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Fancy Fast Food

Reasonable people may differ on the tastiness of Chicken McNuggets or the latest nacho-cheese-and-bacon-laden burrito novelty at Taco Bell, but there is one attribute of fast food I think we can all agree on: it's fast. Well, and it's cheap. But it's not healthy, and it certainly isn't pretty.That ...

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Spicy Chicken Sushi, converted Fancy Popeyes Fried Chicken. Credit: Eric Trinidad


Reasonable people may differ on the tastiness of Chicken McNuggets or the latest nacho-cheese-and-bacon-laden burrito novelty at Taco Bell, but there is one attribute of fast food I think we can all agree on: it's fast. Well, and it's cheap. But it's not healthy, and it certainly isn't pretty.

That is, it's not pretty until the wizard behind a blog called Fancy Fast Food gets a hold of it. Erik R. Trinidad, the site's creator, shows that by taking fast out of the equation you can turn an ordinary Happy Meal into a "culinary masterpiece."

I've written previously about the time and effort food stylists put into prettying up menu items to be photographed for ads, but the dishes on Fancy Fast Food are complete transformations. Trinidad, though not a professional stylist, traces the roots of his interest in food presentation to his childhood. "My brother and I used to play what we called 'Iron Chef Buffet' at those Chinese buffets, trying to outdo each other with the fanciest presentation of a dish," he says.

His creations include the BK Quiche, constructed from disassembled Burger King breakfast sandwiches. Spicy Chicken Sushi is made from Popeye's fried chicken. Tacobellini is a tortellini-resembling dish made from Taco Bell burritos and tacos. My favorite entry, Tapas de Castillo Blanco, is a platter of finger foods made from White Castle Slyders and fried clams. All of the dishes include recipes and helpful photos, should you wish to replicate these impressive-looking (if not tasting) meals. The visual transformations don't really improve the food's flavor, Trinidad says. "It's all processed food anyway, and I just add another process."

Popeyes fast food, before it was transformed into art. Credit: Eric Trinidad

The site started as a goof on the "foodie" movement, he says. "I think the pretentiousness that comes with calling oneself a 'foodie' has gone overboard these days, and FancyFastFood.com aims to poke fun at these  self- important gourmands as if to say, 'Hey, you can have fancy food too, just by going to McDonald's or Taco Bell!' Granted, it's still bad for you."

Aspiring fast food gourmets can also submit their own creations to the site. The rules are that you can only use food purchased at a fast food restaurant, without other ingredients (except as a simple garnish), and you have to send before and after photos.

The latest submission, a Wendy's Napoleon made from a Baconator Combo, was whipped up by Adrian Fiorino, and includes an impressive spun sugar garnish and a sauce made from Coke and ketchup. Judging from the link to his own blog, Insanewiches, Fiorino is a guy who enjoys playing with cold cuts. Take note of the Rubix Cubewich, a truly horrifying concoction of cubed meats, cheeses and pork fat.

If you're still hungry for food play, top off the visual feast at  Threadcakes, a fun cake decorating contest where cakes are based on designs from the T-shirt company Threadless.
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About Lisa Bramen
Lisa Bramen

Lisa Bramen was a frequent contributor to Smithsonian.com's Food and Think blog. She is based in northern New York and is also an associate editor at Adirondack Life magazine.

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