Close your eyes and think about the best hot chips you’ve ever had. Maybe it was at the pub, ages ago, when there was zero social-distancing and the footy matches on the screen had crowds in the stadiums. Or maybe you were at a chicken shop, and the chips – sparkling with chicken salt – were so oily and piping hot the cardboard takeaway box they came in started to sweat and lose its structural integrity?
Michael Hasler wants to find himself (and you) that perfect bowl of chips. And for the last few months he’s been documenting his findings – where you have to go, places you can probably give a miss – under his Instagram alter ego: Hot Chip Guy.
“I was always eating hot chips,” Hasler explains. “Not to exaggerate but probably like five times a week – which is maybe a bit unhealthy.
“But people kept asking me ‘where should I get my chips?’ and I’m like ‘oh ok, I guess I’m your guy.”
And so a legend was born.
It’s not often you get to speak with a bona fide fried-potato fanatic, and I had a lot of questions for Hot Chip Guy. Like, what’s the best sauce to put on a chip? “Garlic sauce, just the straight up garlic from the Lebanese places.” Or what fast food spot has the best chips? “Automatically you think KFC, but actually Red Rooster – as much as they’re rare now, Red Rooster is underrated.” It’s clear that Hasler knows his stuff, and a visit to the Hot Chip Guy Instagram page confirms it.
Every chip shot on the Hot Chip Guy grid is snapped super close up. This is for a few reasons. Firstly, because all niche Instagrams need a distinctive aesthetic (“I wanted it to look all yellow,” Hasler says). Secondly, being up that close and personal helps you notice the things that distinguish that chip from its peers (such as salt visibility, crispiness, colour – but we’ll get to that soon).
Mainly though, the photos are super close-ups because Hot Chip Guy is only interested in evaluating chips on their own merits. It doesn’t matter whether they’re from an upmarket steak house, or a slightly rough around the edges fish‘n’chipper – these chips need to speak for themselves. No leaning on attractive plating or sleek tables, thank you very much.
First things first: Hot Chip Guy reviews entire bowls or containers of chips. It’s more fair that way, he says, because even a mediocre bowl of chips has a pretty good chance of having at least one stellar chip in it. It makes more sense to judge chips based on the overall quality – from start to finish. (We couldn’t agree more.)
The review format is simple: there’s the venue name, the price, and the “crispy/soggy” ratio (Hasler’s ideal is “70 to 30 crispy to soggy chips”). Then you’ve got the value – how much you’re getting for your money is important to Hot Chip Guy, which is why you’ll see him tend towards referencing chicken shops over pubs. Finally, and perhaps most important to Hasler, is the salt level.
“I love salt. You just gotta have salt, salt, salt. [Chips] can never be too salty, I don’t think.”
What about chicken salt? Is that preferable to the regular kind?
“If you’ve got the option for chicken salt, it’s chicken salt every time.”
Hot Chip Guy has spoken.
At the end of the post, Hasler gives the chippies an overall score. To date, he’s only ever given one 10 out of 10. He bestowed the honour to Clem’s Chicken Shop, in Newtown. The overall score is based off the other criteria’s scores, with a dash of gut feeling on top. A Hot Chip Guy’s intuition, you might call it.
How do you know you’re having a perfect bowl of chips?
“Well [they make you want to] get some more don’t they?” says Hasler. “You’re talking to everyone you’re with about them and you want to keep eating – [you] keep looking in the bowl for the best one.
“[With] an average bowl, you’re just like, you’re not even looking. You’re just picking them up and shoving them in your mouth, you don’t even think about it. But good ones … yeah you really get into them, you get excited.”