A Taste of History: China Sea Restaurant and the Infamous Arrest That Became a Meme

China Sea Restaurant is more than just an eatery; it’s a piece of living history. For decades, this establishment has been serving up delectable Chinese cuisine to the residents and visitors of Brisbane, and even building a legacy that intertwines with one of Australia’s most infamous public arrests.

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The restaurant originally stood in China Town in Fortitude Valley, and was the site of a dramatic moment on 11 October 1991. On that day, the quiet ambiance of the China Sea Restaurant was shattered by the arrest of Jack Karlson. 

This event would later become the centrepiece of a viral meme, thanks to Karlson’s eccentric outbursts during his arrest. Phrases like “This is democracy manifest!” and “What is the charge? Eating a meal? A succulent Chinese meal?” have since become part of Australian pop culture. 

Karlson, a known serial prison escapee, was apprehended by the Queensland Police Service at the time for suspected credit card fraud. However, he continues to assert his innocence to this day and stated that it was a case of mistaken identity.

Today, China Sea Restaurant, relocated in Milton, continues to serve as a haven for lovers of Chinese cuisine. The restaurant has maintained its commitment to quality, offering a menu that features classic dishes prepared with the freshest ingredients. 

The establishment has also embraced its quirky place in history. Diners often reminisce about the famous incident, and the restaurant’s atmosphere is steeped in the lore of that day. Google reviews frequently mention the iconic event, with one patron humorously noting, “In this beautiful democratic nation of ours, my mates and I enjoyed a delicious and succulent Chinese meal with no problems from the authorities.”

Photo credit: Bill Pippin/Google Maps 

In an exciting development, Jack Karlson himself will return to the China Sea Milton to commemorate the announcement of a new documentary about his life. Titled The Man Who Ate Succulent Chinese Meal, the film is set to explore the intriguing story of Karlson, from his troubled childhood and dramatic escapes from prison to his unexpected rise to meme stardom.

Director Heath Davis and producer Tim Randall, both captivated by the original news segment, are behind this production. What started as a fascination with a bizarre arrest video has evolved into a deeper exploration of Karlson’s tumultuous life. 

The documentary, produced by Kicking Television Productions, promises to be a gripping narrative. The Man Who Ate Succulent Chinese Meal will be released in 2025, shedding light on Karlson’s life before and after his arrest. The production has even seen Karlson sharing a meal with one of his arresting officers, Stoll Watt, highlighting the unexpected twists that life can take.

Read: Historic Naldham House Transformed into Premier Dining Destination

Karlson battles health issues in recent years, including prostate cancer and spinal problems. His niece Kim Edwards even set up a GoFundMe campaign to help with the expenses.

Jack Karlson and his niece Kim (Photo credit: Kim Edwards/GoFundMe)

“He has never had much money but has always been generous to family and friends. He lives week to week in regional QLD with the help of a voluntary carer,” Edwards wrote.

“Hoping people can dig deep – I think he’s worth at least a beer, maybe even a 6-pack.”

His return to China Sea Milton not only celebrates the film’s announcement but also honours a location that has been a silent witness to a moment of Australian cultural history.

For those looking to indulge in a “succulent Chinese meal,” China Sea Milton remains the go-to destination, blending a rich culinary tradition with a unique historical significance.

Published 24-June-2024

Remembering ‘Succulent Chinese Meal’ Scandal: Australia’s Quintessential Viral Sensation

On a calm October night in 1991, an unusual arrest occurred outside a Chinese restaurant in Fortitude Valley. Reporter Chris Reason and his crew captured the incident on video, later known as the “Succulent Chinese Meal” scandal. 

Despite the incident occurring in the ‘90s, it wasn’t until 2009 that the video, now dubbed the “Democracy Manifest” video, found its way onto the internet and ignited curiosity and speculations. The Guardian later dubbed the viral video Australia’s definitive meme of the decade. The story of the “Succulent Chinese Meal” became an internet sensation and garnered millions of views on YouTube.

The man’s theatrical exclamations, such as “This is Democracy Manifest!” and the unforgettable “Get your hand off my penis!” that immortalized the event. 

His audacious inquiries to the officers—”What is the charge? Eating a meal? A succulent Chinese meal?”—and his commentary on an officer’s judo skills not only infused the incident with humour but also cemented its place in the annals of internet legend.

But who was the man being arrested in the video? Initially, theories erroneously pointed to Hungarian chess master Paul Charles Dozsa, but the true narrative took a turn in 2020.

With a colourful history of serial prison escapes and allegations of credit card fraud, Jack Karlson stepped into the spotlight in a music video by The Chats, confirming his role in the iconic meme.

Mistaken Identity?

The backstory of the “Succulent Chinese Meal” scandal is as tangled as it is captivating. Mr Reason, the reporter at the scene, later revealed the arrest to be a dramatic case of mistaken identity, with police believing they had cornered one of Queensland’s most sought-after fugitives. 

Yet, as more details surfaced, it became evident that Karlson was under suspicion for a string of frauds. Known by various aliases, including Cecil George Edwards and Johann Kelmut Karlson, his true motivations and identity remained mysterious until he embraced his viral fame, attributing his theatrical display to a ploy aimed at being deemed insane for an easier escape.

The Truth Revealed

The tale took another twist in 2021 when Seven News revisited the incident, featuring interviews with Mr Reason and the meme legend himself, now going simply by Jack. His reluctance to provide a last name added another layer of intrigue and charm to the enduring “Succulent Chinese Meal” mystery.

In 2023, the narrative deepened with the release of Mark Dapin’s biography, “Carnage: A Succulent Chinese Meal, Mr. Rent-a-Kill and the Australian Manson Murders.” 

succulent chinese meal fortitude valley
Photo Credit: Amazon

Dapin’s investigation into Karlson’s life and connections to other notorious figures and events in Australian criminal history offered a comprehensive view of the enigmatic figure behind the meme.

In February 2024, and the enigmatic Mr Karlson finally shed light on the events of that day. In a candid interview with New Zealand comedian Guy Williams, he admitted to fabricating the claim of physical impropriety by the police for dramatic effect. The revelation came alongside discussions of his life’s complexities, from his incarcerations in Australia’s most notorious prisons to his multiple escapes and the tragic murder of his wife, intertwined with Australia’s criminal underworld.

From its origins as a quirky news segment to its status as a subject of scholarly and journalistic inquiry, the “Succulent Chinese Meal” scandal remains a fascinating chapter in Australia’s cultural and digital landscape, blurring the lines between criminality, performance art, and the whims of internet fame.

Published 15-March-2024