New York chef David Chang, of Momofuku famed for his steamed pork belly bun and “crack pie”, has given Australian hamburgers an almighty serve, saying “Australia has no idea what a burger is”.
The outspoken chef has delivered the spray as part of his “hamburger manifesto” for Lucky Peach, the food website and magazine he founded in 2011.
And he should know a thing or two about burgers in Australia, having opened Momofuku Seiobo at Sydney’s The Star in 2011.
Chang reveals he doesn’t like salad on a burger, and they should only feature American cheese because it was “invented for the hamburger. People talk about it being processed and artificial and not real cheese—you know what makes it real? When you put it on a hamburger.”
And while he loves New York’s famed Shake Shack and California’s In-N-Out, his favourite in the chain White Castle, America’s first fast-food hamburger chain, which began in Kansas in 1921 and now has 400 restaurants in 12 states.
But, Chang says it’s boring to talk about burgers you like – what you don’t like is “meatier”.
Which brings him to Australia. He doesn’t hold back, saying.
You know who fucks up burgers more than anyone else in the world? Australians. Australia has no idea what a burger is. They put a fried egg on their burger. They put canned beetroot on it, like a wedge of it. I am not joking you. This is how they eat their burger.
But the chef redeems himself with a side note that says “There are a few notable exceptions to this, like Mary’s in Newtown. Australians: I love your country and I love your food, even if your burgers are mostly terrible.”
Now Chang has a point. Business Insider Australia remembers freaking Canadian chef Gita Seaton, who owns Nouveau Palais in Montreal, a classic diner serving hush puppies – a corn donut – and burgers, when we explained that Australians like tinned pineapple on burgers with the lot.
And not putting tinned beetroot on your burger is an UnAustralian Activities Committee notifiable offence, but as US-born Gregory Llewellyn, chef at Sydney’s Hartsyard told Business Insiders, Australians are what were are.
“You burn the shit out of sausages, too, but that’s OK. You just become immune to it and I love every bit of it,” he said.
When Llewellyn moved to Australia five years ago, he felt a bit of culture shock, “but you have to learn to embrace things”.
At Hartsyard he serves classic Southern food, such as oyster po’ boys, fried green tomatoes and collard greens, as well as making a cross-border raid to serve Canada’s culinary highlight – poutine, a combination of fried chips, cheese curd and gravy.
The chef thinks the nation’s old-school milkbars and places like Deans Diner in Newtown, as well as Mary’s, do it burgers well, but says “pineapple is almost alien on a burger”.
“The egg I embraced, but it’s gotta be fried to the bejesus, no runny yolk,” is his advice. The problem, in his view, is that the garnish-to-patty ratio “is way out of proportion” on Australian burgers.
He’s only had an Australian hamburger with the lot once: “It was big. It was a mess. You’ve got to eat it with a fork and a knife, but there’s a beauty about that. It’s all food groups.”
And perhaps the amateur, almost home-made quality is part of the appeal to Australians, who’ve now been chowing down on McDonalds for more than 40 years.
“Burgers are hard to make at home so they taste like when you’re eating out, but you can definitely replicate the iconic Australian hamburger at home,” Llewellyn says.
He describes his first time at Shake Shack as a “life-changing experience”, but confesses that if he had to choose a favourite, then “I do love a McDonald’s double cheese burger. So good. It’s one of the most perfectly seasoned things on earth.”
As David Chang concludes his rant, the whole point is “do as I say, not as I do”.
“When you catch me eating one of these kinds of burgers that I have spoken against, please know that I am the ultimate hypocrite and that I am probably enjoying the shit out of it. Hamburgers are pretty much all good,” he concludes.
On that fact, everyone, no matter where you live, will agree.
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