This blog begins with a cheeseburger. Due both to the fact that it is first and foremost the primary focus of my younger step son’s diet, and to its iconic status in American foodways, I wanted to weigh in.
As the previous Executive Chef at Gaylord Opryland, the 17th largest hotel and convention center in the world, I served untold amounts of burgers. There were days that in one outlet alone we would move 20 cases of burgers. In one way or another, I am in some way personally responsible for the untimely demise of probably entire populations of Black Angus cattle.
One of our outlets was a high end (read”Shi – Shi”) cocktail bar where we produced tasty small plates with a modernist approach. With such a mix of clientele coming in, the adage of pleasing all the people all the time frequently came to mind, though that didn’t stop my teammates and I from swinging for the cheap seats on a regular basis. While we received untold praise for our small plates, we also had quite a few guests indicating a strong desire for a burger.
As we didn’t want to dilute the guest experience (or our check average), we thought long and hard about this. Finally, with some key feedback from my aforementioned step son, we settled on THE SUPER SECRET BURGER. It was not featured on any menu. We worked with the outlet team and with internal communications to “discreetly” get the word out around the property, and overnight it was a buzz.
We did a grind in house of beef shortrib, chuck and pork belly, helping the Front of the House script this into their spiel both for disclosure of the pork, and for creating a compelling experience. We tested the burger at every stage, and what we came up with in the end was this: we ground the 3 cuts separately on a large die, combined them on a medium die, then the fine die. Finally, we mixed in some ice chips and ran it all through the fine die again. Doing so created a burger that when we cooked on our flat top puffed it was so juicy.
We served it on onion brioche with a chow chow mayonnaise and the usual suspects, pairing it with some fries we tossed in garlic – parsley chimichurri sauce.
My step son has grown and is quickly maturing into a young man, though he still retains his love for all things burger. When asked his opinion about the Husk burger, Five Guys burger or this or that burger he generally responds with an affirmative, but always adds “But it’s not the Super Secret Burger.”