What a $184 Cheese Sandwich Can Teach Us About Hype & Value

Would you pay $184 for this?

Last week, Britain’s Daily Mail reported that celebrity chef Martin Blunos created a very unique sandwich with a menu price of $184.61.

According to Blunos, who happens to be a Michelin-starred chef, “We Brits are known to love our cheese sandwiches, and here’s one that not only comes with a royal price tag but is fit for the banqueting table.”

I know what you’re thinking: Did he really say cheese sandwich?

I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to pay $184.61 for lunch – not counting my beer, plus tax and tip — I want something a bit more substantial than a cheese sandwich. In fact, I would demand that my sandwich be loaded up with a couple pounds of thinly sliced Kobe beef. I’d also want a bag of chips and a lobster tail on the side with drawn butter.

And a pickle spear.

By the way, I would also insist that the sandwich be slathered with a gallon of Grey Poupon. Never mind that I hate Dijon mustard; I’d do it just to ensure I got my money’s worth.

Of course, Chef Blunos doesn’t work at Burger King, so I assume if you want to try his $184.61 gourmet sandwich you’ll get it his way, darn it, or you won’t get it at all.

His triple-decker vegetarian sandwich is made with a very expensive gourmet cheddar cheese infused with white truffles.

In addition to the cheese, the sandwich also includes such gourmet additions as quail’s egg, pea shoots, black heirloom tomatoes, red amaranth, epicure apple, and fresh figs.

And instead of using fresh Wonder bread (his only culinary misstep in creating this dish, in my humble opinion), Chef Blunos uses a fancy sourdough that costs $8.40 per loaf.

He then dresses everything up with a little extra virgin olive oil and 100-year-old balsamic vinegar.

Voila! Add it all up and you have a $184 cheese sandwich.

Buying Into the Hype

Is this really necessary?

After all, why would anyone pay $184.61 for a sandwich when you can often run down the street and get a foot-long sub for as little as five bucks?

Those who prefer to make their own sandwiches can save even more. Even the BLT — which is typically the most expensive sarnie in my annual brown bag sandwich surveys — costs an average of only $2.50 to make at home.

Perhaps the biggest lesson here is to observe how the makers of this over-priced sandwich successfully hype their product; the Daily Mail bought into it hook, line and sinker.

Blunos’ creation is called a “luxury snack,” apparently to keep it from being associated with those more mundane sandwiches that we usually eat for lunch.

Then again, please don’t call it a sandwich. It’s actually a “gourmet dish.”

Furthermore, the sandwich — I mean gourmet dish — is not simply slapped together either. It’s “hand-crafted.” Presumably with all the care and craftsmanship of a Swiss watchmaker.

The Daily Mail even goes so far as to proclaim the sandwich a “masterpiece,” as if it were on par with the works of Michelangelo, Bach, or Dickens. Really?

So What Can We Learn From This?

We get bombarded with this type of sales speak on a daily basis, although the products usually aren’t quite so gaudy and over the top as this particular gastronomical creation.

The trick is to take a deep breath and not get caught up in the hype. It is certainly okay to pay extra for quality; the real trick comes down to evaluating whether or not the premium paid for that better quality results in an appropriate degree of added value.

By the way, did I mention that Blunos tops off his “hand-crafted masterpiece gourmet dish” with a sprinkle of edible gold dust? He does.

Hopefully he permits his patrons to take their gold dust on the side if they wish.

Who knows? With the price of precious metals today, customers might even be able to sell their gold dust and get a small rebate on their lunch.

Oops. I mean luxury snack.

Photo Credit: SWNS

(This is an updated version of an article that originally posted on September 13, 2010.)

Comments

  1. 1

    Olivia says

    As we’re struggling with lost gym shorts (after one day, to be purchased again), anticipated surgery, and how to pass non-fat dry milk off as the “real deal”, your article cheered my day.

  2. 2

    says

    Len, I guess the only thing that would be more ridiculous would be if he sold any of the things.

    The list of ingredients doesn’t make my gastric juices run!

    But, I have given up trying to figure out “artists” years ago.
    Oops, I need to run get my burger off my “Big Green Egg”, eaten with my wife’s homemade wheat bread, the closest I will get to a gourmet sandwich!

    • 5

      says

      I’m a foodie. I’d be tempted. Sounds delish!!! Truffle cheese?!? Count me in!
      (hubby would quickly rein me in however, so it would probably only go so far as temptation)

      In other amazing cheese foods: Cheese Fudge from Wisconsin made with cheddar cheese. Sounds weird, tastes amazing.

  3. 7

    John says

    You are right. The marketers have a whole other language they use when shilling their products. My favorite is car dealers latest love affair with the replacement of the term “used car” with “certified pre-owned.”

  4. 8

    says

    It sounds like Chef Blunos is a marketing genius. If he can get customers to purchase a cheese sandwich (or hand-crafted luxury snack) for $168 bucks, then he could probably sell sand to a desert dweller. Maybe he’s in the wrong business?

