubricated lapdance (Don’t waste your time watching it, it just looks like a 2008 episode of Skins set in a service station), but it’s a start…