“I’m a burger purist. I just like meat, cheese and bread”
Alvin Cailan, presenter of The Burger Show, promises that’s all he’s looking for. If only it were that simple…
Fifty billion burgers are eaten every year in America. They’ve woven, if not stained, into the fabric of the Red White and Blue. McDonald’s sells 75 or more burgers every second. If you haven’t watched The Founder then do so. It’s The Social Network with fries.
Burgers are the most marketed and bastertised food-porn on the planet. Completely accessible to everyone and yet esoteric and nerdy too: Smash burgers, baller-burgers, stunt-burgers, French-dip burgers, backyard-burgers, nostaligia-burgers, traditional-burgers, iconoclastic f’ing burgers. Shake Shack vs In-N-Out. Debate is rife. Everyone has an opinion.
On first glance The Burger Show (TBS) is curated content for hyperbolic, hypebeast-foodies; “the is the Virgil off white burger”, Cailan proclaims, deadpan.
But peer under its limited-edition hood(ie) and there’s some real substance. The show joyfully indulges itself in the flame-grilled zeitgeist – fashionista burger ‘gram. But it’s at its best when it juxtaposes the latest trends with Americas’ burger history. TBS explores the oldest establishments with George Motz, a brilliant burger scholar. It’s here we learn about the diversity of the United States’ burgers – how they stir up regional pride – humble patties: inspiring, dividing and conquering.
This isn’t so much a show about burgers. It’s about burger culture.
Why Lowriders and Backyard Burgers Define East L.A.
Alvin Cailan presents TBS, when he’s not running Eggslut, his global micro-chain of restaurants. But in reality he’s doing both at the same time. Cailan innately understands the importance of branding to the appeal of his restaurants. And branding really is the at heart of modern American style food. McDonald’s has always know this; mediocre burgers with next level branding. Their recipe is the most successful ever. With nostalgia thrown in we’re almost hard wired to love Mickey D’s.
TBS has regular guests including Adam Richman, Seth Rogan, Matty Matheson, Casey Neistat and Sean Evans. They frequent chains, pop-ups, backyards and food trucks, offering judgment and soundbites galore:
‘Fat patties are for dickheads’, Seth Rogan exclaims. Profound stuff.
Everyone’s perfect burger criteria is different. For Adam Richman ‘the place has a major role, it has to have history. In New York the classic burgers are the ones that are least dred but have really good ingredients. A burger can put the borough on the map.’
Apparently ‘60%’ of Casey Neistst daily calories come from Shake Shake: ‘Sometimes a 99c McDonald’s cheeseburger is better than the $80 Wagyū, gigantic…’
But consistent in all the burger-chowing guests is the unadulterated revelation of that first bite as they catch Alvin’s indulgent eye. There is a deep reverence for something that appears so trivial but defines living in the moment.
Notable U.S burger joints: