I'm from the East Coast originally, but I'll be the first to tell you: There is nothing better than an In-N-Out Double-Double after a night of service.
As a chef, I appreciate a food business that only has five things on the menu. I've never had a bad In-N-Out burger, and that says a lot about what they are doing. For under $3, it is super-meaty, super-cheesy. It doesn't get better than that—especially when it is tempura-fried in my restaurant, Torc.
As a contemporary American restaurant in Napa, we focus on really good products. We try to prepare whatever that may be in a way that best suits it. It doesn't really matter if that may employ a French, Japanese, or Italian technique. Thus, truthfully, a tempura-fried Double-Double is just an extension of the kind of stuff we aim to do at my restaurant.
The neat thing about it is that this wasn't done as a gimmick. It genuinely started out as a simple staff meal. As everyone who works at a restaurant probably knows, staffing is a huge issue. We have a good nuclear base of employees who have been with us since day one. We take care of people but we still try to take care of our staff. This is just one example of how we do that. Still, what ends up happening a lot—whether it is because someone suddenly quit or somebody got injured—is that we have to do take-out food for family meal.
What we do is get like 20 Double-Doubles from In-N-Out and put them in the refrigerator. Then, at the end of service, we'll take them out, cut them into quarters, put skewers in them, and deep-fry them in canola oil with our leftover glutinous rice flour tempura mix.
There is no better way to warm up a cold In-N-Out burger. All the veggies remain crisp. It remains neat, and the entire thing is surprisingly light.
It may sound like the most decadent thing ever. However, believe me when I say that there is no better way to warm up a cold In-N-Out burger. All the veggies remain crisp. It remains neat, and the entire thing is surprisingly light. We make a lot of house-made mayonnaises to eat them with. We do a truffle yogurt dip, a black garlic mayonnaise, a spicy red Cajun remoulade. We have even paired them with some local wine. (Petite syrah tastes amazing with it, by the way.)
Deep fried In-N-Out cheeseburgers have become a monthly tradition at our restaurant, despite the fact that it started off a playful way to reheat them. It follows the food philosophy at Torc. The intent will never be to put it on the menu. It will only be something you get to try if you are among the hard-working people in our team.
As told to Javier Cabral
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Sean O'Toole is the chef owner of Torc, a casual fine dining restaurant that specializes in dishes with rock and roll edge and wine country sensibilities. He was previously at Quince. For more information on his restaurant, visit Torc's website.