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Top 10 Food shows: #6 The Burger Show

“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.

Alvin Cailan

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.

The Burger Show

Notable U.S burger joints:

Apple Pan

Tripp Burgers

Amboy

DMK Burger Bar

Black Tap New York

Chris Madrid’s — San Antonio

Burger Boy — San Antonio, TX: 

Casper and Runyon’s Nook

Hopdoddy Burger Bar — Austin, TX 

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Top 10 Food shows: #8 F*ck, That’s Delicious

F*ck, That’s Delicious. The Life And Eating Habits Of Rap’s Greatest Bon Vivant.

A famous rapper is eating Labk Tikka on a gritty New York street when a car pulls up to him unexpectedly. It feels tense.  The driver shouts:

“Action Bronson! We went to high school together! You don’t remember me? .. Vic!…

I’m out on bail …10G’s. I got my lawyer right now”

The driver spots the film crew.

“I don’t need this shit on camera”

The famous rapper reassures him: ‘we’re doing a show baby’ but the driver is spooked and speeds off.

The film crew are from Vice magazine and the moment was so serendipitously Vice you wonder whether it was a plant. The show being filmed is “F*ck, That’s Delicious” and the famous rapper is also a chef, television host and larger than life personality.

Action Bronson was born to an American Jewish mother and an Albanian Muslim father. Growing up in the cosmopolitan area of Flushing, Queens, he was exposed to a gamut of ethnic diversity and food. His mother, a brilliant cook, inspired him so much that he would eventually attend culinary school in Manhattan, before becoming a chef. A broken leg would put a halt to this chef journey, however, so he recuperated making rap.

And the rest, as they spit, is history. Bronson is now one of the biggest rap stars around, adored by fans globally. But he’s never forgotten his first love, food, which is why Vice created this show with him. ‘Fuck that’s delicious’ is a part travel show part comedic, weed-infused docu-series. But really, it’s all about the food. Bronson and his entourage can’t get enough. His praises places with all the originally, gusto and sincerity you could hope for. Lamb neck in Morocco? ‘That’s phe-nom-enal’

‘F*ck that’s delicious’ follows Bronson and his crew: Meyhem Lauren, The Alchemist and Big Body Bes as they explore the world, and their hometown-boroughs, absorbing the culture, vibe, cannabis and food in a way only they can.

One minute they’re in a fried chicken shop on a back street in the Bronx, the next they’re eating 5-day ‘mesmerising’ pressed duck in Daniel Boulud’s 3 star, on white tablecloth. Bronson takes everything in his stride with his appreciation of hospitality reminiscent of Bourdain.

What makes this show completely different from others is the commentary. Bronson is, of course, a natural orator and his crew also freestyle one-liners describing food like you’ve never heard before:

‘I hear there is a tuna in the building’

‘I feel like a lion when I eat that’

As Rolling Stone put it, this is: ‘elaborate gourmet references that sit alongside equally outlandish hip-hop braggadocio’

Though this is selling Bronson short. He describes food poetically through similes, wordplay and assonance:

“The olive oil virgin, first press, it’s never blended, kid/ I’m straight raw like Carpaccio”

“Too beaucoup, fresher than a lake trout / Barbecue the venison, pair it with a great stout”

“Liquorice liquore, one cube, a touch of water / Watch it mix, turn white like the Duchess’ daughter.”

In ‘From Paris with love.’ we see Bronson develop an obsession with natural wine. Why? Because it’s made by small producers and he’s always rooting for the underdog. He’s loyal too. You’ll see characters popping up again throughout the seasons as he brings them onboard his magical mystery tour.

As Bronson etches his name alongside other food-presenter greats, his heavyweight chef-pal roster grows weekly: Mario BataliAndrew ZimmernDaniel BouludRick BaylessGrant Achatz. But whether it’s an Argentinian Bakery, a kebab house in London or a natural wine bar in Paris, Bronson shows equal and abundant love for the people who make a living through food. The heart of this show is an appreciation of diversity in culture. Something the world could do with more of right now.

‘A man with a gastronomic vision, to a hip-hop artist of the top of the top category, and a student of life with legendary curiosity. Bronson is the Leonardo da Vinci of pop culture’s multi-cosmic, infinitely overstimulated, twenty-first century children of the handheld devices. At the very same moment all this is swirling around in your head, on your tongue, throughout every single muscle of your dancing, jumping being, you realize . . . F*ck!!! This is delicious.” —-Mario Batali

Interview: Ricky Panesar – creator of the perfect fish finger sandwich.

After multiple news outlets broadcast the uplifting Perfect Fish Finger Sandwich story, I interviewed the creator, Ricky Panesar, to find out his own story.

Like many chefs Ricky Panesar cut his teeth frying and reheating at the local pub rather than flambéing and confiting at a Michelin 3-Star. One summer, on a surfing trip in southern France, Ricky ran out of money and needed work – quick. With a little creative CV work he bagged himself an interview for the head chef at an exclusive holiday resort. To his great surprise he landed the job. Within minutes of entering the kitchen he knew he’d bitten off more than he could chew…

There were no microwaves in sight, only stoves, commercial ovens and an order book written completely en français…. MERDE!

