FiveThirtyEight

Flying for burritos, FiveThirtyEight correspondent tastes them all

(Photo credit: Anna Maria Barry-Jester)
Anna Maria Barry-Jester eating a burrito with her GoPro fork.
(Photo courtesy of Anna Maria Barry-Jester)

Balancing her “burrito-cam” fork, field medic’s “dissection kit” and a 4,000-calorie-a-day diet, FiveThirtyEight’s Burrito Correspondent Anna Maria Barry-Jester (@annabarryjester) is tackling a task that would humble the hungriest.

She’s the taste-tester behind “In Search of America’s Best Burrito,” the first national bracket rating burritos from 64 restaurants throughout the country.

“. . .So the next day he helped me create this fork with the GoPro attached at the end, to get a first-person fork perspective of the eating process.”
Anna Maria Barry-Jester on working with her uncle on creating a “burrito-cam” fork

With data provided by Yelp, FiveThirtyEight came up with the initial pool of restaurants, which was then culled down by a panel of expert judges, including Barry-Jester.

Her latest review in FiveThirtyEight’s summer-long series looks into some of the best burritos in the California region. It’s the last step before Round 2 begins next week, when Barry-Jester will start selecting the four finalists – one per region – on a biweekly basis.

Front Row spoke with Barry-Jester about her travels, conditioning and what she needs to perform a “burrito autopsy.”

Are you sick of burritos?
I’m kind of sick of eating 4,000 calories a day, but I’m not sick of burritos.

Have you intensified your workout routine?
I haven’t upped it, but I’m definitely trying to stick to it. I like to rock climb when I can and I try to go to the gyms in the hotels.

Tell us about the fork with the GoPro camera. How did that come about?
I bought a GoPro camera to do some time lapses while driving, and I had been joking with my uncle [Mark Wofford] about a “burrito-cam.” He works in a lumberyard, so the next day he helped me create this fork with the GoPro attached at the end, to get a first-person fork perspective of the eating process.

“I travel with a field medic’s dissection kit. That started with this crazy idea to cut open the burritos down the middle to give a better sense of how they are constructed and what ingredients are in each of them.”
Anna Maria Barry-Jester on what she needs to conduct “burritopsies”

Interestingly in the middle of the country, there are a lot of wet burritos [as described in one of her articles: “smothered burritos” that “come covered in red chili sauce and shredded cheese and usually require a knife and fork”], so I use it at these places.

What about all the other tools, as featured in your introductory video (see below)?
I travel with a field medic’s dissection kit. That started with this crazy idea to cut open the burritos down the middle to give a better sense of how they are constructed and what ingredients are in each of them.

Have any of the restaurants that you rated reached out and asked you to come back?
Yes, about half of the restaurants are really active on social media. One of the owners of a restaurant actually went to another one in the bracket that had gotten a higher rating to give a try to learn from it, which I thought was pretty cool.

If you could do another bracket/national search, what food would you pick?
Ice cream or certainly tacos.

Close