It may have been called the Hamburger Hop, but the competition that kicked of Chicago Gourmet was a little more serious than most. Obviously, that happens when the judges include Jean-Luc Naret, the world director of the Michelin guide, and Bon Appetit’s Barbara Fairchild. Oh, did we mention that Thomas Keller was also there? While the smoke from the charcoal grills infused the clothing of everyone there, guests and judges sampled as many as fifteen different burgers. The styles ran from the traditional to the nearly unrecognizable. In the end, Kevin Hickey of the Four Seasons was selected as the audience favorite, though we wonder how much of that was due to also dishing out free chips and shakes (both of which were awesome). Anyway, it was Ryan LaRoche from NoMI who won the critics’ top prize. We were able to catch up LaRoche after the event to chat about his burger secrets. Also, like any event where the booze is free, only pictures properly describe what went on.
What was your secret?
We were a well oiled machine.
What does that mean?
It was about keeping all the burgers consistently cooked, and my crew did an excellent job of keeping the quality high.
Did you try to approach the burger in any specific way?
It’s really hard to rethink the burger. It should just taste good. That’s what we focused on.
Are there any burgers around town that you love?
There are a lot that are very good. But I’d probably have to go with Kuma’s Corner.