CELESTE HEADLEE: We mentioned food trucks just a moment ago, and our next guest probably has visited quite a few of them 'cause he's an expert on fast food. Food critic and YouTube personality Daymon Patterson is traveling now to major cities like Atlanta, Chicago and New Orleans to find the best take-out spots in the country. And he samples the food right in the front seat of his car when it's at its hottest and its freshest.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BEST DAYM TAKE-OUT")
DAYMON PATTERSON: Oh, that french fry is fresh. Lightly salted. That crinkle-cuttin' machine really makes these fries crispy. It's almost like buttery on the inside, like a baked potato that you lathered up with a lot of butter is on the inside of your french fry.
HEADLEE: That is Daymon Patterson in his new TV show "Best Daym Take-Out." It premieres on July 31st on the Travel Channel. You may want to check your local listings for exact times, though. And Daymon Patterson joins us now from NPR member station WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut. Welcome.
PATTERSON: Thank you. Thank you. Great to be here.
HEADLEE: Tell me about how you got to this point of doing a TV show visiting take-out restaurants?
PATTERSON: It's amazing what happens when you start shooting a few food reviews on YouTube. Basically for the last 17 years, before YouTube took off for me and the television, of course, I was doing retail management. And I went from half-hour lunches to hour lunches. The craziest thing, though, you know, when you're working for retail, the moment you step outside that building and leave the parking lot, fast food is everywhere. It's like ease of location. You have McDonald's, you have Burger King, Wendy's, Subway.
It's like right in front of your face, so it's the quickest thing to grab, eat and then get right back to work. Before I started doing food reviews on YouTube, I was actually just filming pretty much things in my, you know, general area, and I was like the news reporter for what was kind of going on in my backyard, I can say. And I would put those, you know, news reports up on YouTube. But when I went and actually did my first food review, I was actually working for Walmart at the time, and I recall going to Burger King. I picked up the French toast sticks.
Did a quick food review on those, and that one video actually received more views than all the other, you know, videos that I was doing for my little news reports. I was like, people actually like watching me eat? OK. No, no. You know, can't be.
HEADLEE: Let me correct you here, Daymon, 'cause they're not watching you eat, they're watching your reaction, which is possibly the best reaction ever that anybody ever had to fast food. Let's listen to another clip so people understand what I'm talking about. This is from "Best Daym Take-Out." Here you are reviewing Pequod's Pizza in Lincoln Park, Chicago.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BEST DAYM TAKE-OUT")
PATTERSON: That's the type of pie that you just want to marry. That's a pizza. That's a super official pizza. That pizza is truly getting a Dayum, Dayyum, Dayyyum type of pizza.
HEADLEE: See, that's what people are going to your YouTube reviews to get. I mean, it is so enjoyable. It makes me smile to see how much you enjoy some of this food. Were you always this passionate about the food that you ate?
PATTERSON: That's the thing, like, in the very beginning, my tone was just different in general, and it was just because, you know, I was doing quick food reviews in the front seat of the vehicle, of course, and giving my feedback on the food. Over time, though, I think the passion grew a little more strong because I went in a little bit deeper with each review. Each review I try to tweak it just a little bit to give a little bit more energy into the review, and from where I started to where I am today with the food reviews, is like night and day right now.
HEADLEE: What's your favorite kind of take-out? I mean, and we know you like french fries. We're going to talk a little bit more about that in a moment. But is it burgers? Tacos? Pizza? What's the best kind of take-out food?
PATTERSON: I definitely put my super official stamp on burgers because even when I go to regular establishments, outside of the fast food, if they can't do a burger the right way, I don't want anything else that's on their menu.
HEADLEE: OK. So, I mean, take-out food is going to kill you. You realize that, Daymon, right?
PATTERSON: Well, here's the best thing about take-out food, all right. You have seven days out of a week. So if you're doing reviews once out of seven days and you stay in the gym like I do three to four times a week, which I do at Planet Fitness, you're going to be just fine. You got to create that balance. Life is all about balance. Anything you do excessively is going to get at you.
