Friday, September 5, 2008

National Hamburger Festival, Part 1: The birth of our award-winning burgers

I’m sure that all of you reading this have ordered hundreds of hamburgers in your lifetime. But did you ever stop to think about where they come from, who comes up with these great flavor combinations, and how do we know which burger out there is really the best one? Well, if those thoughts have been have been weighing on your mind, you’ve come to the right place because I have all those answers and more!

First off, the hamburger ideas normally come from the imagination of the culinary equivalent of a mad scientist. Day after day, I work in our kitchen located in the Waterfront in Homestead, PA, with our manager of menu development, John Frick. We work at combining hundreds of ingredients in an effort to come up with the next big hit. Now and then, the flavors come together and a great taste sensation is created. That is the case with two of our burgers, the Black Angus Superburger and the American Grill.

Now, with all the burgers out there, how are the best burgers chosen? As it turns out, that decision is made in Akron Ohio. Yes, Akron. Ohio. For the past three years, Akron has been the host of the National Hamburger Festival. The festival has become so popular that the Food Channel filmed a half hour feature from there in 2007. So this past July 19th, armed with my two favorite burgers, I traveled to Akron to wow the judges.

I strongly feel that these are two of the best burgers I have ever eaten or created, but each has a very distinct background. The Black Angus Superburger came about partially as the result of a joke: John and I put it together just for the fun of it. We were presenting our new 6 ounce Black Angus patty to the menu development committee. To over-dramatize the size of the burger, I used two of the char-grilled patties on a double-decker bun in place of our classic Superburger patty. The resulting burger was huge. It tasted great. Everyone went wild for it. They loved it so much it went directly to the menu without any testing. That in itself was a first. The Black Angus Superburger has since become one of our most popular selections.

The American Grill was one of the first menu items I developed for Eat’n Park back in 1997. But a little secret - the idea was not completely original. The American Grill is a char-grilled patty served between two grilled slices of yellow egg bread with sautéed dices of green pepper, sweet onion, and button mushrooms, all with a hint of yellow mustard. This burger was first served in my family’s restaurant back in the 70’s under the name “the hamburger special”. How original. It was the number one burger at Holden and Hall’s Pub. I knew that if it was loved there, it would be loved at Eat’n Park, so with a minor change in the bread, it became the American Grill.

Going into the competition, we knew our guests loved our delicious burgers, but would the judges? Find out in my next post....


Regis
Senior Director of Culinary Services Share

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