  5. 9

    says

    This is a total marketing scam. All the chef had to do was to create something over the top, fatten up a couple of reporters and Bam, free publicity.

    I remember reading about a $1,000 omlete not too long ago. I’m pretty sure they didn’t sell many of those, but it sure made the news.

  6. 10

    Pineview Style says

    Cheese, apples, eggs, and figs. Doesn’t sound like a tasty combo for me. But, hey, maybe my pallet isn’t sopisticated enough for me to appreiciate that combo.

    One thing I can guarentee, though. Sans, the gold dusting, it’s gonna look roughly the same as a $5 foot long when it comes out the other end….

  7. 12

    says

    Hand-crafted, masterpiece… looks like Chef Blunos has access to some marketing geniuses.

    I was going to say that if I am buy a cheese sandwich for $168 I want it to be wrapped in a gold chain or something :) but it looks the sandwich is sprinkled with powdered gold. Now it is even less appetizing to me.

  8. 13

    says

    For that same $168, one could get 33 Subway $5 footlong subs, plus a few bucks for a couple of bags of chips. Keep a few for the family, give away the rest to destitute folks down on their luck. It would provide more enjoyment and positive feeling than that cheese sandwich!

  9. 14

    says

    @Olivia: Thank you. Comments like yours are always very gratifying to read.
    @Dr. Dean: Okay, you stumped me! What the heck is a “Big Green Egg?” :-)
    @Barb: I agree! But I’ve always been partial to Togo’s.
    @John: You mean those pre-owned cars are actually used? ;-) Great example of sales speak!
    @Little House: Word up, Jennifer. I’ll bet you a cheese sandwich (made with Wonder Bread and American cheese) there are plenty of folks who can afford it that will try it.
    @Bret: You’re right. Now that you mention it, I guess I am actually aiding and abetting the good chef. LOL Oh well. Maybe I’ll make a PB&J sandwich and offer it up for $10,000 just to see if I get any publicity!
    @Pineview Style: LOL! Well said. :-)
    @Jenna: That sounds delicious. I like tomato on my grilled cheese sandwiches. The Honeybee uses hot sauce on hers.
    @Suba: I really would like to know the value of the powdered gold. I wonder if it is “industrial grade” or something far less than .9999 pure. It has to be, right?
    @Squirrelers: Amazing isn’t it? Did you look at the picture of that sandwich? It didn’t even look half as appetizing as a Subway $5 footlong.

  10. 16

    says

    When I saw this title, I thought you were going to talk about the NY Chef that was making cheese out of his wife’s breast milk. This at least isn’t as disturbing.

  11. 17

    says

    I don’t want to eat gold dust, edible or not!

    I want to go to that restaurant, and smack anyone that buys that cheese sandwich. I wonder how many people have bought one?

  12. 19

    says

    @Dr. Dean: Wow. Just checked out the site. Thanks for the tip. I may have to get me a “mini.”
    @Sandy: Stop it. Please, PLEASE stop! LOL
    @Everyday: Don’t know. But I bet the Daily Mail reporter got to buy one on the company dime in the name of research.
    @Olivia: I hear ya, sister.

  13. 21

    says

    I could do without the eggs and gold dust.

    Aged balsamic vinegar though really is amazing. I haven’t tried 100 year, but the 50 year is amazing on vanilla ice cream.

    I can see how it might be a good contrast for the musty flavor of truffle oil. (“Is that the part of the sandwich that tastes like foot?”)

    I might pay $20 to try such a sandwich, depending on what my other options were. Not $168.

  14. 22

    Ray says

    I’d rather have a jowl bacon,head cheese and onion sandwich with jalepeno mustard on it. German pumpernickle bread of coarse.

  15. 23

    David C. says

    For $184, it had better be so good that I will want to smoke a cigarette while I bask in the afterglow…

  16. 24

    John says

    I really don’t think my taste buds are able to tell the difference between this piece of marketing fluff overkill and a nice grilled cheese on wheat for more than one bite. I must not appreciate the finer gastro-things, other than anchovy and onion pizza of course.

  17. 26

    Karen Kinnane says

    I’ll pass on the $185. cheese sandwich in favor of a home made bacon and tomato (tomatoes fresh from the garden in a few weeks, so it’s not instant gratification) sandwich on Arnold’s multi grain whole wheat bread. I do take umbrage with the Daily’s Mail’s faulty grammar in calling this oddball example of the sandwich maker’s art “…a very unique sandwich…”. Dear Daily Mail editing staff, an item is “unique” (one of a kind) or it isn’t. By the way, this sandwich isn’t, anyone wishing to combine these disparate ingredients could make one to while away his / her spare time and dispose of excess gold dust lying around the kitchen. Among the words you were searching for and missed are “unusual”, “rare”, “outrageously expensive” and possible a bit of the truth like, “pointless”.

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