Mastermind is a regular magazine column in which we quiz a Beijing personality on general knowledge as well as on a subject in which they consider themselves to be a specialist. "Throughout the quiz, "√" is given for a right answer and "×" is given for a wrong answer.
Contestant: Jeff Powell, founder of Back Alley Bistro and Frost
Specialist Subject: Burgers
1) When did McDonald’s mogul Ray Kroc get into the burger business?
I believe Ray Kroc got into the burger business in 1953 or 1954.√
2) How many billion burgers Americans eat per year?
I’m guessing around 50-70 billion burgers a year based on three burgers a week and the population of the states. √
3) What is the oldest burger chain in America? (hint: their burgers were five cents a piece)
Contrary to popular belief it is not Micky D’s but I think it’s White Castle or A&W.√
4) What is the nickname for the square, baby burgers sold at White Castle?
Sliders! I think everyone knows that. √
5) In what year did In-N-Out start?
In-N-Out started in 1948. √
6) What sandwich is America’s favorite, with 86 percent of the population ordering it in the last year?
I’m going to go with turkey, you know how them ‘Muricans love their turkey. ×
7) What were hamburgers called during WWI?
Victory burgers? I have no idea. ×
8) Where was Burger King founded?
Burger King got its start in Miami. √
9) The first McDonald’s fired up its grill in what city?
The first McDonald’s was in Pasadena, California in 1937. ×
10) By the 1930s hamburgers had another nickname, coming from an insatiable hamburger addict from the Popeye comic strip. What were they called?
FINAL SCORE: 7/10
VERDICT: Jeff’s strong knowledge of the subject demonstrates that not only can he cook up a mean burger, he also knows their history. Well done, Chef Jeff.
Answers: 1) 1950s; 2) 50 billion; 3) White Castle; 4) Sliders; 5) 1948; 6) Hamburgers; 7) Liberty sandwiches; 8) Miami; 9) San Bernadino, California; 10) Wimpy burgers
1) What kind of burger is your favorite?
In San Francisco there is a restaurant that has a burger on their menu called Veronica’s baby burger and it comes served on an English Muffin which is where I got the inspiration of the Frost Burger I really do like our burger. but I also love the in-n-out Double Double, best fast food burger out there.
2) What was the best burger you’ve ever had, in Beijing or otherwise?
Best burger I ever had was at Stars restaurant in San Francisco. it was a braised short rib burger where the patty was wrapped in caul fat and topped with a really nice Straus Family Creamery Cheddar, grilled onions and homemade mayonnaise.
3) Is McDonald’s or KFC’s burger that bad? How about Burger King?
I don’t often eat McDonald’s burgers but I admit I go there at times because my sons both love it. I avoid KFC, it’s just not good. And I admit I eat at Burger King at least twice per month when I travel from Beijing to Shanghai.
4) What are the essentials to make a perfect burger? What kind of meat is the best to make burgers?
The essentials for making a great burger? Good quality meat. We use 100 percent Australian meat at Frost, no exceptions. We use three different cuts and keep a 70 percent meat to 30 percent fat ratio. I’d tell you exactly what we use but then I’d have to kill you because it’s a closely guarded secret.
5) People say the meat in Beijing market is too lean to make good burger, so they mix fat meat in, what do you think?
Agreed on Chinese beef being very lean but it also depends on the cut. However I don’t generally use local beef because it’s not aged at all. It goes right from slaughter to market with no aging time to soften it so it’s very tough. Also, up until just a few years ago 90 percent of Chinese beef were retired Dairy cattle so not ideal for steaks or burgers. Now there are a few places out there raising proper cattle for meat.
6) Can people tell the differences between Angus beef or Wagyu beef with other kind of beef?
Can you tell the difference between Wagyu and Angus? Absolutely! Marble score has a lot to do with it. A higher marble score means more flavor. You know right away.
7) Where do you get the best meat in Beijing?
I think the best meats are from Tender Plus or Horber, however for the average consumer I think Schindler’s is a good option or Metro have some decent Shandong beef.
8) What was the weirdest burger you have ever tried?
I think the weirdest burger I’ve ever tried was in Sand Diego at a place called the Corvette diner where i had a burger with Peanut Butter, Bacon, lettuce and Mayo. It was ... delicious btw.
9) What drink goes best with the burger?
Well, a good craft beer or a soda. I think it's the best with a burger, something about the bubbles that gets you.
Photos courtesy of Jeff Powell
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