The Psychology of a $666 “Doucheburger” and Other Haute Cuisine

What’s the most you’ve ever paid for a meal?

If you’re like most Americans, that number probably has three digits. Not all of us can afford todispense with $5,000 in order to fully experience the best cuisine that our nation has to offer. And of course, few things are seen as more obscene in today’s economic climate than walking past the unemployment line to spend rivers of money on haute cuisine across the street.

The insult is made worse, however, when the trappings of luxury are applied to foods known for their populist origins. There are two front-runners in this arena at the moment in New York. One is 666Burger's $666 Doucheburger, a hamburger which began as a joke made from “gold leafed Kobe beef formed around foie gras, then topped with cave aged gruyere, truffle butter, lobster, caviar, and kopi luwak bbq sauce”, and wrapped in three greasy $100 bills. The other, a$2,300 hot dog at the rooftop bar on 230 Fifth, counts onions caramelized in Dom Perignon and sauerkraut made with platinum oscetra caviar among its ingredients. The spiral-cut wienercosts as much as outfield season tickets to the Mets.

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The Psychology of a $666 Burger, and Other Haute Cuisine

What makes a dish stand out so much that a (presumably) sane person would spend twice as much – or ten times as much – as she would on the meal’s déclassé cousin? Is there something innately superior to foodstuffs like foie gras and truffle oil that justifies their astronomical cost?

My first piece for The Atlantic Health is about why we pay so much for gourmet food. If you’ve ever wondered about why lobsters or truffles are so damn expensive, it’s worth reading.