Finding something that makes you laugh, like really laugh, on the internet isn’t as easy as you’d think. I’m not talking about an actual lean-your-head-back and show-off-your-fillings kind of guffaw – I’m not an absolute psychopath. But even those small nostril exhale laughs you do when you’re watching a TikTok compilation of people falling over are getting increasingly harder to find online. Everything is so sincere and serious on the internet nowadays, with too many people and companies becoming overly precious about their “personal brand”, that it’s easy to scroll through your feed with the same stony-faced expression you’d have reading the obituary section of a newspaper.
One of the few accounts on Instagram that consistently makes me expel air out of my nose on a regular basis is @thesussmans. The account, which is run by American chef Eli Sussman, churns out food and restaurant-based memes that are a consistently sharp and zeitgeisty “shot, chaser” for anyone who’s ever worked in the hospitality industry. The best way I can describe it is that @thesussmans is an account I’m pretty sure Anthony Bourdain would have got a real kick out of. Eli is the co-chef and owner of Middle Eastern joint Samesa in New York and has worked enough kitchen jobs over the years to know all the ins, outs, and dirty little secrets of the industry. He’s a man who knows his way around a quart container and @thesussmans is kind of like a 2020s version of Orwell’s Down and Out In Paris and London – a time capsule of kitchen life aimed at jaded millennials who are addicted to Instagram.
Whether it’s a pointed post skewering David Chang’s obsession with his microwave or a more catchall one about that chef who always comes in and ruins the mise on your station, @thesussmans treads a fine line between satire and reality. Keeping up with the latest trends can be a time-consuming process and trying to stay relevant is never easy in the face of the unrelenting flow of content we’re assaulted by on a minute-by-minute basis but, in spite of all the years of quality posts, @thesussmans is yet to run dry. And a lot of that has to do with how Eli constantly has his finger of the pulse of the scene. After I heard the announcement of Noma closing for good, the first thing I pulled up on my phone wasn’t a reputable news site to read gushing odes about sea buckthorn but @thesussmans Instagram page to get all the spicy reactionary memes.
The memes are always on point but they often underlie some of the larger issues affecting the hospitality industry. Subjects like pay inequity and sexual harassment in the kitchen aren’t skirted over and kicked under the fridge like an ice cube but faced head-on and confronted with gallows humour. Eli Sussman isn’t just in charge of one of the funniest accounts around but also one of the most honest. It might seem, at times, like all Eli does is take the piss out of restaurants and tattooed commis chefs but it all comes from a place of love. He wants everyone in the industry – boneheaded restaurateurs, in particular – to do better. And if more out-of-touch owners followed @thesussmans Instagram account then I’m pretty sure the restaurant industry would be in a better place, too.