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Zagat: How did it feel to win Burger Bash for a third time?
How did it feel when Michael Jordan won his third NBA championship? I mean it was pretty cool, I'm not going to lie. I just love the Bash, and it's not about winning I just think it's a great event. I mean if I got married all over again, my wedding would be at Burger Bash, it would just be a lot of fun.
Zagat: What's a tip you can share with home cooks for making a great burger?
Well, obviously getting great meat. Anyone can just go pick up some ground beef, but if you take it one step further and go to your local butcher, and you're not buying some meat that's been ground and you have no idea when. You should always have a relationship with where you're buying your proteins and know where it's coming from. Anywhere you can say to him: "I'm doing burgers this weekend, maybe you can save me some trimmings?" Burgers used to be made completely of trimmings of whatever was laying around on the table. La Freida - they were really the first guys to take it seriously and take it to another level by grinding up whole muscle, taking whole cuts of meat and grinding it up, which was unheard of. To me the bun also plays a very important role, even if it's just Martin's potato roll, most of the burgers at the Bash used those, so they might as well get some credit. You can make your own, you can do brioche, etc.
Zagat: What burger toppings do you dislike, if any?
Fruit. In Australia they have a "burger with the lot," it has shaved beet root, a fried egg and pineapple, never had it but I don't know, it doesn't really appeal to me. Burgers are great canvases you can always put anything on them, but obviously some things work better than others.
Zagat: How do you feel about homemade ketchup? Personally I'm kind of a Heinz snob.
There's two schools of thought, there's Heinz and then there's everything else. But that being said there's a new product on the market right now called Sir Kensington's, which is a phenomenal product and honestly I hope they make it because of they deserve it. As much as I love Heinz the number two ingredient in Heinz is high-fructose corn syrup. We shouldn't be eating that sh*t. In Europe they make Heinz without it so why can't they do that here? Why can't they give us the same respect? I think the Heinz is what everyone craves, but I think the organic ones deserve a shot too.
Zagat: I know In-N-Out inspired your burger style in some ways - do you have any other influences?
I would say that definitely influenced me. At the time there was so much hype around it, and I just had to see what was going on. Even Burger King and McDonald's influenced me - driving by as a kid you see the sign saying "over 1 billion burgers sold." I mean, hello! I've always been inspired by The Burger Joint, I also am really into Schnipper's right now, I think it's probably the best. Two things I very rarely order out are burgers and oysters, because I love the way I make my burger and I know how I like it and I take a lot of pride in the way we do our oysters but it's not like I'm that picky and if I'm not cooking - I'm just happy not to be cooking.
Zagat: In our Burger Survey, 50% of voters said they were willing to spend between $10 and $14.99 on a burger - does this surprise you?
No, I mean people are sort of realizing you kind of get what you pay for. It's very easy to go wait on line at Shake Shack for an hour and get a $5, and it's a great burger, but it's only a four-oz. patty. It doesn't come with fries, but by the time you add it up you're probably at $10 or $11. So, yes, my burgers are a bit more but they come with fries and onion rings. Growing up one of my biggest pet peeves as a husky kid (which is what they called me - not "fat" but "husky") is they say do you want fries or onion rings? To me that was like the toughest decision I've ever had to make in my entire life. So at my place, we give you fries and two fat onion rings. Yes, they are $14-$15 but I hate to say it, in NY real estate definitely factors in. At Lure, for example, if my average entree is $24, I can't put at $10 burger because I'm going to lose on that.
Zagat: Are you working on any new projects right now?
We just opened up El Toro Blanco, which is going really well, obviously the storm kind of knocked us on our ass a little bit. We're going to be rolling out brunch in the next couple weeks as well as lunch.
Zagat: What about TV?
You know, it's not why I got into this business, but people say I'm very personable and 'Hey you should be on TV,' so if they think I should, then I will. I just shot Rachael Ray last week, but between El Toro opening and the new Lure Fishbar I'm opening in Miami early next year, those are really my priorities this year.
Zagat: Would you ever roll out B&B in different cities?
Yeah, I'd love to. It's a great concept, sometimes I think we might have hurt ourselves a little by putting the word 'burger' in the name, because we have a great burger there, but it really is more of a restaurant than a burger pub. It's really more of an American wine pub than a burger place. Everyone comes the first time for the burger, like the truffle burger is $50, and believe it or not, I'm actually taking a hit on that to be honest with you, but that thing cut into fours is a great appetizer. But we actually have a lot of great other dishes as well.