Published Jul 11, 2014 Updated Mar 2, 2020, 1:26 am CST
This week, the Internet lost its collective mind over potato salad thanks to one Zack “Danger” Brown. This enterprising young fellow took to Kickstarter to try and crowdfund himself a potato salad. He wasn’t looking for much, just $10. That was before the Internet got involved.
At last count, Brown had made over $46,000 and counting—no doubt aided by some of the perks he offered for big backers, including potato salad recipe books, potato salad haikus, and potato salad hats. There were concerns that it might fall foul of Kickstarter’s terms and conditions, but, likely because of his magnanimous offer to give all his backers a bite, the crowdfunding website have now officially given the project the all-clear.
“There’s no reason to not take him at his word that this is a sincere project,” Kickstarter told us. “He’s been incredibly open and transparent along the way about his intent. Backers are in part responding to that transparency.”
With that hurdle out of the way, there’s now nothing stopping Brown from producing industrial quantities of potato salad (though he may face a hefty tax bill). But we got to thinking: Just how much potato salad is Brown going to have to make?
Obviously, the cost of the perks (hats, recipe books, signed jars of mayo) and the stretch goals—he promised to rent a town hall if they reached $3,000, for example—will make a dent in the total pot. Likewise, there’s tax to think about. But let’s keep it simple for now: How much potato salad could Zack “Danger” Brown make with $1,000?
First, we need ingredients for the potato salad.
Brown is largely mum on the specifics, though he has disclosed that it’ll contain dill. There’ll also obviously be potatoes, and mayonnaise.There may be additional ingredients but without knowing what they are, it’s impossible to factor them in—looks like it’ll be a quick and easy potato salad for us.
How much do we need of each ingredient? Looking at variousrecipes online, a suitable total weight ratio of potato:mayo:dill seems to be around 180:35:1. Next up: sourcing the ingredients.
Assuming Brown will have access to wholesale, Costco Business has on sale 22.7kg (50lb) boxes of potatoes for $11.13, and 13.6kg (30lb) of mayo will be $26.58. The herb dill is much more expensive, at $1.37 for just 30g. So how much of all this do you get for $1,000?
One full ratio—216 kilograms of potato salad—will cost $203.66. Scale this up to a full $1,000 and you’re gonna get a hefty 1,060.56 kg (2338.13 lbs) of potato salad, more than a metric ton.
The total costs for this are $439.94 on potatoes, $335.84 on mayonnaise, and $224.19 on dill.
But how many people will this metric-ton-and-then-some feed? Assuming each person gets a healthy portion of 200g (about half a pound) each of the potato salad, then 1,060.56kg (2,338 lbs) of potato salad stands to feed a whopping 5,402 people—making each portion just $0.19. (If Brown does anything crazy, like add bacon or lemons, then obviously this price will increase, and the number of people served will go down.)
But we’re not done yet. After all, the Kickstarter hasn’t raised $1,000—it’s raised more than $46,000. Yes, Brown has pledged to spend money on other things too, but let’s for a moment imagine that he decided to spend all of that money on potato salad, and potato salad alone.
Brown would be tasked with preparing 107,554 lbs on potato salad—and that would stand to feed a truly vast 231,932 people. That’s more than the entire estimated attendance at Coachella in 2010 (225,000).
Incidentally, the total weight is just under that of 10 male African elephants.
Impressive? We’re just getting started.
Brown’s Kickstarter project still has 21 days to go. While its growth has been very stop-start, it makes sense to ask—what if it continues to grow at this rate? Well, by the end of the month, he could expect to see total funding of $153,000.
That’s 162,265 kilograms of potato salad, capable of feeding 826,506 people. Mother of God.
To put that in perspective, that’s almost as heavy as an unladen 747-400 Jumbo Jet (392,423 lbs), and it’s enough to feed the entire population of San Francisco (805,235), and then some.
The last few days have been relatively slow for Brown’s campaign, so it may be that he fails to reach such an auspicious goal. It may be that he only manages to raise $100,000, just allowing him to feed the combined populations of Miami, Berkeley and Santa Monica. Or if he scrapes $75,000 after taxes, he’ll be faced with the ignominy of only being able to feed every single person who lives in Oakland.
So what have we learned from all this?
For one, no matter how sincere Brown’s intentions are, he desperately needs to recruit (a lot of) external caterers of he’ll be utterly swamped. Even if the root vegetable entrepreneur doesn’t raise another cent, pays a hefty tax bill and spends half of everything he’s earned on the other perks, he’s still facing making enough potato salad for close to 100,000 people with the money left over.
And secondly: Potato salad is really freaking cheap.
Rob Price is a technology and politics reporter who served as the U.K.-based morning editor for the Daily Dot until 2014. He now works as the news editor for Business Insider, and his work has appeared in Vice, Slate, the Washington Post, and the Independent.