His immediate response was ‘to go at get absolutely bladdered at the welcome drinks’ which may have seemed counter-productive. Soon enough, over a glass of wine, one of the other cooks rumbled him for lack of experience. But, after another glass, he took a shine to Ricky and decided to mentor him. DIEU MERCI!

Over the next few months Ricky cooked stunning fresh produce the like of which he’d never seen before. The abundance of supply meant he could experiment with the leftovers; using brandy, wine and new-found techniques. A chef was born….VOILA!

Fast forward a few years and Ricky found himself back in a (high end) pub, The Old Queen’s Head in Islington. Here he was challenged to completely recreate the menu. All except for one item that he wasn’t under any circumstances allowed to change; the fish-finger sandwich: ‘The sandwich used Bird’s Eye fish-fingers and average, stale bread. But it was always the second best selling item on the menu. So who was I to argue!’

What’s the enduring appeal of the fish finger sandwich?.

“Well, it’s a great British institution and it sparks national debate. There’s something about the simplicity that has a universal appeal. Everyone has an opinion. Just look at my Twitter comments. This lady’s blasting me for using white bread! I think it’s to do with the nostalgia. Fish- finger sales sky rocketed during the lockdown. It’s comfort food for adults and children. It’s basic but there’s beauty in brevity”

What makes your fish-finger sandwich great?

“We’re an island nation – we have some of the best seafood in the world and we’re not eating enough of it. We sell too much to Europe. 2FINGERS uses the best cod loin which is the meatiest part of the fish. Most fish fingers are made from the fillet. The fish to bread ratio is crucial. Each slice of fresh white bread needs to be exactly half the size of the filling. So the total bread equals the total fish filling. And of course butter and the finest chunky tartare sauce.”

fish finger sandwich

Your recipe calls for resting the fish in the sandwich for a few minutes?

“Yes it’s to steam the bread which changes the texture. Who doesn’t like a Filet-O-Fish !”

Ricky would later work under some great chefs including Tim Payne and Andy Campbell. He witnessed lots of substance abuse and racism even from some well known top chefs. This has a profound effect on him. Ricky is keen to promote BAME in Hospitality, which helps to bring to light these issues and progress the status quo.

After breaking his leg in an industrial accident he decided to go alone. A friend advised against taking out a massive loan and to start small – “the best advice I’ve ever had. ..I thought, rather than bricks and mortar, why not a pop up stall’ And of course Ricky knew what would sell well. 2FINGERS was born.

Your ‘perfect fish finger sandwich’ story was on featured on Good Morning Britain, BBC News, The Daily Mail, The Sun and The Daily Star! How did the story break?

“There’s lots of heavy news at the moment. I’ve made over 15,000 fish fingers sandwiches so I wrote a blog about the recipe I’d been working on for 10 years. I made a few phone calls to media companies with the story, thinking nothing of it. The next thing I know my auntie’s texting me saying you’re on ITV! Even Matt Tebbut was talking about it on Saturday Kitchen’

What’s been the impact and what’s next?

“Enquires have increased massively. I’ve now got fish distributers contacting me through Instagram and the demand has diversified. I’m looking to hit the big time and I need to partner with a manufacturer. The plans are to expand the range. Initially I want to get in more specialist shops as they like to stock different premium brands from the supermarkets.”

How did you pivot your strategy during lockdown?

“If you look on the supermarket shelves, there is an abundance of every type of condiment; ketchups, mustards, mayos and hot sauces. But very few tartare sauces. And they’re just vinegary rubbish for the most part. There is a massive gap for well- made tartare sauce. So I focused on perfecting my chunky tartare sauce. The lockdown meant no festivals and pop ups, but people were buying more food from the shops than ever. I thought I better get serious! There are now four varieties: Original, Orignal vegan, spicy Creole, and fiery Wasabi.”

Your personality comes through really well on social media. Have you considered a YouTube channel?

‘Funny you say that, I actually have one! But it’s incredibly time consuming and you need a camera man. I’d be really interested in partnering with some of the YouTube food channels and influencers out there.”

Ricky’s only at the start of this journey. 2FINGERS has Dragon’s den pitch written all over it and the appeal goes far beyond the perfect fish finger sandwich. The right condiment can define a dish. Moreover a brand can become the gold standard with an entire category. French’s mustard is synonymous with every aficionado’s burger-sauce. Hot sauce? Franks is hard to beat. So let’s give 2 fingers to Coleman’s and get on the premium tartare train!

You can order direct from the website here: https://www.eat2fingers.com/2-fingers-tartare-sauce/

Great review of ‘the world’s first Nigerian Tapas Restaurant’

Grace Dent has written the best review I’ve read in ages about a lesser understood type of cuisine in London. Moi moi, suya sinasir and sinasir are dishes eaten in Lagos, Ibadan, Kaduna, Kano and Chuku’s is now dishing these up to hungry Londoners.

