So far here’s what is being said (all from actual comments and emails) about FEED THE MONSTER…
FEED THE MONSTER 27, 24, 26 $$$$
The site is “AMAZING!” and deemed “truly, truly great” with an “awesome, original point-of-view” that most people will “looooooovvvveee!” The Monster himself is “such a talented writer,” “priceless,” “deliciously funny,” “a legend” that “ROCKS!” to many, “obviously and utterly insane,” demented” and “in need of more hobbies” to others. Whether you want to “learn about the LA food scene” or “be invited to the party,” this is “insane reading” and many are “hooked!” Even Colman Andrews (former editor of Saveur and six time James Beard Journalism Award winner) and celebrated chef Gaston Acurio (chef and owner of the world’s 35th best restaurant) “love your site!”
THE MONSTER ON CNN.COM!
Sean Robins has a long list of foods he doesn’t eat. “No beef, no pork, no lamb, no veal, no mushrooms, no cold cheese, no white sauces. That means no sour cream, no cottage cheese, no mayonnaise, no milk, no eggs. It’s not allergies – all preferences.”
Nonetheless, a picky palate didn’t impede Robins from dining at every one of the over 2,000 restaurants listed in the 2011 Los Angeles Zagat Restaurants Survey.
Robins started his quest 14 years ago. The Ohio native was living in Los Angeles and working in the wine industry – unhappily, he adds – and was on a first date. “I was wearing a yellow shirt and a black leather jacket, I looked like a giant Jewish bumblebee.”
This particular date was going so well that Robins began naming their future children – right before he fell asleep at the table. Run down and exhausted from his job, he decided to quit, make several life changes, and take up a new challenge: eating his way through the Zagat guide.
It’s a daunting task, eating at every restaurant in the second largest city in the United States. Los Angeles is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined and has a population of almost 10 million people. The highways and byways of the city are notorious for congestion, and driving is something Angelenos don’t undertake lightly.
But the journey is what will “Feed the Monster,” Robins’ self proclaimed name and the title of his food blog.
“I think first and foremost you learn patience,” says Robins. “You drive an hour and a half away and you put expectations on things that might not be met. And sometimes the best part of the experience isn’t the lunch or the dinner but the people you meet along the way. Or the fact that you’re in Alhambra and you never would have been.”
Rather than tabulate how much he’s spent in his pursuit, a question he’s often asked, Robins says he’d rather tally up the miles he’s driven. He wonders if it would be the equivalent of traveling to the moon.
His 14 year journey has been filled with slavish record keeping. Each time a new Zagat edition came out, Robins would note which restaurants had been added or deleted or had closed. His goal was a moving target – one that almost broke him when Zagat decided to add Catalina Island, Ventura and Ojai.
“I actually thought they found out what I was doing and they were f***ing with me” laughs Robins.
Catalina wasn’t his only potential breaking point. When the new guide was released, Robins was just 44 restaurants away from hitting his goal. Suddenly, the distance ballooned to 103.
He recalled, “I remember sitting in a Barnes and Noble and I called Angela, my wife, and said ‘I don’t want to do this anymore, this is ridiculous, what am I doing?’ And then the next day I was in a new restaurant.”
In 2003, Robins’ mission took a very personal turn. “My mother called me and said, ‘Your father has stage four cancer, he has a week to live and you need to come home.’ I remember sitting there and thinking how life changes.”
He traveled back to Ohio wondering if it would be the last time he’d ever see his father, an alcohol distributor whose very career had instilled in his son a love of good food and wine. His father survived the cancer, but can no longer eat or drink anything, other than a little Scotch.
Robins decided his future eating endeavors would honor his father, a man who still appreciates a good restaurant. To him, it’s about the camaraderie, the people and the atmosphere, even more than the food.
For nine of the 14 years, Robins’ wife Angela has accompanied him. They pick a destination and tackle as many as seven restaurants in a day, splitting an appetizer at one, ordering entrees at another, working their way through the list.
“There were times when I’d say what am I doing? Should I continue this? There are better uses of my time. Then I’d look at her, we’d be somewhere far flung and it would validate that this was exciting, it was a way to learn about our city and learn about ourselves. It’s been invaluable.”
Robins adds, “The breadth of restaurants in this city especially with different ethnicities is unbelievable. What I love about Los Angeles is you drive and see a sign that says Koreatown and yet all signs are in Spanish and that to me is fantastic. Or my favorite Greek restaurant, Papa Cristos, is in Koreatown.”
After nearly 2000 restaurants, just figuring out where to eat his “last meal” was a challenge. Robins knew it had to be a place that would be around for years. He finally decided on Pink’s, an iconic hot dog stand with lines of customers wrapping around the restaurant at almost every hour of the day.
Robins says it reminds him of places in Ohio, because in those lines you can find “a millionaire, doctor and a policeman all side by side because they want to be there.” He reasoned, “It’s a democratizing experience for me that was the perfect and fitting ending to this.”
On August 13, Robins and 50 friends gathered at Pink’s and avoided the line. “We had table service, table cloths and pink roses. Gloria Pink was unbelievably kind in allowing us to take over part of her restaurant.”