HEADLEE: OK. You're six-five, so you have a lot of room...
HEADLEE: ...To fit take-out food in there. I want to ask you, though, about your habit of eating the food right in the front seat. Is there something about the experience of eating in the car that's important?
PATTERSON: It's extremely important. The moment you actually order your take-out, right then and there, it's actually still hot. So if you take take-out and you bring it home, it's going to start getting cold, you might want to toss it in the microwave. It's never the same at that point.
If you can get it hot and fresh, the moment you take it from the individual's hands or from the counter, whatever the case may be, you bring it to your front seat. You attack it right then and there. That's when you're going to get the best flavors. It's going to start busting in your mouth.
HEADLEE: So, I mean, in your reviews, does it matter whether the food is messy or not? Does it need to have some sort of ease of portability in order to be good?
PATTERSON: Presentation is everything. Now let me tell you, and sometimes, you know, individuals tend to - they're rushing, and I definitely understand that. They throw things on the food. They kind of throw it into the bag. If I open the bag, I'm going to give you everything that I'm seeing as I see it. So if the food looks sloppy, I'm going to zoom in on the sloppiness of the food. Presentation is definitely everything.
HEADLEE: Well, let's go back to your love of the french fry, and this is kind of the beginning of your viral nature, Daymon Patterson, from your start on YouTube. This is a little music video spin-off that someone made using your review of the burger joint Five Guys. Take a listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "OH MY DAYUM")
HEADLEE: So, I mean, I assume you've seen that mix already?
PATTERSON: Oh, but of course. And I definitely have to thank the Gregory Brothers on YouTube for making that mix happen. It's actually called "Oh My Dayum." Over 15 million views right now. And what they basically did, they took my - this is like six and a half minutes on a Five Guys Burger and Fries review - and they chopped it up, down to like a little over two minutes, and turned it into a song. And they auto-tuned it, and they made the magic happen for me.
HEADLEE: So part of your - big part of your Five Guys review was about the french fries. And this is something you focus on a lot, which is understandable for take-out food. But I wanted to talk about what is the ideal french fry. What is it? Is it crispy and thin? Is it a larger, like a steak fry, that's more mushy? What's the perfect fry?
PATTERSON: When you're dealing with, like, fast food, in my eyes, it's definitely going to be that thin, crispy french fry. Lightly salted - not heavily salted - lightly salted just for a little bit extra bite on the fry. It makes it a beautiful thing. Now, if for whatever given reason you have a steak right next to you, that little skinny fry is not going to put in the work. That's when you want to go with that thicker cut of french fry right there.
HEADLEE: What if it's a steak sandwich? Does that count?
PATTERSON: Steak sandwich, you can go either way with the steak sandwich.
HEADLEE: OK. I just wanted to get that clear. OK, so if you had to choose one particular kind of take-out food, anything at all - Mexican, Chinese, Korean-barbecue, your beloved burger - if you had to pick one for the rest of your life, what would it be?
PATTERSON: You ready for this one?
HEADLEE: I'm ready.
PATTERSON: Are you sitting down properly for this one?
HEADLEE: I am braced.
PATTERSON: I'm definitely going to say the shrimp po'boy right now. I fell in love with the shrimp po'boy in New Orleans and, you know, it actually brought a tear to my eye when I took my first bite. So that's what I'm going with.
HEADLEE: Wait, you literally started crying?
PATTERSON: Yeah. You know, I'm a grown man but I will cry over some food if it's that good, yes. Yes. You hear it here first, yes.
HEADLEE: All right. So if I want to get the best shrimp po'boy in New Orleans, where do I go?
PATTERSON: You're going to find that directly in the French Quarter. And there's going to be a few different establishments, they all know how to do it the right way, but you don't want to go outside of New Orleans for that shrimp po'boy. You make sure you get it right at home.
HEADLEE: OK. Daymon Patterson, great advice. He's host of the new reality TV show "Best Daym Take-Out." It premieres on July 31st on the Travel Channel. Thank you so much.
PATTERSON: Thank you for having me.
HEADLEE: And that's our program for today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.