When it comes to the burger, Richard Blais knows best. The Top Chef: All Stars season eight winner is a legend in hamburger circles (yes, they exist) for his drool-inducing bun-and-patty concoctions — from the juicy “Lamburger” to the “Earth and Turf” mushroom and beef blend. When he isn’t cooking his tried and true fare at Flip Burger Boutique, his Atlanta-based franchise restaurant, you can spot him in the YouTube series Burger Lab executing his most over-the-top creations, liquid nitrogen and all.
“Burgers are such an iconic American food,” says Blais. “It’s my thing — burgers, sports and beer.”
A young Blais dreamed of becoming a professional baseball pitcher when he grew up, but cooking was his true calling. And though the man can throw a mean fastball, he turns to running as his workout of choice. He ran his first marathon, the 2011 ING New York City Marathon, in 4 hours and 31 minutes. This year he’s shooting for the high 3:50s.
“I started running in 2003 to console myself over a lost business and happened to meet my wife at the same time, who was a fitness trainer,” says Blais. “I literally ran after the girl, and just like that, it changed my life. I lost 50 to 60 pounds.”
Blais admits his occupation didn’t foster the healthiest lifestyle. “Chefs are notorious for cooking and eating all day long and partying like mad men and women at night,” says Blais. “It catches up to you.” He’s more mindful of what he eats and drinks now, opting for lean turkey burgers and Amstel Light — his treat after a long run.
Here he shares some tips for getting the most out of your grind, including ways to slim down the notoriously calorie-laden burger.
Blais’s Burger Tips
- Always grind your own meat. If you don’t have your own grinder, ask your butcher to grind it for you and make your own mix. Blais likes a mix of short rib, brisket and chuck.
- When choosing your toppings and condiments, think about umami—the flavor of savory deliciousness and the reason why we all love cheeseburgers with bacon. Keep in mind though that you don’t need all that fat to get umami. Ketchup with a little soy sauce and Worcestershire will have the same effect.
- Substitute half of the patty meat with cooked ground mushrooms. “You’ll never know they’re there,” says Blais. [Scroll down for recipe]
- Cut out the carbs by wrapping the patty in lettuce.
- For a lean burger with antioxidants and healthy fat, Blais suggests a ground turkey patty topped with sliced avocado and pomegranate ketchup on a whole-wheat bun.
Interested in making one of Richard’s signature burgers? Try out his recipe below.
Earth & Turf Burgers
What You’ll Need
12 ounces portabella mushrooms
9 ounces shiitake mushroom caps
9 ounces button mushrooms
Ground meat: 12 ounces beef chuck, 9 ounces beef short rib, 9 ounces beef brisket (you may also use a freshly ground, 20% fat store bought blend)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon porcini mushroom powder
Salt and pepper to taste
What to Do
- In a pan with high-quality butter, cook the mushrooms until golden. Then sprinkle with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Place on a paper towel and cool.
- In a grinder, grind the roasted mushrooms. Use paper towel to blot out any remaining moisture.
- Gently fold the cooked mushroom grind and beef grind together. Form into ¾-inch thick patties.
- Combine the spices, salt and pepper, and season both sides of the patties.
- Grill the patties for 3-4 minutes per side or cook in a pan with a pat of butter and sprigs of rosemary and thyme.
- Serve on a brioche bun with your choice of condiments.