We Asked a Renowned Chef to Make a Nightmare Burger at McDonald's
McDonald's has recently introduced customized hamburger kiosks in some of its restaurants. I asked Kris Yenbamroong, head chef and owner of Night + Market in West Hollywood, to make a monster of a burger with me.
McDonald's recently added touch-screen kiosks to 20 of its locations nationwide, enabling customers to create their own customized burger. These computers can now let anyone with a finger and an empty stomach play Burger God—and easily take this whole customization thing too far.
Personally, I hate having too many options, especially when it comes to food. I'm one of those people who regrets their order immediately after saying it out loud. At diners, I'll debate over whether or not I want to eat breakfast or lunch until it's time for dinner.
But Kris Yenbamroong, one of LA's most celebrated chefs, is far more confident than I am when it comes to all this food stuff. Kris is the head chef and owner of Night + Market in West Hollywood, as well as Night + Market Song in Silverlake. While his eateries are famed for their authentic Thai cuisine, Kris has no shame in admitting that he's still pretty damn loyal to Sourdough Jacks and Nachos Bell Grande.
I wondered what would happen if an experienced chef who deeply loves fast food were given the opportunity to toy with a kiosk such as this. How would he manipulate it? Luckily for us, one of these limited kiosk locations is in our beautiful City of Angels, where he met with me to make the ultimate burger.
I watched him begin his order. He was intently focused on what the kiosk had in store for him. The first screen asked what kind of beef patty he wanted: a quarter-pounder or a a third of a pound of hisirloin. Kris went with the sirloin, which cost more than the former, but would hopefully be worth that extra dollar.
Next: bacon. Kris was quick to say yes to it, which also cost an additional dollar. We swiftly moved on to buns: butter-topped artisan roll, ciabatta roll, or sesame-seed bun. "No way I'd get a ciabatta roll," he said. Artisan roll it is. Now, on to cheese. While the classic American is still an option, pepper jack and white cheddar have also entered the ring. Kris comments that American is the only way to go.
The following step on our touch-screen journey was what I would personally consider the biggest hurdle: toppings. No longer are the options limited to a few key vegetables. Now guacamole, chili lime tortilla strips, grilled onions, mushrooms, and jalapeños join the definitive lettuce, tomato, red onion, and pickle team. At this point, I had no idea what Kris would do. His choice of American cheese indicated that he might go in the classic burger direction, but additions like guacamole and mushrooms seemed difficult to resist. In the end, Kris ended up going with tomato, grilled onions, lettuce, and jalapeños.
After toppings, the final step was sauce, the options for which have also expanded. The holy trinity—Big Mac sauce, mayonnaise, and ketchup—were still there, in addition to creamy garlic sauce, sweet BBQ, spicy mayonnaise, and peppercorn sauce now testing our faith. How many sauces must a burger have in order to reach perfection? Apparently, mayonnaise—and only mayonnaise—is the way to go.
Upon examining Kris's order, we both came to the conclusion that a perfect burger is best kept uncomplicated. These kiosks make it very easy to get carried away. With that in mind, I asked Kris to do just that: get carried away, and build the nightmare burger.
We started the whole process over, keeping the sirloin patty but now taking out the bacon and adding a completely different bun, cheese, toppings, and sauce. Kris went for all the things he'd personally hate to have on a burger he was making for himself. He got that dreaded ciabatta roll, along with pepper jack cheese, guacamole, jalapenos, chili lime tortilla strips, grilled mushrooms, and a grand drizzle of peppercorn sauce.
It took about ten minutes to get the two burgers, which were served open-faced in metal bins. "The decision to serve this open-faced is interesting," Kris said. "Having it like this, there's nothing to hide." We were both pleasantly surprised. These burgers looked pretty damn good.
He dug into the dream burger first, and remarked that it was mostly delicious. He expressed frustration over the placement of the lettuce being right under the mayonnaise. "I always want mayo with tomato. The lettuce I'd probably put on the bottom, with more mayo down there." Most of us common folk probably don't pay much attention to the order of ingredient-layering on our burgers, and yet, a small adjustment such as this could vastly improve the overall flavor.
Kris examined the burger a second time before continuing to eat it. He hated that the bottom bun was completely dry, so he removed it and continued eating without it. "It's useless," he remarked. This is another thing that I would never have thought twice about if he hadn't mentioned it.
"It's really good," he concluded. "Everything kind of tastes like it comes from a decent burger place. Of course, if the patty was seasoned more, and less well-done, it would be a far more delicious burger. But, this is not at all bad."
Now, enter the nightmare. He stared at it with a lot less love. "This one, I don't know what's going on here."
Surprisingly, it wasn't bad. I couldn't believe it. It looked painful to me, mostly because of the peppercorn sauce and those goddamn tortilla strips. "I didn't think it'd be that good, either," Kris said. "I don't know, I guess they worked it out." Kris reiterated his frustrations with the layering. "Here's the thing: They put the guacamole and the pepper sauce on the same side. They should have put one on the bottom, the other at the top."
While surely it is easy to take things too far, as Kris has demonstrated, the results of an over-the-top burger can still be good. However, it still seems as though the best improvements for the ideal burger have nothing to do with adding more ingredients. Rather, it's about improving the ingredients already there—the buttery artisan roll replacing the dry sesame-seed bun, combined with crisper lettuce, grilled onions, and a thicker burger patty. These are the things that stood out more than the smattering of tortilla strips or change of cheese.
Bear in mind that more isn't always better. Sometimes, peppercorn sauce should just remain in the squirt gun, and not on your burger.
- Kris Yenbamroong
- night + market song
- night market
- West Hollywood