Our Chipotle Burger- One of the most popular on our menu.
The first thing I have learned is that there is a very strange concept of what a burger is here in Nepal. While any American reading this instinctively understands that a burger is defined by the fact that it is made of ground meat (i.e. a chicken burger is ground chicken, a beef burger is ground beef etc.), a burger in Nepal is defined by the roll, which they call a burger bun. Anything in that bun is a burger. So a chicken burger will often be either grilled chicken or a piece of fried frozen chicken mystery meat cutlet, while a cheeseburger will almost universally be a disappointing piece of cheese and veggies on a roll- we would call this a cheese sandwich. I'm constantly confused when customers or friends refer to sandwiches as burgers. I've even had kitchen staff that wanted to serve chicken burgers with whole breast meat- Damn it that's a sandwich, not a burger! Oh well.
The roll may not define it as a burger- but real bread sure makes it a hell of a lot better!
Some of this confusion over the true nature of a burger aside, the response to what we have been serving has been great. We currently offer a selection of 20 different chicken and beef burgers, and despite this being a Hindu country the beef burgers are our most popular item by a country mile. I think we've managed to jump all of the significant hurdles I discussed in that last blog entry; we bake our own bread, we buy imported beef, we import our own cheeses, and our kitchen is equipped with a proper grill so that the burgers themselves can be cooked correctly. Most importantly we offer a number of combinations that no one else in this country even comes close to, I mean most places can't make a regular burger and we are offering everything from bacon & cheddar burgers to chili burgers to ones with grilled apples and Gorgonzola.
The biggest difference really is that I love what we make. Maybe it's unfair to assume that some of the other places don't but it's clear that a large number of places here have no respect for the food that they serve. I take it seriously. It's not a bunch of substandard components thrown together, but instead it's a collection of carefully considered ingredients that we make from scratch and combine to make what i think are some really cool flavor combinations. Our sauces are, I think, the best offered in the valley and the cheeses are the real thing. I could have saved on price points by bringing in cheaper cheeses, but I really wanted to do high quality burgers. So we aren't just using a cheap Swiss cheese, we use Gruyere. We didn't settle for a cheaper Gorgonzola, we import an award winning, high end blue cheese. We buy bacon that is made and smoked locally and is some of the best tasting bacon I've ever had and is free of added chemicals and preservatives. We could just go to the market and buy our ketchup or our mustard, but we don't, and I think our products are better for it. Best of all, it all appears to be paying off, because I'm not the only one that loves these burgers as it appears I wasn't the only person missing these in Kathmandu.
Aside from plugging how awesome our burgers are at our restaurant, the real point I wanted to get across in this post is that something is much better when you really love what you are creating. When you know the product, you care about the results, and you take what you are doing with a seriousness that demands a certain level of commitment to what you are producing. At the end of the day of course these are just burgers, but like a game of football where the ball is just a ball, when you are on the field it is everything. It's having the perspective to give everything to something and make it as perfect as you can, but at the end being able to walk away when the last customer leaves for the night and realize it's just food. That said I think there are only a few things in this world worth taking seriously- ideas and food. I'm not really sure which one gets first billing either- but damn I love a good burger.