This is a Nopa burger.
It's a thing of beauty, a true labor of love. As my Chef says, everything on that plate has good intentions: local grass fed beef, ground daily--organic lettuce and onion, and a housemade bun. This burger has a devoted following in San Francisco. The "burger record" (currently at 78 for a single service) is a hallowed achievement in the Nopa kitchen. If the grill guy is getting drilled from the beginning of service with them, his eyes go slightly wild. "Im on pace tonight!" he'll shout.
Eating one is a sensual experience--in a way few other foods are. Watching a person eat one feels wrong--almost voyeuristic. They go quiet, burger juice running down their hands, trying to savor every bite. It's not rare to see their eyes roll back in ecstacy. Enjoying one on the line, at the end of a busy night is something I try to save for a special occaision; usually a really busy night or my 'friday'. Danny has a more serious burger habit--almost daily. When he's crouched in his station eating one, he is not to be disturbed.
So it begs the question--why must people eat this seven ounce patty of love WELL DONE? As cook, I understand my job is to cater to the guest. You want your sauce on the side? Sure. You want to sub a salad for your fries? Done. But the well done burger, I can assure you, is breaking peoples hearts. (as is the well done fish, pork chop, lamb, streak, and even french fries. seriously dude, you're gonna chip a tooth on those things.) You see, when the order comes in for a well done, the first thing the cook does is fire it. Timing with this 'thing' does not matter. When its plated, it will be a dry, shriveled lump of protien--a sad shadow of its former self. Looking at it next to all the other properly cooked food is depressing. So much promise and potential, never fully realized. As Bourdain said, cooks even save certain sub par items for well done. The thinnest piece of fish, the smallest piece of lamb, and that chop you used as a demo for the new butcher--that's the pool your food is being pulled from. It's not uncommon to discuss cooking such items in the deep fryer.
A couple of years ago I went through a short bit of idealism--thinking that maybe I could translate the ethereal experience of properly cooked food to the well-doners. I tried everything; a little stock in the pan to keep it moist, constant basting and turning. More often than not my efforts were ignored, or even returned to me. "Not well done enough." the food runner would say. One night I went the opposite route. Cooking sous vide beef tenderloins was an exciting thing to me--a chance to really get this expensive piece of meat just right. So when the well dones started pouring in, I just started to smash them under all my weight before they went in the bath. Nothing came back. One well doner said it was the best steak they ever had. It sounds cliche, but a small part of myself died that night.
The people who cook for you want to be trusted. They come in every day, working long hours to present you with their best craftsmanship. You're afraid of getting sick? That California roll you got at Whole Foods this afternoon is more likely to do so. You dont like the texture? Im not asking you to order your food rare. Can't we settle on medium?
-my rabbit likes beer
-if you could only listen to either heart, journey, queen, or styx for the rest of your life, who would you pick?
-these sounds make me happy: a knife tapping on a wooden cutting board, a coffee cup settling into a saucer, stock deglazing a hot pan
-my email is in the "cook" bar to the right of this. drop a line sometime
-my feet and hands may be beyond repair.