National Burger Day: Former Rolling Stones chef wins this year's Best Burger in Ireland award
The former chef for The Rolling Stones and Jay Z has just been awarded a top prize for his patties. With temperatures set to pick up this weekend, he shares his cooking tips with Alex Meehan
Did you know that the perfect way to eat a burger is upside down? That's just one of the tips I pick up during my talk with Chris Telford - and he should know. This burger chef extraordinaire , voted by 1,500 members of the public, and also has the distinction of having cooked for some of the biggest names in rock 'n' roll.
Telford, originally from Essex, learned his trade in Ireland and Britain before a stint cooking in ski resorts in France led to working as a private chef for artists like The Rolling Stones, Westlife, Paul McCartney, Jay-Z and George Michael. Today, along with his business partner Andy Brown, Telford runs The Hungry Moose in Kilkenny, a burger restaurant which opened following a successful crowdfunding project that raised over €20,000, and which specialises in cooking the perfect burger.
"My first tour was with Bon Jovi, but I've worked with most of the big names at this stage. The Rolling Stones was probably the biggest in terms of number of gigs and length of time. It's hard work - you stand for 18 hours a day and live in hotels and on buses for months at a time, so it's kind of a young person's game," Telford says.
During those years, he learned that Keith Richards likes shepherd's pie, while Ronnie Wood is more partial to a roast dinner with Yorkshire pudding. Mick Jagger, meanwhile, has a specialised diet that allows him to stay in shape and have energy to perform.Chef Clare Smyth named 'best female chef' in the world
Telford typically met up with big artists in Britain when their world tours moved on to their European leg. "The best acts to work with were those like Westlife that did long runs in one place - they did a load of gigs in a row in Dublin a few years back," he says.
When it comes to making the perfect burger, Telford's number one tip is to start with the perfect meat.
"Pre-made burgers from a supermarket are usually just mince that has been squashed together. For us, it's far more important to go to the butcher and have a conversation," he says. "You want to know that it's good quality meat. It's really all about the right protein to fat ratio - you want to have around 70-80pc meat to 20-30pc fat."
Ideally, he says, go for meat that comes from a small abattoir and from cows that haven't experienced too much stress.
"I think that comes through in the meat. We get meat from Neil Tynan from Johnstown in Kilkenny, who raises and kills his own cattle, and you can tell the difference," he says. "The next factor is the cut - we tested lots of different combinations and sampled an awful lot of burgers before arriving at the conclusion that a mix of short rib, brisket and chuck is best. It gives you the best ratio of fat to meat."
The next factor is the grind. Most mince is ground with a large blade which produces a burger mix that is well suited to cooking on a frying pan at home, but Telford prefers a narrower blade that produces a finer mince. He's not a fan of bindings or additives like egg and breadcrumbs - as a purist, he believes that if the meat is right, all that's needed is salt and pepper.
"We don't put anything else in. We don't want to dilute the flavour, it's just seasoning. The toppings we have in the restaurant are there to help the burger, and you don't need to bury the meat with spices and other flavourings. It's like a steak - you just want to add salt and pepper, nothing else," he says.
Telford uses a charcoal grill which burns wood chips at The Hungry Moose in Kilkenny.
"There's nothing wrong with a frying pan or a barbecue, but you want to sear the burger off to seal it and get it cooking. We have to cook it to 75C all the way through because of environmental health regulations, but if I was at home and nobody was looking, I'd prefer medium rare," he says.
Next is the bun. A good brioche bun is best and can be easily bought in supermarkets, but don't be afraid to experiment.
"We stick with brioche at the restaurant, but there are blaas from Waterford and many more fantastic options out there. Brioche look great and taste great, and we also have a vegan gluten-free bun for anyone who wants that," he says.
For an extra special finish, Telford uses a pastry brush to 'paint' the bun with melted rendered beef fat, which seals it as it toasts on the grill. His personal dream burger would be made in exactly the way he's described, and would also be topped with blue cheese and chilli jam, then served on a brioche bun.
"It's about finding the toppings that work well and that support the meat and make it better, rather than just throwing the contents of the fridge on a bun. Blue cheese cuts right through, as does some chutney. We use Cashel Blue from Tipperary but for a generic cheese burger, you can't beat either a good mature cheddar or a smoked cheddar," he says.
"It takes eight to nine minutes to cook a burger on the grill, so when it's around six minutes in, put the cheese on top so that it melts evenly around the burger itself."
And that upside down burger tip? Simple. A burger bun has a thin bottom and a rounded top, and can fall apart when the juices from the burger drip down. By turning it around, you use the larger bun half to catch the juices and the result is a burger that stays together.
Today marks Ireland's first ever National Burger Day, sponsored by Kepak. Burger lovers can treat themselves and a friend to a signature burger with an exclusive Buy One Get One Free offer at participating outlets nationwide. For a full list, visit nationalburgerday.ie.
Chris Telford’s perfect burger
- 200g blend of chuck, short rib and brisket (ask your butcher for this)
- 450g bacon lardons - 2 red onions
- Olive oil
- 120ml white wine or apple cider vinegar
- 225g dark brown sugar
- Goat’s cheese
- Brioche bap
Delicately mould the meat into round balls and shape into burgers, making sure not to compress them too hard.
For the bacon jam: Fry the bacon lardons in a pan until crispy and dark brown. Set aside and drain.
Dice the red onions and sweat in a pan with a small amount of oil. Add in the white wine or apple cider vinegar along with the dark brown sugar. Then add bacon back in.
Bring to simmer and reduce down to jam like consistency. You can blend the mixture after if desired.
Cook your burger preferably over wood BBQ, allowing 4 minutes of cooking time for each side.
When nearly finished (about two minutes out) place your desired amount of goat’s cheese on to warm through.
Once cooking is complete, place on a toasted brioche bap.
Add a spoon or two of the warm bacon jam and close the lid of the bap.