Think back to your childhood – we all grew up with them – hamburgers. It could have been a humble hamburger with a handmade patty cooked on the grill at your local fish and chip shop, and adorned with salad, cheese, an egg, maybe some pineapple and bacon, and including that most ubiquitous Australian ingredient – juicy, purple beetroot. Or it might have been an American style cheeseburger, from McDonalds or Hungry Jacks – a sweeter bun, pickles, some American style melty cheese and looking and tasting exactly the same every time you had one.
Whatever your favourite, it’s a memory shared by most Australians.
But over the past five years something has happened to the humble burger – it’s been jazzed up under the influence of celebrity chefs, social media influencers and an increasingly discerning consumer-base. Suddenly it’s not enough to grab a takeaway from your local and sit in front of the television with the family. Burgers have entered the hustle-bustle world of fine dining and the only burgers to eat are those which look best on your Instagram, while you’re sitting in an upmarket establishment with the rest of the culinary elite!
Is a burger even good if it hasn’t made it to Instagram?
So what has happened to take the burger from its humble origins in the suburbs to the trendy inner city, dressed up for a night on the town?
The first thing is chefs and restaurants. Something happened a few years ago. Restaurateurs realised that sometimes people coming to a fine restaurant don’t want an extraordinary and complex meal, they just want a simple meal done really well.
The second thing is demand. There is no doubt that young, cashed up, hungry partiers are looking for a better quality late night snack than a greasy souvlaki out of a caravan!
But as much as anything, it’s about the look. And burgers deliver the look. A good quality shiny bun, some melty cheese, a nice black plate and the perfect Instagram photo. Add a hipster beard and a little black dress and all of a sudden the burger has turned from comfort food to lifestyle choice.
However, the burger is evolving. It’s no longer just about a chunk of minced beef between two pieces of white hamburger bun. In order to get ahead of the crowd, imaginative burger houses are starting to explore the opportunities to incorporate fusion concepts – Asian buns, different meat treatments, cheese or tofu choices.
Burgers certainly come in all shapes, sizes and formats these days.
What it says though, is that at the end of the day, a burger is simple comfort food. The best burgers, regardless of whether they are in a standard white bread bun or a shao bao with hoisin sauce, have a few good quality ingredients, they are tasty and they remind us of our childhood.
If you’re a burger lover, you’ll know that the basics are that it’s about comfort food that takes you back to a fabulous childhood with your family, even if you’re sitting in a fine dining restaurant in inner city Melbourne taking a photo for your Instagram feed!