In the midst of Insta-fame and pre-made patties, the humble burger has been swallowed by the belly of the beast, writes Jovan Curic.
I’ve been thinking of something interesting to write for this column, something with a bit of wit, humour and flair. Safe to say, I’ll stick to writing some honest words on a food type that frankly, has begun to bore the shit out of a lot of people.
Rewind 10 years ago, the humble burger was known to most as a treat from the corner store or old faithful, Mickey D’s. You’d be ordering it with your desired favourites, and of course — if you knew what was good for you — with a touch of barbecue sauce. Not just any barbecue sauce though, ETA, the one in the maroon bottle and yellow cap!
In those days, most believed a Rockpool was found at the beach and Lotus was a flower — not restaurants where you could eat a burger so fancy you would need to wear a collared shirt. At a cost of $18 and $16 accordingly, you knew shit was about to get real, even if you didn’t know who the bloody hell wagyu was and what he was doing in your burger.
In these establishments, and a few others like the Kirkton dining room, burgers were made — not only to order, but from scratch. Meat cuts and ratios were held under lock and key and sauce recipes dictated to apprentices for the fear of them falling into the wrong hands. Research, development and integrity went into our beloved sinful pleasure.
Present day, we are four years into burger trendville and knee-deep in the bastards. Every pub, club and failing restaurant/bar has one on their menu. Hell, we even have fully fledged burger shops now, which were a pipedream back in the day.
Almost every suburb from the CBD to the inner west and city fringes has its own local list to hit. Even the far-out westies are on the bandwagon (cough, Superior Burger).
The wave brought with it competition, creativity, efficiency, loyalty and convenience. Every bloke with a buck thinks burgers will make them rich, and the rise of burger franchises have swept through the big cities. But, and this is a very big but, the most crucial part seems to have been left behind. It was left back there along with the collared shirt.
All of this ‘progress’ hasn’t done much other than dumb down the consumer and lead to the rise of the Instaburg. What’s been forgotten in the process is integrity.
What’s your meat blend? Where’s the beef from? What flour is used in the bun? Whereabouts is your veg grown? Do chefs/owners have any idea how to answer any of these questions anymore?
Butcher-bought ‘finished patties’ have flooded the market with chefs duped into thinking they’re getting the butcher’s signature blend when in fact they have no clue what’s in them. Sauces are made from mayos straight out of a bucket, all the elements of the burger are glued into place with mass amounts of cheese and voilà — that’s the Sydney burger scene right there, folks.
We, the industry, are responsible for giving people what they are paying for — to be honest with them and to be honest with ourselves. I will finish with a shameless plug and promise from our little creation, Superior Burger. In the depths of the best unknown suburb of the west, we strive to answer these questions for the consumer and our peers.
With each burger, you will know which farm it came from, the type of beef you’re eating, even the farmers name. You will be assured the veg came from our favourite Vietnamese farmer Sunny only 15 minutes’ drive from our shop and you’ll know the mayo is made from free-range eggs farmed in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. Know that we have handmade as much as humanly possible within our four walls to provide the best product and experience for the people that pay us to do so. As we say down at Superior Burger, “it’s superior in produce”.
This article originally appeared in the November issue of Hospitality magazine.