The meal had a charity component, Robins wanted to give back to the hospital where his dad had the surgery. Over the course of his last month of eating, Robins says he raised $7000 for the James Cancer Hospital.
Robins isn’t quite finished though, the new Zagat survey was released this month, leaving him with 40-50 restaurants he hasn’t visited yet. He plans to keep eating and wants to raise funds for a different charity each year.
Feeding the homeless is his next mission, and Robins says he feels compelled. “How lucky am I to be able to do this. It’s been a lot of fun.”
THE MONSTER ON EATERLA!
The Man Who Ate Through LA
Inside ink.sack, West Hollywood. [Photo: R. E. ~/Eater LA Flickr Pool]
·Pork Recalled for Metal Fragments [FSN]
·After 27 Years, an Answer to the Question, ‘Where’s the Beef?’ [NYT]
·Man Credited With Creating Doritos Dies at 97 [CBS]
·Lunch From Food Trucks Catered by Internet Middlemen [NYT]
·Fabio Viviani Is in a Domino’s Pizza Commercial [-EN-]
·Why Are Microbrews Turning From Bottles to Cans? [Ad Freak]
·Meet the man who ate all of Los Angeles [Eatocracy]
·The critics spit up their taste of ‘The Chew’ [WaPo]
NBC LA ON THE MONSTER…
One Man + All the Zagat Restaurants
Sean Robins eats at every eatery in the 2011 guide to honor his dad.
| Friday, Aug 12, 2011 | Updated 8:52 AM
Even if everyone you know does not, that’s okay, because Sean Robins is out there fighting the good fight for all of us. Why? Because Mr. Robins has dedicated himself to eating at every restaurant in the 2011 Zagat’s Los Angeles guide.
Do you know the Zagat’s guide? Do you know there are many, many eateries listed? Yes. You do.
He’s done ‘em all, almost all, and it has taken him, well. Wait for it. Fourteen years. That seems about right to us. Right when you consider that he’s taken on over two thousand eateries.
Well. He’s done ‘em all except for one last spot. Yep. It’s Pink’s. Of course it is Pink’s. That’s what we would want and expect. If you’re going to eat across LA, end at Melrose and La Brea with a Huell Howser dog. Our opinion.
Now here’s the goodness part: Sean is doing all of this in honor of his dad, a man who worked in the food and beverage business. His father was diagnosed with stage four throat cancer nearly a decade ago and was “given days to live,” says Sean. But he rallied on and is still here today. “Cancer however has robbed him of his ability to eat or drink,” says his son, who is making his Zagat quest a quest to raise money for cancer research.
Pink’s is making a donation, we should note, which Mr. Robins will match.
His Pink’s stop is going down on Saturday, Aug. 13 at 4 p.m. You can follow all of his culinary adventures about town at Feed the Monster.
Whimsy, cheer, and goodness, yes? All of that and more. Who’s next? Someone take on something epic, for an important cause, and if it involves some local favorites all the better.
From Zagat Buzz LA…
The Man Who Ate Zagat
The second to last meal: Benley Vietnamese
Sean Robins is a man on a mission. That mission – since 1998 – has been to dine at every restaurant in the Los Angeles Zagat Restaurants Survey. It is, of course, a tricky goal – because what he’s trying to hit is a moving target. Every year restaurants close, and every year restaurants open. Eating Zagat seemed a near impossibility. And yet, on August 13, 2011, Sean Robins finished his long meal.
And he did it as an act of love for his father – a lifelong gourmet who in 2003 came down with throat cancer. Though his father survived, the cancer deprived him of his ability to eat solid foods. And so Sean dedicated his many meals to his father – and to raising money for cancer research. He ate his way through 2,000 meals throughout Southern California beginning with Chin Chin (and sometimes ran to seven restaurants in a day!), documenting them all on his website, Feed the Monster.
Sean finished his culinary hegira with a turkey dog at Pink’s – with no chili. Aside from being obsessive about eating his way through the guide (he refers to what he’s done as “Zagating”), Sean is also obsessive about his eating habits. He says, “The list of foods I don’t eat is long. I eat no beef, no pork, no lamb, no veal, no cold cheese, no white sauce, no cottage cheese, no milk, no sour cream, no mayonnaise, no olives, no mushrooms, no bananas, no coffee, no soda – I could keep going.”
And what’s he going to do next? Having eaten Zagat through 2011 – he’s going to wait for Zagat 2012. What he’s not going to do is go on a diet. “I’m lucky,” he says. “I’m as slim now as when I started.
Here’s what Grubstreet Los Angeles had to say…
Sean Robins Just Ate at 2,000 L.A. Restaurants and All He Gets Is This New Blog
The heavy lifting is mostly done…Photo: DVS via Flickr
Yesterday we got an email from one Sean Robins, who tells us he is on a quest that began way back in the days when Zagat was actually essential. Fourteen years ago, this self-proclaimed “monster” decided he was going to eat at every single place listed in the L.A. Zagat Guide, buying the latest edition each year and updating it. Currently, the man says he’s just thirteen restaurants away from his goal and funnily enough, only just started a blog about in May to detail his final steps.
