David Changs Burger Manifesto – A Response

This is obviously no good at all

It was with a degree of casual bemusement that we saw the story breaking across Australian news sources. Essentially, an American chef whom the vast majority of the population has never heard of before – and therefore have no ability to judge if his opinion is something we should be taking seriously or not – had the barefaced audacity to suggest that, among other things, not only were Australians no good at making burgers, but that we were <expletive> them up more than the rest of the world.

Oh the horror! Sure, the writing wasn’t exactly Pulitzer prize contender material, but it was nothing if not attention grabbing. This does seem to be the American way after all.

So various news outlets, both digital and otherwise, set about spreading the word and seeking comments from all manner of sources including proprietors, the general public and even us. Yep, we had a radio interview request that unfortunately, due to a mix up in communication, failed to come to fruition.

This is a shame because we could have used this opportunity to set a couple of things straight.

Firstly, some idea on where we are coming from. No, we aren’t chefs. Sure, we cook a bit (and pretty well too) and some of this time behind the burners has included making burgers, however by-and-large our culinary adventures lie elsewhere. In terms of consumption though, at the time of writing, over the last 3 years or so we have reviewed in the vicinity of 150 different burgers at around 90 venues, and chomped our way through several more besides. We have inspected menus for many, many more than this as research and planning, so we are fairly well placed to be able to comment on how Australians are eating their burgers.

So lets start with this clear statement. David (that’s you Mr Chang) – Australians are not eating their burgers with beetroot on them. Ok, this isn’t an absolute, and I am sure there are many people who do enjoy a slice of pickled beetroot on their home-made burgers, as well as those from their local take away. However, go to a decent burger bar and try to get something with beetroot on it. Its going to be far, far harder than you would have the world believe. Ditto the fried egg.

We are not here to try and explain why this misnomer has come into being and seems to have been accepted world-wide as ‘fact’, but in the same manner that the Koala is not a bear, hearing this from someone next to you or reading it on the internet does not make it so. The truth is not decided by who can shout the loudest. It’s also not a popularity contest.

There is no doubt though, Google ‘Australian Burger’ and you are more than likely to come up with a burger ‘with the lot’, complete with the forbidden elements of egg, beetroot, tomato and lettuce, but also potentially pineapple, onion and something other than tomato sauce (that’s ketchup in case you weren’t sure). You should know better than to trust Google though, as doing a google image search of “Smart American” returned the following image as the 3rd most relevant response.

Its from the internet, so it must be true

It’s from the internet, so it must be true

Is this a correct and fair representation? Of course not. But it’s what the internet told me, so it must be true.

Before I go on further – lets just punch through a few more of your hard-hitting thoughts.

I do not like a burger with a bunch of sh*t on it” – you know what David, neither do we.

I am not a fan of salad on my hamburger” – this is apparently “the dumbest <expletive> thing I could ever think of”. Well, you must not have a very good imagination, or failing that, observational skills. I am not going to politicise this and bring in anything about the gun control debate, so I will instead just ask you this – have you seen the exhaust grill?  I guess the salad might just get in the way of adding more processed Swiss cheese (yes, it was invented in Switzerland, not America).

What an amazing idea...

What an amazing idea…a must for any prospective food truck

Another thing that’s a no-no on a hamburger is mustard” – this is on the basis that it is ‘too strong a condiment’. Really? You are happy with super sugary, salty, vinegary ketchup to partner your pickles, along with potentially beef and bacon, but mustard is too strong? What type of mustard do you mean exactly? There are literally dozens of different styles of mustards, and each with their own variation around that. If you also think that a mild commercial whole grain mustard is too hot, then you must live in mortal fear of a hot English version. We will agree that hot mustards are only going to detract from things, but there is definitely a place for a mild mustard used judiciously, should you so desire.

No pita bread or brioche as a bun” – Ummmmm…..sorry but perhaps we are losing something in translation here. Brioche style buns (for use in a burger arrangement) are pretty much the product of America, unless we are entirely mistaken. There are some exceptions, but a semi sweet, squishy brioche bun is the only way to go. Unless you don’t have one in which case use something else.

What mystifies us as more than anything (well, apart from the beetroot on all our burgers folly) is your almost absolute denigration of anything other than a very basic cheeseburger. What is wrong with this? Following this advice we would never get to experience a burger with crispy pork belly and apple slaw; chicken and pesto; beef with chimmichurri; goats cheese with corn and semi dried tomato; maple glazed turkey patty with pancetta; beef with blue cheese and caramelized onion and so on. There would be no place for kewpie, sriracha, salami chips, roasted capsicum, fried mushrooms with truffled honey (that would also strike out as containing truffle and being ‘fancy sh!t), any other type of cheese that’s is actually good cheese in its own right, anything that contains chilli or any meat other than beef. Obvious vege burgers would be completely out of the picture. And that is just scratching the surface.