Chuku’s, in Tottenham, London, was set up by brother and sister Emeka and Ifeyinwa Frederick. This is their version of Nigerian-British food and it looks incredible.

Chuku’s beef ayamase stew and egusi bowl

From Grace’s review this is certainly a modern interpretation of Nigerian food but it left me hungry reading it at 5am!

Here’s the brilliant review:

https://www.theguardian.com/food/2020/sep/18/chukus-london-n15-restaurant-review-grace-dent

After 10 years Chef finally creates the formula for the perfect fish-finger sandwich

Ten years is a long time to spend on anything. Some when you hear then a chef has spent the Malcolm Gladwell, 10,000 hours working on perfecting the recipe for fish sandwich, you wonder if he’s a little out there.

Fish Finger Sandwich
(Image: Solent News & Photo Agency)

Rick Panesar has made over 15,000 fish finger sandwiches in that time, tweaking and refining. Tasting and testing. So here’s how perfection is achieved:

Soft slices of white bread must be used – each slice exactly half the depth of the filling.

Butter both slices.

Fish fingers grilled as normal.

Add 4 hot fish fingers per sandwich on one buttered slice.

Add chunky tartare sauce to the other slice. And then place this slice on top.

And then leave for 90 seconds.

This steams the bread, allowing it to mesh to the filling, and the bread to absorb the perfect amount.

fishfinger
(Image: Solent News & Photo Agency)

Rick’s Cafe – 2 Fingers

Story was originally published in the high brow Daily Star. Happy Friday: https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/weird-news/make-best-fish-finger-sandwich-22702827

The beautiful Isle of Ulva is looking for someone to take over its only restaurant

The Isle of Ulva off the West cost of Scotland is looking for a someone with a vision to to take over its café/restaurant.

Full story and details here:

https://www.edinburghlive.co.uk/best-in-edinburgh/tiny-scottish-island-looking-someone-18946065

Gordon Ramsay: £19 fry up has not gone down well

When I saw Gordon Ramsay’s full English post, I did think he was joking. Not for the price but more beacuse the eggs looked like something from Little Chef or Wendy’s, not The Savoy.

Cue, the Twitter world mercilessly laying into him. Ramsay appeared in good spirits with his responses.

(It was a quiet news day in the restaurant world)

Sir Terence Conran

Terence Conran had arguably the greatest impact of any single person on the United Kingdom’s dining landscape. He touched so many facets of the world; a precocious designer, retailer, writer and restaurateur. They could rename the Midas touch after Terence Conway.

Terence was a true visionary responsible for: Habitat, The Conran Shop, the Design Museum.

London was a depressed place at that time, with all its bomb sites. It was difficult to find anything decent to eat. My tutor at college was the artist Eduardo Paolozzi. He was very keen on his Italian food and used to get food parcels from his parents. I remember sitting with him to eat a black ink octopus risotto. He taught me how to chop up an onion and the importance of garlic. He, more than anyone else, was my food influence.’

A few restaurants Terence was responsible for:

Bibendum,

Boundary

Lutyens

Quaglinos

Orrery Marylebone

Bluebird club

“I am convinced that personal involvement is necessary to nurture a first-class restaurant

A touching read here: https://london.eater.com/2020/9/14/21435892/sir-terence-conran-obituary-bibendum-quaglinos-restaurants-design-museum

The Spectator picks the best Michelin star restaurants outside of London

The Spectator’s Marianna Hunt breaks down a selection of the finest Michelin restaurants in the UK, outside of London:

The Red Lion, Wilshire

The Whitebrook, Monmouth

Restaurant Interlude, Horsham

The Black Swan, Yorkshire

Moor Hall, Lancashire

Isle of Eriska, Argyll and Bate

Full brilliant article here: https://life.spectator.co.uk/articles/the-best-michelin-star-restaurants-outside-of-london/

Gay Hussar is back from the geniuses behind Noble Rot!

Wonderful news amidst the current craziness. Noble Rot is one of London’s absolute gems and if Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew can sprinkle their magic on the new Gay Hussar we are in for a treat. Gay Hussar is returning to its Hungarian roots with nods to fine French and English food paired with a sublime wine collection that Noble Rot is famous for.

https://www.theguardian.com/food/2020/sep/12/gay-hussar-reopens-as-noble-rot-soho-with-daily-dose-of-goulash

William Sitwell’s new podcast: Biting Point

A great new find from food and restaurant expert William Sitwell which features excellent guests and interesting commentary and debate on the food and restaurant industry from around the world.

This week he’s talking to Swedish chef Niklas Ekstedt about reindeer pancakes and sustainable living.

Listen to here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/features/biting-talk-meet-swedish-chef-serving-reindeer-face-vegetarian/

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