On The Bun
Hubert Keller, Owner, Burger Bar by Cat Nelson
aving opened original locations in Las Vegas and San Francisco, fine dining chef Hubert Keller launched the first international location of Burger Bar in Beijing this summer. He talks to us about creating the most expensive burger in America and the iconic dish’s universal appeal. What is your first memory of eating a burger? Almost none. I’d probably had three or four burgers when I started the concept. We were literally on a crash course. We ate burgers everywhere. We sat there and watched people eating – how they open up the paper, the way they put on the ketchup, how they press it down, how they cut it, if they cut it. There was a whole ritual that we were observing. I think the good part is that this is why the Burger Bar
is the way it is today: we didn’t know anything about it and we started fresh with no rules to follow. How did the most expensive burger (The Rossini) come about? Before I opened Burger Bar, I felt that I needed a couple of things that would make people talk about the place. I knew that Daniel Boulud had the most expensive burger, and I thought, “Well, I need to put the most expensive burger in Las Vegas.” Whenever I took a taxi I asked, “Do you have any restaurants to recommend – something with burgers?” The taxi driver would say, “Oh there’s a place in Mandalay Bay. I don’t know the name of it but I know they have the most expensive burger in the country.” That was it. And then we actually started selling it. Why did you feel the time was right to do burgers in China? A friend of mine in Shanghai who had a Greek restaurant showed me around. Next to his restaurant, there was a young American guy doing burgers, and I watched how things were going. The place was packed. At first, my concern was if we are doing burgers, how much would we have to change? Then I realized that nothing needed to be changed. They really want it the way it’s served [in America]. What have you noticed about burgers in China? For some reason, the proportion between the bun and the patty is more bread than you would serve [in America]. It seems like they love their bread.
Get a taste of Burger Bar’s new regular menu and special Christmas and New Year’s menus at the end of December.
photo: COURTESYphoto: OF BURGER Joey Guo BAR
What is the universal appeal of the burger? It’s an interesting question: why and how, but I think it’s one of those magical things that just works. You have a good bun, you have a good patty, and then you combine them with the simple stuff – lettuce, tomato, onion. You don’t need much of an introduction.
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