Crazy and ridiculous. These are two words social media star Joel Haas often uses to describe his self-styled food adventures, which have taken him to dozens of Michelin-starred restaurants across the United States. Over the past six years, he’s chowed down on more than 775 meals at world-class restaurants, including more than 530 such meals in Washington, D.C., where he lives.
Armed with his iPhone, a table light and his extensive background in satellite radio and comedy content production, Haas shoots and edits energetic videos of himself munching on every course and, with the help of his girlfriend, posts them to his @highspeeddining handle onInstagram andTikTok, where he reaches a combined audience of more than a million followers. Haas eats out daily — usually by himself — and typically orders twice as much food as he can eat so he can arrange it at home as tasting menus. He says all of his meals come from restaurants, and that he burns the calories off by walking at least 16 kilometres daily and pumping iron. Haas says this is all his way of spreading his love for fine food and supporting world-class restaurants. “I’m just a kid in the candy store, and this candy is great,” he says.
Herewith, Haas takes Fine Dining Lovers behind the scenes of his obsession, and offers tips on how you too can enjoy the good life.
How do you decide where to eat?
I often read other reviews and things. The Washington Post puts out reviews. Washingtonian magazine puts out reviews. I’m always reading about new restaurant releases in all of the local publications. You know, anytime there’s a new chef doing a new place, you’ll want to try it.
How long does it take for you to produce your videos?
The reels for Instagram and TikTok videos generally take between one to three hours, because there is a lot of production and effort going in. I’m doing layers of video moving around with audio. I can hold a camera different than most people. I was born with no fingers on my left hand and when I was about 3 years old, I had surgery to sort of give me — I always call it a claw — but it’s just really good clamping ability. So, I’ve always made literally the best with the hand I’ve been dealt in life.
How can you afford to do this every day, and in 14 U.S. states and counting? Eating at Michelin-starred restaurants isn’t cheap.
I’ve done well with my early radio days in satellite radio. My outside activities of recording and producing comedy albums with comedians has helped. And my comedy content production company has done well for me, producing comedy content over the years. And with no wife and no kids, I’ve been able to save up much, much easier. As I like to say, I’m spending the money I saved for the college educations of the kids I’ve never had. So, I like to say kids’ college education money tastes very delicious.
What are five tips for snagging a spot at Michelin-starred restaurants in DC?
First and foremost, be ready and understand which day reservations go up. Saturdays are always going to fill up first. If you’re flexible, take a weekday, you’ll have a better shot at it. If you’re flexible with your times — I have no problem doing an 8 or 9 p.m. or a 5 p.m. reservation — you’ll have more options.
Restaurants that always sell out, get on their waitlist. That’s how I, a week or two before myMinibar meal, I got a Saturday night, prime-time seat that just opened up.
Call a restaurant and ask about making reservations because some restaurants hold some reservations back. If you don’t see the information on websites, email, or call and ask.
You definitely need to plan way in advance. If you’re thinking, ‘It’s Wednesday, let’s find a restaurant for Friday night, Saturday night,’ odds are you’re not going to find a good place. But if it’s a restaurant like theInn at Little Washington, that allows cancellations up to a couple of days in advance, those types of places can work out.
Take a chance with restaurants that are a second or third from a chef you’re familiar with, because you know it’s going to be high quality. Those are often the future Michelin-star restaurants. If you go to the new places from these Michelin-star chefs, rarely do they go backwards with quality with the new places.
What’s next for High Speed Dining?
At some point I do have to start monetising things. It’s a little silly to be sitting next to other social influencers at a restaurant where I’m gladly and proudly paying and tipping really well, and they’re eating a free meal and getting a lot more food. I’m not saying that’s how I want to do it. I’d love to discover a way to monetise this, but without taking stuff from restaurants, because they’re having a hard time. I want to take things internationally. So many followers and fans on TikTok want to see me hit restaurants around the world. I would like to see something bigger like a travel food show. But I can make money without a show.
Given that you eat a ton of food, and ‘High Speed Dining’ is your brand, have you ever considered competitive eating?
Never. I am anti-competitive eating. I’m about taking my time and really trying to enjoy the ingredients and savouring each thing. I’m competitive eating with the number of restaurants and places I eat, but not with how much food I eat in a quick period. High Speed Dining really stands for: I show you a three-hour meal in 30 seconds. It’s also about when I visit a city, I will speed dine at as many high-quality restaurants as I can. At the end of the meal, I’ve eaten as much as competitive eaters.
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