Chef Eric Lee dishes on what makes the perfect burger -- and where to get it

May 27, 2011 at 1:00 PM ET

I have one of the greatest chef jobs ever.

For all of the aspiring culinary students out there in the world who dream about becoming a chef, 99 percent of them dream about my job. At Simi Winery, I get to be creative every single day.  I can pull from any country’s cuisine that strikes my fancy.  I get inspiration from the organic market in town or the local farmers market. My menus change not only seasonally, but every single day.

My job for our repeat visitors is to create a lasting impression that doesn’t center around a four-course wine country meal. This led me on a quest to create a better burger.

Good burgers are pretty easy to find. On the other hand, fantastic burgers are really hard to come by. Why is that? Maybe it’s just that we’re so used to all the fast -food joints out there and not a lot of people are willing to pay for top -notch quality ingredients. What am I looking for in a great burger?

  • Meat that has been ground that day with enough fat to keep it juicy.
  • Perfectly seasoned meat and toppings.
  • Awesome cheese that doesn’t overpower the taste of the meat.
  • Delicious toasted buns that don’t fall apart.
  • Topping are perfectly fresh and ripe.
  • Everything doesn’t fall out when you take a bite.
  • Tastes great with a delicious glass of red wine.

So if you’re ever out here in the wine country, here’s a small list of some of my favorite burger places:

  • Healdsburg Bar and Grill, Healdsburg, Calif.: Awesome burgers created by the chef/owner of Cyrus.  Order it with truffle fries. Get the burger with ANY of the fries. Truffle parmesan is my favorite. Crispy goodness.
  • Rudy's Can’t Fail Café, Emeryville, Calif.: Bacon and egg burger with a coffee milkshake makes for a perfect breakfast. The corned beef hash is also excellent.
  • Fremont Diner, Sonoma, Calif.: Huge and delicious. Their pastries and cookies are fantastic. Don't miss out on their breakfast sandwiches with incredibly thick bacon and glaum organic eggs.

But when I’m in New York City, I always try to get to:

  • Breslin: Lamb burger and THOSE fries.  You have to order the scotch eggs. Perfectly cooked egg wrapped in sausage and deep fried to perfection.
  • The Spotted Pig: Off the charts. The deviled eggs are great because of the salt, vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. The other must have dish is the chicken livers with lots of caramelized onions mixed in! Delicious.
  • Shake Shack: Perfect on a beautiful day. It's all good as long as the weather is gorgeous and the lines are short. Is that even possible?

 Get Eric Lee's recipe for mouthwatering, delicious stuffed burgers and share your thoughts on where to get the best burger!