It Takes a Chef (or Three)
At Burgerville, we often talk about where our food comes from. Ultimately though, it’s what we do with those ingredients that determines our success. In simple terms, if our food tastes bad, you won’t eat it. Luckily, we have a remarkable team of culinary-trained chefs who dream up, experiment, fiddle, adjust, throw out, start over and ultimately create the items you find on our menus. We sat down with Chef Becky to learn about how she and her team create a new dish.
Burgerville: So, hi! Can you tell us what’s involved in developing a new menu item and also a bit about what you’re working on right now?
Chef Becky: So there are three of us (myself, Jamie, and Ciara) who get together and kick around ideas of products we want. We’ve all gone to different culinary schools. And we all come from slightly different backgrounds in the culinary world. Jamie and I have actually worked together previously at New Seasons Market. And so, we have our own perspective on things and we kind of throw ideas around until we land on something.
This burger we’re working on now came about because we wanted to find a way to bring a grass-fed grass-finished burger to everybody. So, we started talking about ingredients and we started talking about locality. We chose to hyper-focus on the beef. Carman Ranch (our beef supplier for grass-grazed beef) has such a rich story. We really wanted the beef to be the star.
Next I go buy the ingredients and I start playing around. I had an idea for a burger loosely based on the patty melt. I wanted to kind of smash the onions into the meat, so they’d be caramelized right into it. We actually use the platen to smash it to the grill. They’re getting that caramelized sweetness from the red onion, but it’s like they’re almost part of the burger. It has more of a handcrafted feel to it.
We had a couple ideas around lettuces but narrowed it down to a red leaf lettuce. It has got a little bit of sweetness and crunch. It has a small crunch, but it brings in a different color, a bit of a different kind of perspective. And then I wanted to use Mama Lil’s Peppers because they’re local to Portland. I love them because they have a sweet heat. They elevate the flavor of the burger rather than distract from it.
My test kitchen is our restaurants. When I did the first couple iterations of this burger, I cut it into smaller pieces and the crew and the managers came and we all kind of talked about what they liked, what they didn’t like. And their input went into what I was making. They felt like they got to be a part of the process. I like to have the opportunity to have our team see what that process is. And then we get to have a conversation about locality. We get to talk about where the beef comes from, where each ingredient comes from and how it ties to our region.
Burgerville: How do you find that universal taste where you go beyond what you personally like?
Chef Becky: It is hard to taste food without having emotions attached to it. There’s always an association that links to an emotion and it is difficult to take that out. So, having different palates taste the food is really important in my mind; having people that can take the emotion out of it and talk strictly about the product itself: how do the flavors come together? How does this say Burgerville? It’s a local they’re local ingredients. I really think that this being a Pacific Northwest burger makes it Burgerville.
Burgerville: This sounds like it would be like the most exciting job ever. Is it?
Chef Becky: Yes! It’s got the things I love about cooking and food. I like to push boundaries. I like the ability to kind of push the flavors. I also love teaching. I really enjoy taking somebody who literally doesn’t know the pointy end of a knife and showing them how they can use a knife properly and enhance their knife skills and enhance their ability.
I’m a firm believer that if you have worked in the food service industry, in any aspect, you can take a lot of things from it. You’ve got a very diverse group of people that you work with. You have to work under pressure because it is not an easy job? You work on your feet long hours and if you’re not organized, you’re (insert word that rhymes with ducked). You take that to any job, right? You can work with anybody, you can handle stressful situations. And you’re an organized person because if you’re not, what’s going to happen. Everything falls apart.
I think everybody should have the opportunity to work in a restaurant of any kind to better understand food. Yeah. So, it is a fun job.