This is obviously no good at all

This is obviously no good at all

Is this because you feel it was how it was meant to be? That this basic approach rings true to the origin of the burger (be that in Germany or America) and so is the burger in its purest form? On this basis, what do you think Antonio Meucci or Alexander Graham Bell would make of the modern smart phone? Clearly they would be aghast at the prospect, and insist that their original concept of just being able to conduct a talking telegram a much better idea. They would no doubt launch a social media campaign against it, tweeting about it and updating Facebook from their devices, and then become embroiled in the ensuing controversy. This would lead to them ending their days filling in back columns of dubious print publications, and making the occasional guest appearances on things such as Celebrity Big Brother or Who Wants to be a Millionaire. You know which lifeline they would use first don’t you… (sorry, I just couldn’t help that).

However, we aren’t at loggerheads about all things that you wrote. In no particular order, we can agree on the following:

  • Pita bread, or any form of bread substitute, just doesn’t cut it. I would rather use my hands to hold the ingredients than a completely sub-standard bun.
  • You cannot have beef patties made from lean beef.
  • Wagyu is such a stupidly, over used gimmick these days I wish it had never been picked up. If you can honestly, hand on heart, say that the big W makes a better patty than simple chuck steak then….I just don’t know what to say. Stop using this as an excuse to charge us more for it too.
  • A medium rare patty is the only way it should be cooked and served. Unless you have used dodgy, micro-ground-many-days-old-ground-beef, in which case just tell us and we can go somewhere else. It’s not raw. It’s not mooing. It’s not going to hurt you. It’s no different to having a medium-rare steak, so just let your taste buds tell you whats best rather than your clearly ill-informed eyes getting involved.

For completeness though, and to get back to the crux of why we got involved in the first place, lets return back to the egg and beetroot. Where do we stand on this (we can hear you thinking)? Firstly, an egg with a runny yolk is a truly wonderful thing. It forms a rich sauce that helps to bring all the flavours together, even mixing in with any other sauces present to make that element even better. Sure, it doesn’t belong on everything, but from time to time this is most welcome.

And how about that ‘Aussie slice of beetroot’? Well – let me put it this way. In the approximately 150 burgers we have reviewed, a rough total of those with beetroot might be 2. One of those is so recent we have yet to release the review. While we don’t exactly dislike it, we think this is probably about the correct ratio – unless someone is going to do their own pickling of the beetroot, in which case you will have our attention. Tinned beetroot is ok enough, but keep it for your summer salad sandwich (sorry any story scanners suffering a substantial lisp) rather than including that on your burger checklist.

How to wrap all this up? Well, we appreciate and share your passion. It’s great to see someone taking burgers somewhat seriously, even if they are, as you said, fundamentally something to not over think and just enjoy. They deserve more respect than the American giants of the fast food industry have systematically stripped from them.

Global warming isn’t happening, or if it is its got nothing to do with humans. Europe is a country. Vaccinations are killing or disabling children everywhere. The moon landing was staged. There are lizard people living under the White House. Australians are ruining burgers. None of these things are true, even with swearing as part of the argument. There are some amazing burgers being made all over the place, both on the innovative side of things (see our growing list for Adelaide), but also keeping true to the classics (yes, including very basic 5 ingredient cheeseburgers). If this hasn’t been your experience then this is a real shame indeed.

But if you want to catch up for a burger and a couple of beers next time you are in Adelaide, then we would be more than happy for you to shout us some lunch and we can discuss this all further. They can even be cheap beers if you so desire.

As a kind of footnote though, lets keep some things in perspective. David Chang is a multi Michellin Star winning chef and restaurateur. He is obviously hugely respected and influential, and just loves to tell us all in no uncertain terms what he personally believes to be true. That’s fine.

We, on the other hand, eat burgers, make a few, and write about them.

We could all have far more important things to be ‘arguing’ about, so let’s just keep that in mind.

The Taxpayer – Marc Anthony

Marc Anthony as you have never seen him before

Marc Anthony – Beef patty with twice cooked spiced bean mix, house pickled jalapenos, corn chips, guacamole, iceberg lettuce and spicy nacho cheese sauce. $16 (with chips and a pint $25.50)

The Taxpayer did something different for the month of July – they threw the virtual kitchen doors open, invited their Facebook fans in and enticed them to throw some ideas together.

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