“Cheese is a state of mind,” Graham Burns and Jackson Cook muse over a rich lunch of croque monsieur, steak frites and avocado toast with pickled spicy mango at The Brooklyn Label (180 Franklin St.). The food-obsessed Greenpoint duo, who go by The Brothers Buoy*, tell me they originally met filming an episode of Nickelodeon’s Legends of The Hidden Temple. Sadly, they weren’t dexterous enough under pressure to assemble the Shrine of the Silver Monkey, and lost the game. Later they admit the tale is fictional, funnier and more captivating than how they actually met—working at Apple. And no, they’re not actual brothers.
But the fake backstory, and their mutual love of all things cheese reveals how often their tongues are planted firmly in their cheeks while simultaneously tasting delicious foods. If you’ve never seen their Instagram account, it’s a food blog—beautifully-shot photography paired with unapologetic writing. To them, food is a sexy beast waiting to be conquered, and they’ve got a voracious appetite that shows through their images and words.
The Brothers Buoy started out as food podcasters, so the guys could share their love of local food establishments with their friends who were always asking them what’s good. Over time the podcast transformed to an Instagram-based blog. They were frustrated with what they saw as a lot of unoriginal content in the food review world; everyone was going to the same hotspots and taking identical pictures. Sometimes the pics are of the actual food, and sometimes they’re just pictures of people waiting in line for food. Undoubtedly, wannabe food bloggers are in an infinite circle jerk. (See: Dominique Ansel’s cronut, the rainbow bagel, and the next-level milkshake craze among others.)
In an era when egos and creativity are measured in Likes, “It seems like they’re just doing it for themselves,” says Jackson, when speaking about social influencers. The Brothers’ indifference about the Rainbow Bagel phenomena was obvious in their post about it—they snapped a pic of a rainbow bagel on the pavement, dried up and unappetizing. “We can all agree that @instagram at times can just feel like a scavenger hunt, yea? Like, some wild new food item comes out and it’s a race to see who can go take a real samey picture of it the fastest? Someone drops a milkshake in a bag of Halloween candy and everyone gets a boner that breaks the sound barrier,” Jackson wrote in the post. The Bagel Store un-tagged themselves in the ’gram.
Reflecting on their disdain for influencer foodies, Graham and Jackson saw an opportunity to spotlight under-the-radar joints, “legitimately take good pictures” and write about them in an original and not purely complimentary way. It’s clear that they’re not trying to cater to what everyone else is doing. Instead, they make fun of the oft-blogged food scene—“National Donut Day—why is that a thing?” says Graham. Undoubtedly, every day could and should be National Donut Day.
And they admit they’re “playing the game too,” but Jackson maintains that in the oversaturated food influencer world, “There’s no room to take yourself seriously.” The Brothers lean into the absurdity of it all, though they insist, “The point is to share great food and places to eat.”
In addition to their Insta-blog, they’ve also started hosting events at restaurants they’re obsessed with. The pair had been to a few food blogger meetups, which to them seemed pretty lame. The events weren’t geared towards meeting people or even the actual dining experience, but instead were slapdash occasions for restaurants’ PR teams to shuffle food bloggers into a room to take identical photos of a perfectly plated dish. People didn’t seem to be enjoying the food, or even the experience. So the guys decided to start throwing their own events, focused around meeting likeminded foodies over a solid meal. At their events, they snap candid shots of people having a good time at the table along with unstaged beauty shots of the restaurant spaces themselves, and of course lots of food photos.
So, The Brooklyn Label. “The last time I was in here, Ted Danson was in here,” Graham says of the restaurant’s former iteration. It’s been recently re-opened under new ownership, with a redesigned space and updated menu. We met with chef Stephane Larouse (who’s worked alongside Iñaki Aizpitarte, the chef behind Paris’ famed Le Chateaubriand), and he told us a little more about the revamped restaurant. The new owners were seeking to create a bistro with “French-inspired American food,” focusing on organic and local ingredients. It’s true it’s not the same Brooklyn Label of years past. With the former owners’ blessing, the new proprietors added “The” to the front of the name not to confuse people, but because they liked the name’s origins and presumably wanted to give it a little more formality. The revamped space feels slightly less casual (and decidedly less shabby) than it once did, but it’s still approachable. They wanted to retain the authentic Brooklyn neighborhood café feel, but add touches of French sophistication. The diverse bistro fare reflects those ideals, too.
What did the guys think about our lunch at The Brooklyn Label? “It’s surprisingly good,” Graham says. Jackson adds— “It might be better than it used to be.”
This week The Brothers Buoy is taking over Greenpointers’ Instagram. Look out for some dank food-related posts on our Insta feed.
The Brooklyn Label is located at 180 Franklin Street in Greenpoint. They’re open for lunch and dinner, and now have their full liquor license.
*Buoy is not a fancy way to spell “boy”; it’s the nautical term for a floating object that moves with the motion of the ocean.