A crowd gathered in the backyard of Diamond Bar on Thursday night, and the people stood in the gravel horseshoe court holding pints of cold sweating beers or sat at picnic tables along the high fence, doing something New York diners almost never do. They were talking with strangers.
One of the biggest pitfalls of city dining is noticeable at any busy bistro or bustling noodle shop: Intimate conversational details are made public by the constraints of close proximity. You might hear all about last weekend’s rendezvous or inane banter about what’s going on around the office, but exchanges with those seated to your right or left are usually limited to an apology for an accidental table bump.
Adam Grant, a recent New York transplant from Australia wanted to change that. His brain child, and the reason for the chatty crowd on Thursday, is Jafflechutes — a playful pop-up concept designed to inspire conversation. And they talk because their dinner falls from the sky. “It’s a bit of a community thing,” Grant said.
Conceived with a team of friends, Jafflechutes began in Melbourne almost exactly a year ago as a way to do something that poked fun at the serious dining scene. “Doing something ridiculous is enough of a statement,” said Grant. “You sit in a queue for three months for a phone call for dinner. Why not throw it off a building?”
Pairing childhood nostalgia with a good dose of ridiculousness seemed appropriate, so Grant and his buddies began cooking Jaffles, the stuffed Australian sandwiches (similar to our good old grilled cheese), and then attached them to parachutes and dropped them to friends waiting below. So far, they have completed drops in Canada, the U.S., and Australia, developing a bit of a following on Facebook and Twitter along the way.
The triangular cheesy squares are placed into a paper bag with its intendeds name scribbled onto it, and then it’s wrangled into a plastic parachute and flung off the edge of the building. This results in the swell of noise from the crowd, the inevitable tangle in the fire escape, and the eventual drop. The lucky catcher, with the expression of a kid at a ball game with a foul ball shouts the name written on the parcel, and the recipient, who paid $5 online in advance, comes to claim their dinner.
Grant explained that many of the fun moments come in those last minute catches when a chute almost gets caught on a telephone wire or over the fence in a gust of wind. “The spectacle is in the fuck up,” he said. When the drops go exactly as planned, and he doesn’t need to make double the amount of sandwiches he allows for every drop, the crowd loses interest.
And the jaffles are worth sticking around for. Thursday’s offerings were made with soft whole wheat toast and filled with a cheddar-bacon-jalapeño mash-up, or a feta tomato mix, depending on your pre-ordered preference.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 5, 2014