Americans love burgers so much that chefs are doing everything they can to make their creations stand out, with surprising toppings like pastrami, smoked mayo and pulled pork.
A pioneer when it comes to meat-on-meat burgers, Cleveland-based superstar chef Michael Symon runs B Spot, where offerings include the Porky, a beef burger topped with pulled pork, coleslaw, barbecue sauce and bacon. While the burger joint has a casual vibe, Symon’s standards remain as high as ever in the kitchens.
“We have a truck bring in Pat LaFrieda meat from New York four times a week, because no one here can supply that kind of quality,” says Symon. “We cook 1,000 burgers a day and take the temperature in every single one."
"Top Chef All-Stars" winner Richard Blais became famous for using high-tech cooking techniques on the show, and the Atlanta chef applies those skills to his menu at Flip Burger Boutique. “I’m a burger guy,” says Blais, but his versions are unusual. He smokes mayonnaise to mix into the Steak Tartare Burger, a raw patty combining hand-chopped beef tenderloin, garlic, chiles, capers, cornichons and pickled shallots — all topped with a fried egg. Blais even practices molecular gastronomy at Flip’s liquid-nitrogen-milk-shake bar, creating over-the-top flavors like the Krispy Kreme shake, made with glazed doughnuts.
At Smoke in Dallas, chef-owner Tim Byres (Food & Wine People’s Best New Chef 2012) doesn’t use any gadgets. But he does rely on an in-kitchen wood grill and smoke pit for smoking and curing almost every item on the menu. Thick house-smoked bacon tops his EB&D Loaded Up & Truckin’ Burger, along with a soft-cooked egg fritter and smoked sharp cheddar. It’s served on a homemade honey roll.
The trend of classically trained chefs reinventing America’s quintessential comfort food may be traced to New York City in 2001, when Daniel Boulud combined French and American influences for the Original db Burger at db Bistro Moderne. The now-famous and still popular $32 ground prime rib burger is stuffed with braised short ribs, foie gras and truffles and delivered on a homemade Parmesan bun.
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