Chatting With the Man Behind the Fantastically Named ‘PornBurger’ Website

The Bambi, which of course starts with a venison patty.
The Bambi, which of course starts with a venison patty. Photo: Courtesy of Mathew Ramsey

There’s a good chance a friend has, at some point in the past couple weeks, sent you a link to PornBurger, which, despite its lascivious name, is actually an incredible mash-up of food photography and high design. An intro post describes the site as “a year long venture into the dark arts of hamburgery.” Each week, a new, gooey creation — such as the bone-marrow-poutine-topped Full Mounty, or a duck confit patty topped with fried chicken hearts called the Dirdy Birdy — posts with little more than a quick description and a super-detailed photo. The project is the brainchild of Mathew Ramsey, a photographer who traded a videographer gig with National Geographic for a trip to culinary school and a job at the San Francisco Chronicle’s food section. Grub called up Ramsey, who now lives in Washington, D.C., to get the lowdown on his self-described pursuit of “pure carnal pleasure.”

You cook, plate, and photograph everything yourself, right?
I’m a one-man band. Because this is a personal project, it often means I’m manifesting my burger fantasies well into the night and early morning. This usually entails blasting old vinyls and healthy pours of Fernet while I get my hands dirty. The concepts for each burger are usually either built up around a single ingredient I want to work with, like duck confit, or a dish I’d like flirt with, like lobster mac-and-cheese.

Do you mean you make your own bread? Or chips, if the dish has them?
It depends on the burger. Take, for example, the Slumberjack. I made the biscuits, but bought the sausage. Basically it boils down to timing and what’s actually practical. When possible, I prefer to make each component from scratch.

How much experimentation goes into each?
They are all pretty much works in progress, but for purposes of photographing, I’ll tweak a burger two or three times before I’m happy with the result.

My Bloody Valentine.Photo: Mathew Ramsey

But I guess the faster you finalize and snap the photos, the sooner you get to wolf it down? I’d make that the project’s top priority.
For the most part I only make one, and it’d sure be a shame to waste such a beautiful thing.

Do you have a favorite so far?
Each burger has offered up its own rewards, whether it’s discovering new flavor combos, like jerk spice and bacon, or simply playing with bold ingredients, like fried chicken hearts. Looking back, though, My Bloody Valentine still makes me a little weak in the knees.

They all look delicious, but as you promise on the blog (“Let’s get weird”), some test the bounds of burger-ness. What inspires the crazier ones?
The thing about making a very specific dish in 52 different ways is you have to sort of define what it is that makes it that dish. What makes a burger a burger? Does it have to have two buns? Do the buns even have to be bread? If a knife and fork are involved, is it still a burger? Each PornBurger is basically me working through those questions and having fun with it.

This is just a for-fun side project, but it’s suddenly blown up. Are we gonna see PornBurger the Restaurant one day?
I have ambitions of maybe starting a porn magazine — black plastic and everything — where the models are all food.

Chatting With the Man Behind the Fantastically Named ‘PornBurger’