Not only is Robins just about the last food-obsessive on earth to start a blog, he promises to make his final meal an affair at Pink’s to raise money for cancer research in honor of his father who still suffers from a past struggle with throat cancer. He’s hoping the blog raises awareness of his mission, as well as for his quest.
Now, we don’t always agree with the guy (he doesn’t consume mushrooms, beef, soda, or milk and dubs Tacos Por Favor L.A.’s ugliest restaurant, making us wonder if he’s really eaten everywhere), but if he’s a genuine article and not some sort of joker or conceptual performance artist riffing on food culture and media, then following him to the end of his adventure must be worth reading. Plus, in a fun turn, the guy turns out to be way more opinionated than the wishy-washy reviews in Zagat!
You can follow the exploits of Robins as he attempts to eat the L.A. Zagat guide, past and present, over at Feedthemonster.com.
More from Grubstreet…
Sean Robins Ends His Zagat Hunt at Pink’s Tomorrow
Feed the Monster blogger Sean Robins, that voracious dude who claims to have eaten at every restaurant listed in Zagat’s L.A. guide over the last fourteen years, completes his task tomorrow (at least until the next guide drops, we guess). This Saturday, the man will celebrate at Pink’s at 4:00 P.M., the final stop on his ambitious (and probably very expensive) adventure. NBC caught a candid shot of the mysterious Zagat stalker, who is working on a book about the experience and might even be getting his own show out of the stunt.
From Delish.com on The Monster!
Los Angeles Man Eats His Way Through Zagat Guide
If you’re looking for a Los Angeles restaurant recommendation, Sean Robins may be your man. While he’s quick to admit that he’s no food critic, Robins’ experience with the city’s restaurant scene could compete with even the most seasoned reviewer. In the last fourteen years, he has eaten at some 2,000 restaurants in greater Los Angeles.
Visiting a different restaurant every two to three days, Robins has been eating his way through the Los Angeles Zagat Restaurant Guide. While the film development and production exec says he started the project on a lark, it took on more significance in 2003 when his father, an epicure who worked for decades in the beverage business, was diagnosed with throat cancer. Though Robins’ father is now healthy, he can no longer eat solid foods, relying instead on feeding through a tube. The restaurant adventure became a way of honoring his father.
“What was more of a hobby or a game became something I wanted to complete,” says Robins.
And he’s nearly there. As of this weekend, Robins was eleven restaurants away from completing his epic gustatory endeavor, having wined and dined his way through Los Angeles’ diverse culinary landscape, from four star sushi temple Urasawa (think gold leaf–topped uni) to hole-in-the-wall taco huts. Because the Zagat Guide is updated annually, the process has sometimes been Sisyphean: With the release of each new edition, Robins has been forced to update his list, adding new restaurants and losing those no longer rated by the guide. Last year was particularly painful, as Robins had been a mere 44 restaurants away from his goal before the release of the 2011 guide upped that number to 105 with the addition of new neighboring towns like Catalina Island.
“It almost felt like someone was laughing at me,” he says, but by the end of the month he had knocked out an additional twenty and felt back on track.
Though Robins says he wants to wait until he’s completed his adventure before tallying up how much he’s spent along the way, he admits it’s been an investment.
“There’s probably a down payment on a house in there,” he says, “But either way, I would have been eating. Would I have been eating as much? Probably not.” However, he insists the experience has been invaluable, allowing him to explore parts of this sprawling city, often with his wife or friends in tow, in a way he wouldn’t have otherwise experienced.
While the scope of his project is impressive, Robins is hardly alone in this kind of goal-oriented restaurant undertaking. A Texas couple is currently 225 restaurants into eating their way through all 722 locations of the Whataburger fast-food chain. In San Francisco, two men have recently received press for their restaurant exploits. William Eichinger, a 65-year old bartender, has been on a quest to eat at every Chinese restaurant in the City by the Bay — so far he’s racked up 402. Fellow San Franciscan, an avid Yelper, who goes by Jason B., has even grander ambitions: to eat at every restaurant in the city that has most restaurants per capita in the nation. He’s approximately 2,000 restaurants into his journey, which will ultimately send him to more than 4,200 venues.
Robins explains the impulse as a way of “demarcating who we are.” Whether you want to try every item at a given restaurant or eat your way through each eatery on a single street, these projects help people “explain life through something they’ve done,” he says.
Earlier this year, Robins began documenting his experience on his blog Feed the Monster, leading up to his ultimate meal. He expects to finish the adventure in mid-August before the release of the 2012 guide. The project’s final meal will be at the Los Angeles institution Pink’s Hot Dogs in an event he’s organized to raise money for cancer charities in honor of his father. And while he’s looking forward to completing his task, Robins is not celebrating until he’s finished.
“I have nightmares about the ferry breaking down on the way to Catalina or a restaurant being shut down by the health department for a month and a newly updated guide coming out before it reopens,” he says.
And does he have advice for other epic eaters? “Just go start it.”
From our friend at Blackboard Eats!